How To Answer ‘Tell Me More About Yourself’ in a Job Interview

Landing an interview with a recruiter is one of the first, and most important, steps in achieving your employment goal. While most interviews are relatively straightforward and easy to navigate, there is one common inclusion that people many times have trouble with: Tell me about yourself. However, this question is where you can truly set yourself apart from the rest. As such, boning up on the guidelines to follow is an excellent plan.

Some interviewers like to pop this question first, while other prefer to wait until later on in the interview. Recruiters have different motives for posing it to you, such as to see if they can glean the extra information a direct question may exclude. Many times, their goal is simply to see if you have come to the interview prepared.

Preparing for this question may take a little time and effort, but it will pay off in spades once you actually get in front of your questioner. The worst way you can answer it is with the popular reply, “What would you like to know?” Not only does this frustrate an interviewer’s goal of understanding you better from how you talk about yourself and your accomplishments, it also sounds like you did not take the interview seriously enough to even anticipate the question.

The best way to prepare is similar to if you were rehearsing a speech. Develop your answer, and practice, practice, practice! Stand in front of a mirror, and practice until things flow freely and naturally. The meat of your answer should be a highlight of the things you have accomplished, if they tie in to the position you are vying for. Following are some key points to remember for when the question inevitably does arrive.

Avoid sharing mundane personal information

Some parts of your personal life, such as hobbies or special skills, are definitely pertinent when you are queried about yourself. However, drab facts, like where you were born, or how many siblings you have, are simply irrelevant. Keep in mind, the recruiter’s sole focus is what you can do for their company. Your answers should clearly outline what you have accomplished in the past, and how you are different from the rest of the multitude of candidates.

Start Out With Your Bonafides

Given the level of pride you feel, as well as how much effort you invested in getting them, your specific credentials are an easy-to-remember way to start things out. Not only that, everything that follows is sure to sound better, since your official bonafides are the first thing they hear.

Detail Your Employment-Related Accomplishments

Certain qualities and achievements are important in virtually any job. These include strong demonstrations of leadership, a solid work ethic, and exceptional personal and professional confidence. Take a trip down memory lane, and come up with a few specific scenarios in which you demonstrated these qualities and accomplishments.

Stay On Point

The recruiter you are interviewing with is not a personal friend, so avoid babbling about personal issues best left to those you are close with. Try to keep the awkward pauses to a bare minimum, you should be prepared enough that excessive thinking should be unnecessary. It is a good rule of thumb to keep your response to this query at or under about a minute.

Explain why you are interested in the job

Unless the position you are seeking is a highly-advanced or specialized one, chances are most people can perform it with the right training. One of the best ways to help your recruiter understand that you are different from the rest of the horde is to go into detail about why you are passionate about this type of work specifically. Tie personal hobbies and interests into the qualities and requirements of the job in question. Above all, never make it seem like you are only interested in the paycheck.

It’s Storytime!

Cold hard facts are good for certain situations, but answering this important question is not one of them. Your goal is to engage your listener, and the best way to do that is with a story that shows clearly a specific situation where you displayed the traits and experience the recruiter is looking for. It really doesn’t even matter if the story is one about the work you would be doing directly. As long as it is engaging, and highlights a major and applicable achievement, it is worth its weight in gold.  

Stay Away from Common Cliches

If there is one thing a recruiter knows better than virtually any other type of employee, it is all of the catch phrases and cliches used by many job seekers. You want to be exceptional, and stand out from the rest, and common cliches sound canned and generic. Phrases like “I am a team player,” or “I have a really strong work ethic,” have been used so much that any effectiveness they once had has long since been destroyed. You would be much better served by working these qualities into the stories you will tell, and the individual examples you will share.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what actually works when asked about yourself, this query no longer should hold any fear or anxiety when it comes up. Adding these tips and truisms to your verbal arsenal is usually one of the best ways to see that spark of interest in you light up your recruiter’s eyes.

This article was updated from the original on June 29, 2017