February 23, 2012
You might dread it, but when the “tell me more about yourself” question is asked during a job interview, it’s an opportunity to shine. The question comes up in most interviews, and you don’t want to answer it slack-jawed; it’s well worth the time to prepare for this moment.
Sometimes the interviewer will start the interview with this question. Otherwise the question will arrive later. It is used to gauge how applicants see themselves, to pull the kind of information that wouldn’t be received from a direct question and, perhaps above all, to see if the candidates are actually prepared.
If you do prepare, this shouldn’t be a difficult question for you. According to Marc Cenedella of TheLadders, who used to conduct hiring interviews, the worst response is to ask back, “What do you want to know?” This shows that you didn’t expect the question and might not be serious about the job.
Prepare an answer and practice it until it sounds good. Your answer should focus on making your personality and your skills look like a good match for the company. Here are some more suggestions for answering the “Tell me more about yourself” interview question.
Avoid sharing mundane personal information
The interviewer doesn’t really care about where you were born or grew up. When you are asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, you’re not being asked about your demographics. He or she wants to learn more about your professional experience. How can you benefit the company? What makes you qualified and able to do the job? What makes you different?
Begin with credentials
These aspects of your life are simpler and easier to remember and can help get the ball rolling. Practically anything you say will sound better with your official accreditation right at the front.
Highlight your most memorable achievements
Take the time beforehand to study up on yourself, and pinpoint the times when you have shown leadership, confidence, a good work ethic, the ability to work under pressure and other relevant workplace scenarios.
Say what you planned to say, and don’t include the too-personal details you would tell your friends. It’s OK to take a moment to think; but don’t create a long, awkward silence. Don’t go on and on either. When you’re done, you’re done. About one minute is a good length of time for a response.
Explain why you are interested in the job
In all likelihood, many people can do the job for which you are applying. The interviewer wants to know how you are different from the other candidates, and a good way to approach this is to talk about why you personally are interested in this career. Find a way to make your interests fit the job position, if needs be, and never give the impression that you are just doing it for the money.
Tell a story
Stories help to explain your motivations and showcase your abilities in a real-life scenario. They also engage the interviewer personally and get them interested in what you are talking about. Even if you have no work experience that is directly relevant to the job, you can still tell a story about how you overcame a particularly challenging problem, led a group of people successfully or had a major positive impact on a company.
The interviewer knows all the buzzwords that applicants use to describe themselves better than the applicants do.Many words sound trite and rehearsed, as if the applicant has a list of them ready to go, and the interviewer has heard these phrases many times, which is why their eyes are glossing over. Don’t say things like, “I’m a team player,” “I have a strong work ethic” or “I follow instructions well and can work independently.” Instead, demonstrate these qualities by telling stories and providing personal examples.
The next time you are asked to “tell me more about yourself”, you know what to do. Share your credentials, demonstrate your abilities and interests and explain what you have achieved in the past.