Possibly one of the most difficult questions to answer is “Tell Me About Yourself?” But if I asked your co-worker to tell me about you, they could easily rattle off several things.
During a job interview, you’ll need to overcome the stage-fright associated with answering the “tell me about yourself” question.
Making the best first impression is important. Hiring managers have said they make a decision about a candidate within the first few seconds of a job interview. And an article in Forbes reports “[a] study by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found 60% of interviewers know within the first 15 minutes if the candidate they’re interviewing is suitable for the role.”
When networking, you’ll also be asked “tell me about yourself” or a similar question, but the answer you use in those circumstances is a bit different. There’s not a specific job driving the conversation. To learn how to answer this question while networking, check out Using the Right Pitch at the Right Time.
Why Is This Question Asked?
Recruiters and hiring managers usually ask this question as an icebreaker. Keep in mind, that they may not have had a chance to review your resume before you walked in so asking this question also helps them remember which candidate you are.
What Do They Want To Hear?
The answer to this question should help the interviewer understand why you are qualified and interested in the role and their company.
What they don’t want to hear is a long story about your career, or personal information about your family.
They want to know why you are sitting in that chair discussing the job opportunity they have available.
How Long Should It Be?
You have 60 seconds max!
Your answer is just an overview of the most important and relevant information the interviewer needs to know right up front.
You have the rest of the job interview to explain in greater detail the specifics. You’ll use STAR stories to answer questions.
Preparing Your Answer
So let’s look at how to confidently and concisely answer the question “tell me about yourself” by explaining who you are in less than a minute.
#1 Create Your Script/Key Points
First, create a script or list of bullet points of what you want to cover in 60 seconds or less.
You do this by:
- Thoroughly reviewing the job description, looking for keywords, skills, and knowledge requested.
- Referencing the research you’ve done so you can explain why you are interested in the company/role.
In the olden days, five years ago, my recommendation on how to answer this question was to complete these 4 key phrases:
I am a…(insert your profession, occupation here)
With expertise in …(2-3 key skills sets you possess)
My background includes…(list industry experience)
My unique qualities are…(2-3 memorable qualities)
But this needs to be refined a bit for 2020.
The market is competitive which means you have to take the extra time and effort to research the company, it’s people and the role to truly understand what the company is looking for and what they need.
This is the advanced recommendation:
I am known for …(types of problems you solve)
With expertise in …(1-2 problems you have solved over your career)
My background includes…(specify industries, company cultures, and/or community experience)
One of the things I am most proud of is…(site an example something you were proud to accomplish)
Based on what I know about this opportunity, I believe…
But there’s another formula I’ve seen used. This is particularly helpful if you are changing careers or making a major shift in your career.
What you’re presently doing that relates to the opportunity
How your past qualifies you for the role
Why you’re interested in this opportunity/company
#2 Practice Out Loud
Once you’ve outlined what you want to say, practice using it. Say it out loud.
You want your answer to flow and the only way that can happen is if you practice saying it.
You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script. So avoid using lots of technical terms or acronyms.
Also, avoid using words used on your resume, but seldom spoken or sound trite. For example:
- solid history of…
- proven leader/results/etc.
- track record of…
#3 Let Your Passion Show
Speak with enthusiasm. Let the best version of you come across to the interviewer. Put energy into every word, make eye contact and for goodness sake, smile!
Yes, you are probably nervous, but if you know exactly what you’re going to say to kick off the interview, that’s one less thing to worry about.
The key is to make it your own and know it completely. That is best done by practicing! If you have a webcam, you can record it and analyze it.
#4 Don’t Dwell On The Irrelevant Past
If you are switching careers do not start your answer by stating what you used to do first. That confuses the interviewer. Focus on the skills that are relevant to the job first. And then you can explain how your background relates to your new career goals. If it doesn’t then explain your motivation for making the switch.
Always include information that is relevant and important to the interviewer. Your answer isn’t about explaining your work history.
I’ve been working in project management roles for over seven years. Most recently I worked as a senior Project Manager for a tech company managing the launch of a new product and overseeing five project managers. I used Agile as well as my PMI certification to manage this project and now that the product has launched, I want to bring my project management experience into fintech, which is why I’m so interested in talking to you about this opportunity.
I’ve been recognized for my analytical skills and ability to interpret data into actionable information. I recently completed my MBA which gave me the opportunity to hone these skills and develop data visualization skills. My experience in consumer packaging and customer service helps me understand the customer’s needs and I use that knowledge to formulate new products and ideas. I saw XYZ company listed as a top innovator in the consumer goods space and I’m excited to learn more about this opportunity and how my experience will fit.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.