What comes to your head when you hear “Tell me about yourself”. Even though it’s one of the most common interview questions, “it almost always stumps a lot of people. It might seem like an easy win—after all, you know all about yourself!—but responding to this invitation to talk about you in the context of a job interview can feel stressful and complicated. It’s challenging because it is a broad, open-ended question. You might be thinking: Um, what do you want to know? How am I supposed to pick what to share out of my entire life story right now? should I answer what they want to hear or should I be honest?
To prevent moments like this, preparation is key. Adequate preparation will have you ready for this opening question and can help you use this opening prompt to your advantage, therefore setting the stage for a successful interview.
As with any interview, one major key to having a good answer for any question is to understand why the question is being asked in the first place and what type of answer the interviewer will like to hear.
interviewers often ask this question as it serves as a great way to break the ice, lighten the atmosphere in the room and set the direction of the interview. Oftentimes, the answer given by the interviewee helps figure out the next question. It could also build up to a set of follow-up questions that lend an easy flow to the conversation.
Other than serving as an ice breaker and transition question, the introductory question helps recruiters and hiring managers to achieve a major goal in the interview process which is getting to know you better.
Providing a good answer to this question moves the interviewer to probe questions as to why you will be the best fit for the job in terms of hard skills, soft skills as well as experience. It’s also a great opportunity for the interviewee to demonstrate good eloquent communication, connect with and react to other humans, also to conduct yourself professionally.
The question “tell me about yourself” is also another way of the interviewer saying I have your resume right in front of me, but I’ll like to hear it from you. walk me through your journey, your background, and most possibly tell me something that’s beyond what is documented in your resume.
Formula to Answering Tell Me About Yourself Question
1. Tailor Your Answer to the Role and Company
Whenever an interviewer asks this question, he/she is simply implying and expecting your answer should be perfectly relevant to the role and position of the company you’re getting interviewed for.
You should always take advantage of this opportunity but to do that, you need to be adequately prepared. Spend some time going through the job description and researching the company. figure out how you can tell your story in a way that makes it crystal clear why you’re interested and what you can bring to the table that aligns with the role and company.
So when you’re in the midst of a job search looking for a particular type of role, you might have a basic template you use for every interview, but make sure to tweak it to fit the company. It’s an opportunity to show them right away that you have done your homework. If they talk a lot about culture and behavior, weave that into your answer as well.
2. Keep It Professional
In keeping with the notion that this question carries an invisible addendum “as it’s relevant to this role and company” you’re best off keeping your answer professional. In other words, this isn’t the time to talk about your family and hobbies, unless you know something very specific about the company that would lead you to believe otherwise.
3. Practice (But Don’t Memorize)
Practice! Practice! Practice! You don’t want to wait until you get this question in a live interview to try out your answer for the first time. Think through what you want to convey about yourself ahead of each interview and practice saying it out loud. Remember there’s no such thing as over practicing.
If you can, go beyond practicing solo. It always helps to practice with other people to hear your answer and get feedback from how other people interpret what you say. Asking a trusted colleague, friend, or family member to listen and react to your answer will help you hone it. If your practice buddy is game, you can even ask them what they would say if they were being asked, and try to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes to think about what you’d look for on the other side.
Practice will surely make your answer stronger and help you become more confident giving it
4. Know Your Audience
As with any interview question or conversation for that matter, you’ll want to make sure you understand who you’re talking to. You might get some form of “tell me about yourself” at every single stage of the interview process for a job, from both the phone screen through final rounds, but that doesn’t mean you have to give the same answer every time.
If you’re speaking to a recruiter who’s not immersed in the hard skills of the team you’d be joining, you might keep your answer more focused on the bigger picture, whereas when you speak to your prospective boss, you might get a little bit more technical. If you’re talking to a C-level executive as part of your final round, it’s probably smart to touch on why you’re drawn to the overall mission of the company they run.
5. Remember This Is Often Your First Impression, and It Matters
We only have one chance to make a first impression on anyone. I believe that most hiring decisions are made in the first minute, which includes your greeting, handshake, eye contact, and the first thing you say, which may very well be your response to “tell me about yourself.”
Even if the powers that be aren’t making an irreversible determination shortly after the conversation begins, a first impression can color the rest of the interview. If you have to spend the rest of the time making up for a bad opening, you’re in a very different position than if you gave a succinct, confident, and relevant answer right off the bat.
Be prepared for this question and show interviewers you prepared for it.