There comes a moment in every job interview where the interviewer says “Tell me about yourself.” It can be a stressful, intimidating, and anxiety-inducing demand to hear. Do they want to know your whole life story? Are they trying to get a feel for who you are outside of work? How do you know what they want when asking this question? We can help you understand what your interviewer is actually asking and how you should answer to get hired.
This is a Job-Related and Professional Question
This question can feel misleading, like your interviewer wants to hear about you or who you are outside of work. While they are trying to get a feel for you as a person, your interviewer's objective is to understand if you're a fit for this job and with their company. Even if they phrase this question as “Help me get to know you.” or “What should I know about you?” these questions are still job and professional related. They are sizing you up as a potential hire or future employee and they want to know how you present yourself as a professional. Some interviewers may ask you more personal questions, “What are some of your hobbies?” for example, and you can answer them as you feel comfortable. But when you hear “Tell me about yourself” this is your chance to give them a short sales pitch for why they should choose you. Use this opportunity wisely.
Interviewers want to see how you represent yourself and if you can think on your feet.
Research What They Want
Having all the information is a good way to make a strong impression on a potential employer. If you’re going to give your interviewers a good answer you need to know what matters to the company and what they are looking for specifically in the position. Go over the job description. Pull out the key responsibilities, skills, and experiences they are looking for in candidates. Research their company to find out which values matter to them. Check out their employees on LinkedIn, or other websites, to see what skills are listed as important. Find out what this company wants in their employees and what this job requires to answer this question the right way.
Cover Key Relevant Points From Your Career
When interviewers ask to hear about you and your background, this doesn’t mean they want you to recite your whole resume. They don't want you to go on a lengthy rant about your personal hobbies and experiences. You need to briefly cover your professional background to give them an idea of what you bring to the table beyond your resume. They have read your resume, it got you invited to interview. Now you need to use this time to tell them your professional story. Your career has been a journey that formed you into the worker you are now. Help your interviewer understand the big moments and experiences on that journey that are applicable to their job and company specifically. Fill in the gaps on your resume, tell them your story, and convince them that you are right for the job from the start.
Keep it Short, Keep it Successful, Keep it Positive
Because the “tell me about yourself” topic tends to crop up early during job interviews, you want your answer to be short, positive, and persuasive. Don’t spend more than 1 or 2 minutes answering the question or you will lose your interviewer’s attention. They have seen your resume, now they want to see how you represent yourself in person and how you handle open ended, vague questions. Make the right impression by keeping your answer short. Focus on explaining what qualities and abilities have led you to be successful in your career. This question is your opportunity to start persuading them to choose you. This is your opportunity to warm them up for all the other reasons you should be chosen that will come up during the rest of the interview. Make sure you keep things positive and upbeat. Everyone has challenges in their lives and careers, but this isn’t the time to share them. Instead focus on giving them a great impression of how capable and accomplished you are and they will hire you.
Be Rehearsed, Not Robotic
“Tell me about yourself” is such an open ended question, it is easy to feel lost on how exactly to answer in the moment. It is better to know what you are going to say when this question comes up by rehearsing your response. Put all of your research to use in crafting a response to this question which focuses on the traits that have made you successful, while also touching on key moments in your job history. Keep it short and positive. Make sure you practice what you are going to say, but don’t get overly stressed about it. The last thing you want is to sound forced. Know what you want to say well enough that you feel comfortable answering this question. Practice until you sound confident and articulate, not robotic and you will get the job.
Hearing an interviewer say, “Tell me about yourself” can feel like the worst part of an interview. It seems like a question with no right answer. But that isn’t the case. Interviewers want to see how you represent yourself and if you can think on your feet. When you hear this phrase take a deep breath, think over the response you have rehearsed, and give them a sales pitch they can’t refuse. By taking the steps described in our guide, you will be excited to hear this question. You will feel confident knowing that you have the right answered prepared to land you the job.