- You arrived exactly 15 minutes early, professionally dressed with a reference list in hand.
- You offered a firm, confident handshake when greeted by the interviewer.
- Using LinkedIn and the company website, you thoroughly researched the employer and are prepared to answer any questions about the organization.
- You know your skills, strengths and weaknesses inside and out.
- You could do the required job duties in your sleep, you’re that qualified.
- Behavioral interview questions are a breeze because you practiced them numerous times.
What could possibly go wrong?
How about when they start the interview with one simple question: Can you tell me about yourself?
Suddenly you’re palms start sweating and your mind begins racing.
Should I tell them my name? But they already know my name. Should I tell them my work history? No, that’s on my resume. But wait, everything about me is on my resume. Is this a trick question? Ask me my strengths – I’ll spit them out. Ask me what the company’s closing stock price was yesterday- I checked. Ask me to repeat your LinkedIn profile- I’ve memorized it! But please, don’t ask me to tell you something about me.
What do they want me to say?
Before you know it, you go into ramble mode, and the interview’s over before it barely began.
So here are some strategies for answering the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Expect it. Conversations most often start with a nonchalant open-ended question. Remember that interviews are conversations, too.
Know that how you respond matters just as much as what you say-maybe more. If you pause for too long, stumble over your reply or ask for time to think about it, your answer no longer matters. Awkwardness has already been established and you’ll have to work hard to eliminate it. If you reply unenthusiastically, the interviewer might wonder how excited you really are about the job.
Keep your answer short. “Tell me about yourself” doesn’t translate into “tell me everything there is to know about you.” A crisp, one to two sentence answer grabs the employer’s attention and encourages more questions.
Avoid personal items. Where you live, your age or your marital status are common conversations openers for areas other than a job interview. Keep your answer focused on skills and qualifications.
Practice your answer. This question deserves just as much practice as the other commonly asked interview questions. If you can’t tell the interviewer about yourself, you may not get the chance to show how well you answer the other interview questions.
Develop an opening hook. This is a phrase or sentence that begins your answer, gets the interviewer’s attention and helps you transition to what professional qualifications you want to share. Some examples might include:
“I’m someone who is really excited to be talking with you today about joining your team.”
“People who know me best say that I’m…”
“The three words I would use to describe myself are…”
“With 10 years of experience in customer service, I believe I’m the candidate for this position.”
“Having just recently earned my degree, I’m eager to begin working in the profession.”
End the answer with confidence. Don’t fade off into a whisper. Don’t end the last word with a question in your voice. And don’t end the answer with “does that answer your question?” All three responses show a lack of confidence in your answer.
You’re the only person on the planet who can tell others your story. Know your professional talents and target them in a clear concise answer. Pair your answer with an opening hook, eye contact and enthusiasm, and you’re on your way to a solid interview, with hopefully a job offer to follow.