What's the Best Way to Answer the Common Job Interview Question, "Can You Tell Me About Yourself?"
Congratulations! You got the interview. Now you have the opportunity to help the interviewer better understand who you are and what you have to offer the company in this new position. It’s not uncommon for the hiring manager to begin by asking: “Tell me about yourself.” This isn’t an invitation to ramble on about where you grew up, what hobbies you enjoy and spill personal information that’s not relevant to this job.
What you really need to do is to prepare a one- to two-minute answer that shows that you have the skills, experience and personality to fit in and contribute to the team as the best possible candidate. You might begin by trying to grasp what the interviewer is actually asking:
- How do you view yourself as a professional?
- What do you think is most important about this job?
- How do you imagine you would fit in?
- Can you think on your feet and handle this type of (vague) question?
It’s not only about what you say, but how you handle yourself answering this question. He/she is interested in what kinds of information you think is important to share about yourself. Can you answer concisely, with examples that demonstrate that you really do understand the job requirements and what kind of impression are you making?
So here’s a plan to craft a response that makes you stand out from the crowd:
- Make a list of your skills and achievements along with any specific, measured results or awards.
- Read the job description carefully. Make note of the job requirements that match up with the list in #1 above.
- Use the STAR method to highlight one or two of those skills/achievements.
- Situation, Task, Action, Results -- Start by describing a SITUATION, list the TASKS needed, specify what ACTION you took, what RESULTS were achieved. For example: I was a server at XYZ restaurant on a busy, holiday shift and we were short-handed; we needed to expedite meals to a large holiday party that had booked a private room; I stepped up by re-organizing my station with another server and was able to assist in providing excellent service to the private party. The result was that the party planner was so pleased; she booked her next big event with us before leaving the restaurant.
- Research the company by checking out their social media as well as their website. Make sure you understand their values and culture.
- Research the interviewer, if possible. Check out his/her profile on LinkedIn. What can you learn about his/her interests and past experience?
- Show the interviewer how you’ll fit in and why you’re interested in the company and this position. Explain how what you’ve learned up to this point has led you to pursue this job in this setting.
- Look for others on LinkedIn who have the same job you’re interviewing for. What kinds of achievements do they list that will give you an idea of what to highlight in the interview?
- Start with a brief explanation of what you’re doing now; then explain what you did before this and how you got where you are. Finally, explain what excites you about this new position and why you’d love working there.
- Practice your answer. Make sure you share some of your personality and aren’t reciting it like a robot. Be friendly, conversational and warm.
What NOT to do:
1. Avoid any comments or stories that involve controversial topics, like politics or religion.
2. Don’t recite your resume, word for word… the interviewer is looking for more insight into you as a person, how you’ll fit in and how well you communicate.
3. Avoid sharing a lot of personal information or going into detail about your hobbies or interests that aren’t relevant to this job.
4. Don’t offer vague, un-supportable claims such as “I’m a hard worker.”
5. Don’t launch into what you’re looking for in a company – focus on what you can do for them.
As long as you’re prepared and understand why the interviewer is asking this question, you can craft a brilliant answer to the “Tell Me About Yourself” question. It can be a good exercise in demonstrating what value you will bring to the job and how well you’ll fit into the team. Be confident and honest and above all, be yourself.