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Your Guide to Answering "Tell Me About Yourself" in an Interview

First Impressions Matters

As most hiring decisions are made in the first minute, you might only have one chance to make a good first impression. It includes your greeting, handshake, eye contact, and the first thing you say.

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Your Guide to Answering "Tell Me About Yourself" in an Interview

Your Guide to Answering "Tell Me About Yourself" in an Interview

https://www.themuse.com/advice/tell-me-about-yourself-interview-question-answer-examples

themuse.com

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Key Ideas

Why Interviewers Ask It

This introductory question serves as an icebreaker to lend an easy flow to the conversation. It helps the recruiter to get to know you in terms of hard and soft skills.

It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and effectively.

How to build your response

  • Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it, and possibly a recent achievement.
  • Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention a past experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.
  • Future: Continue with what you’re looking to do next and why you’re interested in this job.
You do not have to respond in this order. Tweak it to suit you. Make sure to tie it to the job and company.

Tailor Your Answer

Interviewers want to know how your answer about yourself is relevant to the position and company you’re applying for.

This is an opportunity to articulate why you’re interested and how your objective fulfills their goals. In order to do that, spend some time researching the company. If your answers resonate with them, it shows that you really understand the role.

Keep It Professional

This isn’t the time to talk about your family and hobbies unless you believe that it would be relevant.

The norm in some countries might be to share personal details at this point. In the U.S. you should avoid doing so. 

Share Your Passion

If your goal in an interview is to stand out among the applicant pool and be memorable, tell your story from a passionate perspective, even if that touches on the personal territory.

You might incorporate a sentence like, “I’m really passionate about x and y and so I was really attracted to your company…”

Be Concise

Don’t waste this time repeating every single detail of your career. 

Think of it as a teaser that should attract the interviewer’s interest.  Give them a chance to ask follow-up questions about whatever intrigues them most. 

Practice

Think through what you want to convey about yourself ahead of time.  See if the answer sounds solid and credible to you. Practice saying it out loud.

Be careful against reciting your spiel word-for-word. You don’t want to sound overly rehearsed. It is a conversation. Imagine yourself telling a story to a good friend.

Know Your Audience

Make sure you understand who you’re talking to. You might give a different answer to a recruiter than to a prospective boss. 

Keep It Positive

View this as your first impression. Wait for a good time to mention something like being fired or laid off from a previous job. Do not speak bad about your previous employer. It is a big turn-off. 

First Impressions Matters

As most hiring decisions are made in the first minute, you might only have one chance to make a good first impression. It includes your greeting, handshake, eye contact, and the first thing you say.

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The reason for the question

Interviewers ask questions like "tell me about yourself "  to determine if you're qualified to do the work and if you will fit in with the team.

How to Answer the Question

It might be a good idea to share something about yourself that is doesn't relate directly to your career. 

For example, interests like running might represent that you are healthy and energetic. Pursuits like being an avid reader might showcase your intellectual leaning. Volunteer work will demonstrate your commitment to the welfare of your community.

The “present-past-future” formula

This is a simple formula to construct your response.

  • Start with a short overview of where you are now (which could include your current job along with a reference to a personal hobby or passion).
  • Reference how you got to where you are (you could mention education, or an important experience, internship or volunteer experience).
  • Finish by describing a probable goal for the future.

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“Tell me about yourself”

... is one of the interview questions that most intimidates job seekers and one that most interviewers assume will be easy. It sounds straightforward — but as every job seeker knows, it...

What your interviewer is looking for

"Tell me about yourself" doesn’t mean “give me your complete history from birth until today.”  It doesn’t even mean “walk me through your work history.” It means “give me a brief overview of who you are as a professional.”

Interviewers who ask this question are generally looking to get a broad overview of how you see yourself, as a sort of introduction or an icebreaker before starting to dive into the specifics. 

"Tell me about yourself" - recommended answer
  • Summarize where you are in your career, note anything distinctive about how you approach your work and end with a bit about what you’re looking for next.
  • Your answer only needs to be about 1 minute long.
  • Don’t drag yourself. This isn’t the time to explain you were fired from your last job or to confess your difficulties finding the right career path.
  • Keep your focus professional, not personal.
'So, Tell me about Yourself'

... or some version of that is one of the most fundamental and common questions asked in any first round of a Job Interview.

Hiring managers usually like to ask this question, because it ...

Short vs long answers

The conventional expert opinion is to provide a crisp, 30 second to 1-minute answer to the question "Tell me about yourself", but one minute isn’t enough time to deliver a meaningful response that benefits you as a candidate.

Experts prefer a short answer, as it has less chance of leading the candidate to drift or ramble.

Benefits of a long answer
  • A longer answer to "Tell me about yourself" allows you to provide a useful narrative beyond the résumé.
  • It lets you reveal key motivations that drove your career path.
  • You can shape the interview in your direction.
  • It's an opportunity to stand out from the other candidates.
Conduct the Effective Job Interview
  • Prepare your questions based on the attributes of an ideal candidate,
  • Reduce stress level. Tell the candidates in advance the questions you plan to ask.
  • Involve enoug...
What you should not say
  • Starting with something personal like family or hobbies, or launching into your life story.
  • Sharing the problems with your current job.
  • Summarizing your resume, point-by-point....
Craft an elevator pitch
  • Spend some time reviewing the job description in the recruitment ad for the position and research the company.
  • Prepare a short script that highlights the skills, strengths and expertise you have that make you especially qualified for this particular position. 
  • Explain the reasons you’re applying for this particular job. Focus on career-related motivations.
Your purpose to the question

Your purpose to the question "tell me about yourself" is to give just enough details of yourself to spark the interest of the interviewer.

Answering this question gives you a great opportunity to spotlight the skills and experience that make you the ideal candidate for the job.

The Job Interview
The Job Interview

Hunting for a job is a tricky process and may have many pitfalls. Many of us are not accustomed to having these kinds of conversations or handling the power dynamics of a job interview. There can b...

A Long Multi-Round Process

If you feel there is fog ahead of you due to opacity in the interview process and the multiple rounds, you can simply ask the next steps of the process and the timeline for a decision.

If you think the employer has an elongated set of rounds ahead, request to consolidate them if possible.

Stumped By A Question

Instead of bluffing your way through a question that you are completely stumped with, it is better to be upfront and handle it with honesty and grace. Tell them straight away that you do not know the answer to this question and what similar things you have done which have been effective.

Your life experiences are unique and not identical to what the interviewer is trying to ‘slot’ you into.

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The Typical Job Interview Process
  1. Screening call or on-site interview: lengthy when done by HR and short when it’s someone technical, also not a good time to fire all your questions.
  2. Technical interview: ...
Questions For Your Screener

Have an introduction and a concise story to tell about your work history. Stack questions are mostly inappropriate here but you can ask the following:

  1. What is the hiring process? Be suspicious if they are asking for too much in one of the steps.
  2. Tell me about the tech team. Find more about the company’s hierarchies and the people who compose them.
Asking Questions On The Technical Interview

Prepare well for this. At the end of the meeting, they should ask if you have questions and you can ask as many as you need to help you decide to work there or not. You can use that to build rapport if the interview was a little off.

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“Tell me about yourself”

At this point, you are just a face with a name and one of many candidates.  

Refrain from repeating what is on your resume or telling your life story. It might become more important...

Leave an indelible mark
  • Highlight the most important aspects of your resume. 
  • Mention a passion that shows that you’re a self-starter. This is a great chance to display your quirks and interests in order to connect with the interviewer.
  • End with why you’re here in the first place. You want the interviewer to think, “Wow, I really think this might be the one.
A team player

Very few employees work in a vacuum. When an interviewer asks if you are a team player, they really want to know whether you can work with others and get along with them.

Questions About Being a Team Player

First, research the role and the company to make sure you understand what teamwork looks like at this particular organization.

Then, consider how you can best contribute to a team.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer
  • Stick With Recent Examples: Relaying outdated examples don't usually grab attention.
  • Blow Your Own Horn: Pick an experience that shows how you contributed to a team that achieved spectacular results.
  • Consider Relevance: Choose an example that's most relevant to the company you're interviewing with.
  • Add Value: Select an example that demonstrates your added strengths.
  • Focus Your Response: Highlight your story in bullet point form.

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The Interviewer’s Perspective

When the interviewer asks you, “Tell me about yourself”, he is hoping this question will get you talking. It will give him a first impression of you, and set the tone for the inte...

How Not to Answer
  • Prepare a brief summary of the high points of each of your past positions, but do not turn it into a very long monologue that makes the interviewer glaze over with information overload.
  • You do not have to brag, but don't rely on the interviewer to see past your humble exterior and figure out how great you are. Find a way to present yourself to your full advantage.
  • This is not the time to talk about all your personal details. Focus on who you are as a professional.
  • Because this question can be interpreted in many ways, do not be overwhelmed by it. Delve right in with your prepared answers.
Your elevator pitch
You need a short summary of yourself as a job candidate. Keep it focused, ideally less than a minute, and no more than two minutes.
  • Address what your primary selling points are for this job. The number of years of experience or special skill.  Focus on the qualifications in the job description and how you meet and exceed it.
  • Explain why you are interested in this position. 

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