17, May, 2016
“Tell me about yourself” is possibly one of the most common, yet toughest questions to answer during a job interview. As a vague and open-ended question, even the smartest candidates often struggle to answer this succinctly and effectively. Being able to describe oneself in the context of an interview is a critical skill for all candidates to have, and it helps to consider why this question is being asked.
Why does an interviewer ask, “Tell me about yourself”?
- The interviewer is trying to utilize first few minutes of the interview to set the remaining course of the interview, and knowing more about you will help them decide what questions to follow up with.
- The interviewer is using this question as a way to start a conversation before delving into more job-related specifics. They like to begin interviews with general questions to allow the candidate to settle into the conversation, such as, whether you had any difficulty finding the place.
- It is the interviewer’s opportunity to form an initial opinion about you, and to judge your communication skills based on how you begin and end your answer, and everything in between.
How you should answer this classic question
Based on your understanding of why this question is being asked, you should consider it as an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the interview, and begin selling yourself in the best way possible. In order to utilize this opportunity, we recommend that you do some homework before landing in this real interview situation.
A simple recipe to successfully answering this question is through introspection and reflection. However, this should be done carefully, with careful consideration of why you are interviewing and what you hope to accomplish.
You need to think, think, and think on various aspects related to your job search. Here are some guidelines to get you thinking:
- Understand your skills, write them down, and classify them into knowledge-based/experience-based skills, intangible traits (confidence, attitude, learning aptitude), and interpersonal/leadership skills.
- Identify what is relevant to the position and weed out what’s not. For example, being a guitarist, while a great skill, might be totally irrelevant if you’re interviewing for a software developer position.
- Make sure you have read the job description fully and have understood all the skills required for the position.
- Develop an elevator pitch that describes your experience, your accomplishments, and how your skills have helped you at various stages in your career. Make sure that your pitch does not sound too elaborate and is short, crisp, and interesting for the interviewer.
- You can try reading out your pitch to a friend to get some constructive feedback and help you prepare for the live interview.
When you are asked this question, make sure that you sound natural and confident. At this point, you would already have your answer ready, and now, it is about delivering it the right way. Here are a few points you should keep in mind:
- If your elevator pitch sounds a bit too elaborate and you feel like it is not sending a clear message, remember that brevity is the soul of wit, and sometimes a short and simple answer can be the best way to define you and your skills.
- Do not use industry-specific technical jargon when describing yourself; jargon makes your pitch too elaborate – the interviewer is looking for a general overview at first, and you can dive into the details later on in the conversation.
- Do not lie about your skills and credentials. Being truthful helps you appear relaxed and natural before the interviewer. In addition, lies are often unnecessary and may get you in trouble, either during the interview or after you start working at the company.
- Keep calm and carry on. The interviewer is judging you based on every statement you make as well as non-verbal cues such as facial expressions. If there is an awkward situation, or you say something you cannot justify, just relax and laugh it off. This will direct the interviewer’s attention away from potential distractions and on to the more important points.
Now that you are ready to answer the most common yet tricky interview question, we at the Jobfindah team wish you the best of luck with your job search!