“Tell me about yourself.” It’s the question you can expect at the start of every job interview. It’s also a question that can make or break your pitch to the interviewer. Without the perfect answer you may find yourself tongue-tied or even worse: rambling! By learning how to answer this question optimally, you will set the stage for an engaging and enjoyable interview for both you and the hiring manager. In this blog post we’ll explain the trick to answering this common interview question. We’ll also explain the keys to preparing your answer for this question.
Why you need to know how to answer this critical interview question
So you’ve been to a few job interviews and noticed a common thread. Every interviewer starts with the “Tell me about yourself,” question. Ironically, the opening question isn’t a question at all! It’s more like a terrifying statement for most interviewees. It’s an obvious place to start but a not-so-obvious question to answer. However, it is a question you can use to your advantage. If you struggle to promote yourself in job interviews, you’ll find the tips in this blog post helpful.
The more you prepare for your interviews, the more in control you will be. That’s why crafting a strategic answer to this guaranteed question, is super important for acing your interview. Since this question is the foundation for the interview, you need to answer this strong. That way, both you and the hiring manager will be able to find common ground for engagement. The underlying strategy depends on the same underlying strategy for resumes: tailoring. If you craft an answer to this question, tailored to the hiring manager’s needs you are on the right track to acing your interview.
What the hiring manager really wants to know about you
Before you set out to tailor your answer, it’s always a good idea to understand your interviewer’s motives. If you struggle to understand the hiring manager’s motives, check out this blog post I wrote on what hiring managers look for in candidate profiles. When the interviewer asks this question he/she is really asking: “What have you done that is relevant to the business problem I am trying to solve?” Sometimes you’ll hear this question in the extended form, “Walk Me Through Your Resume.” Regardless of the way the question is asked, you’ll want to focus on the hiring manager’s bottom line. The bottom line is: whether or not your past performance and future career goals make you a fit for the job opening. If you are attempting to move into a new industry or career path, it will be even more critical to make sure you get this answer right.
Timing is the first trick to answering this tricky question
There are a few tricks to answering this question. First, limit yourself to only a minute when answering this question. By being aware of your timing, you will be able to avoid rambling. It’s the rambling that tends to get people off track and lose the hiring manager interest. Instead, you will want to be very concise in your answer. Limiting yourself to a minute to answer will help to ensure you are concise and on track.
Being selective about the information you share is the second trick to answering this question
While timing is important, you also want to be sure you are providing enough relevant information to peak the hiring manager’s interest. You want to come across as the hiring manager’s ideal candidate. Therefore, you need to tie your “about you” into the hiring manager’s needs. In addition to tailoring your story to fit their needs, you also need to do this in a way that doesn’t appear contrived. Make sure your answer speaks to your best experience as relevant to the job description and prior company research. This will make you an attractive candidate right out of the gate.
How to prepare your answer for this question
You’ll want to have the job description and your company research in mind as you answer so that you are tying your past career history into how your next move into the company makes sense. Look for clues in the job description that indicate the problem the hiring manager is trying to solve. Hint: The problem you’ll want to solve is usually summed up within the first couple paragraphs of the job description as a role summary.
What to include in your answer
Provide a high-level summary of your career moves, selecting the most relevant wins and infusing relevant skills. The key is to let the hiring manager know you are the best person for the job (the person who can solve their big problem). End your answer with what you’re hoping to achieve in your next role and why it makes sense in terms of your short and long-term career goals. This indicates to the hiring manager that you’re in it for the long haul. You’ll want to be sure that the career goals included in your answer are indeed possible with the employer. Otherwise, they might not see a long-term fit.
What to omit from your answer
Avoid the temptation to walk through your entire career history or read off of your resume. This is about you and there’s more to you than a 2-page resume, right? (I hope so)!
The formula for answering this question with ease
Here’s the formula I recommend when preparing to answer this interview question. Take some time in your interview prep to customize this template. Then, practice it until it sounds natural!
STEP 1: Sum up your professional profile, your best relevant attributes & strengths
“I’ve been working in the event management space as an Event Management Assistant for the past 5 years. I would probably describe myself as an extremely dedicated and attentive individual who thrives on ensuring that all parts of any task are completed to the highest standard, which I believe I demonstrated in my last position with XYZ Company.
STEP 2: Provide recent proof through storytelling
I was responsible for event management and in my role as XYZ I was instrumental in successfully orchestrating several departments, budgets and event logistics all within deadline.
STEP 3: Speak to the results you produced in your story
This resulted in a smooth event with a 30% increase in attendee satisfaction from last year and a renewed contract for the year ahead.
STEP 4: Segue your passion and relevant selling points into your future career goals and enthusiasm
I love juggling multiple pieces with an eye towards perfection and I feel I’m ready for the next step in my career path; one that will allow me to work with an industry leader and continue to grow in this profession. That’s why I am pursuing an Event Manager role with your organization.”
Once you’ve rattled off the answer to this question, in a short, yet impressive manner (see template above), you will be off to a great start in the interview. These will be great talking points to spark more conversation and also allow you to ease past the initial interview awkwardness and proceed with ease!