Tell me about yourself

Why do interviewers ask the question, tell me about yourself? In all honesty, it’s an easy one that effortlessly gets the interview going. Well, maybe effortlessly for the interviewer. But as an interviewee, how to you respond? Once you get the hang of it, this can actually be one of your easier questions to answer. Here’s how you prepare for it.

What does tell me about yourself really mean?

As stated above, this question is a great way to get things off the ground, so to speak. Plus, it can really help to give the interviewer some insight into who you are as a candidate. They have your resume and maybe a cover letter. But what really makes you tick? What are you trying to accomplish with your next role? None of those things is really obvious on paper. This question can help shed some light.

What kind of information are they looking for?

In short, professional things. Focus on where you are in your career, where you’d like to go, what your skills are, etc. Things like your age, marital status, and any other information that interviewers aren’t allowed to ask you about directly are all things you can leave out of this response.

What you include depends a bit on where you are in your career path.

Tell me about yourself for recent graduates

Since you may be lighter on experience, you could focus on coursework and the things you’ve done that have helped you prepare for this opportunity. Also helpful for interviewers, how does this role fit into your overall career goals? In fact, what are your career goals? Maybe you’ve had some applicable internships. If so, this is a great time to mention them.

Tell me about yourself for an experienced candidate

Overall, you’re doing the same thing the recent grads are doing except your focus will likely be more about your experience. But in the end, you’re still looking at what you’ve done that’s prepared you for this role, how this role fits into your career goals, etc. And if you’re making a career change, this is a great time to touch on that and introduce the idea into the conversation.

All candidates

This is a key marketing moment for you as a candidate. That doesn’t mean to lie or to make up stories. But for now, focus less on things that might cut against you as a candidate, like discussing gaps in employment or pointing out where your skills fall short for this role. If any of those things are a concern, the interviewer will get to that later. For now, focus on your selling points.

How many details do I include?

As you can imagine, the answer to this question cannot go on forever. Essentially, it’s an elevator speech about you. As with most elevator speeches, you have about 30-60 seconds. That being the case, you won’t have time to go over every single accomplishment. Instead, focus more on the big-picture level with broad, sweeping brush strokes. As the interview progresses, you’ll have time to fill in the details and get more specific.

Last piece of advice

Finally, practice this out loud a few times to see how it feels. Even better, practice it out loud with a timer so you can see how long your answer takes. The other reason this is important is because it gives you a chance to stumble on the words so you can get that out of your system. Even when we have the words already put together in our minds, sometimes the actually verbalizing still doesn’t go well. Practicing out loud lets you work out the kinks.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist