How to Navigate the Dreaded Question – “Tell Me About Yourself”

Jan 27, 2017

downloadInterviews are one of the most stressful parts of our lives. Pre-interview nerves are something just about everyone understands and has experienced at one point in their lives. If someone notices your armpit sweat stains and asks you what you were up to, you can make them be sympathetic with two words – “job interview.”

It’s no wonder so many job candidates want to know exactly what to say in an interview to look good. Nerves can often make you freeze up, especially if you don’t know what to say ahead of time.

There’s one question shared by first dates and hiring managers alike that often makes potential candidates freeze up.

“Tell me about yourself.”

If you don’t want to look like a sweaty, babbling baboon in your next interview, read on.

Why Do Hiring Managers Want to Know About You?

Knowing the intention behind the question asked can help you figure out how best to answer it. Unlike first dates, your interviewer isn’t interested in your personal life. It would be unwise to tell them about your extensive stamp collection, or that you had to move back in with your mother after your latest breakup (although you probably shouldn’t tell this to your date either).

Your interviewer has several reasons for asking this question. They want to know how you’ll get along with other team members, and if you would be a good culture fit with the company. They also want to know how you’ll respond to an open-ended question without specific guidance.

How Should I Respond?

Before we get into do’s and do not’s, you’ll have to keep in mind that every hiring manager is different. A technique that might work well for one interviewer could make another cross you off the ‘potential employee’ list.

This is part of why it’s so crucial to research companies before you go into your interviewer. While you might have gotten away with not doing your homework at school, the same won’t fly during a job interview. Take some time to learn about the company’s culture. Don’t be afraid to reach out to current employees to get a read on what it’s like to work there. Use the information and context you get from your research to influence your answers and try to come up with a couple ahead of time.

However, there are some things that will ruin your chances at getting a job offer. Avoid these at all costs:

  • Reciting your cover letter or resume – they already know this information. Telling them again won’t endear you to them.
  • Telling your entire life’s story – they don’t care about where you grew up or how you got here.
  • Asking “what do you want to know?” – they want to see how you’ll do on your own, and this shows them that they can’t rely on you to work without guidance.
  • Going on and on and on and on… – there’s something irritating about someone who doesn’t know when to stop. Keep it short. Anything more than a couple of minutes is too much.

While we can’t tell you exactly what to say to get a job offer, there are several techniques that will improve your chances. Try one of the following in your next interview:

  • Focus on what’s best for the interviewer – remember, the interview process isn’t about you. It’s about what you can bring to the table. Highlight how you working with them will make their lives better.
  • Talk about qualities valued by the company – this is where your research comes in handy. Most companies have core values they aspire to live by. You can usually discover some of these values on their website. If you have qualities or beliefs they value, share those values and beliefs.
  • Use the same words and terms found in your research – not only will this sound good to your interviewer, but it’ll also show that you took the time and effort to get to know the company ahead of time. When interviewers can see you’ve done your homework, it shows that you’re already invested in the company instead of just trying to get any job.

Even if you stick with these suggestions, there is still a chance you won’t get the job. It’s possible to do everything right and not be offered the position. Don’t let that discourage you from sticking to these guidelines. They will greatly increase your chances of getting the position, and at the very least, will leave a good impression with your interviewer.

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