How to handle the Interview Question: Tell me about yourself
As an interviewer I can tell you that this is the question that probably stumps people more than any other question asked. It is a way to see how a candidate responds to a casual question that has no structure and also way to break the ice and see how the candidate thinks on their feet. It’s also a way to see how prepared a candidate is for the interview and it is typically the first question asked…so be prepared!
They say you only have 7 seconds to make a strong, first impression. With this normally being the first question asked, you want to sell yourself and make a positive first impression on the interviewer. What you don’t want to do is start reading off your resume, reciting your cover letter or telling the interviewer about every job you’ve ever had. You want to answer quickly and concisely. You also don’t want to keep pausing or rambling incoherently, trying to think up the next thing to say. It is more about how confident you are when answering and how positive you are about the message you are conveying, than the actual answer itself.
Telling the interviewer about yourself should be short and straight to the point. Why should they hire you? Make sure your answer is relevant to the job you are interviewing for. You should be able to answer this question in 1-2 minutes. You don’t want to assume they know everything about your past experiences and studied your resume but you also don’t want to point out the obvious.
Things to avoid:
1. Talking about your 5 kids and how important it is to have free time for them, all of their sporting events and how busy you already are. Even if that’s true, employers may think that this will interfere with your work schedule and committing to the job. They may also think you won’t commit to the position long term. It is okay to talk about having kids but the interviewer will want to ensure that you have someone caring for your children if the position is a work from home opportunity.
2. Talking about everything you hated about all of your past jobs. It is okay to be honest and tell them things you disliked (Being micromanaged, system functioning properly etc.) but just be careful. You don’t want to go on and on about things you disliked about your previous work if those things possibly relate to the job you’re interviewing for, so do your research on the position first.
3. Coming off as “too qualified” for an entry level job. I interview candidates who are overqualified all the time, and I’ve hired a lot of them. I also have to dig to find out why they want to take a pay cut and leave their high-paying salary. So, if you’re applying for a factory job after being the VP of a fortune 500 company, you want to downplay your skill set a bit and be ready to explain why you want to walk away from your career for the position you’re interviewing for.
If this happens to be you, trust me: I get why people leave their career and look for work from home opportunities even if it means taking a huge pay cut. I was at the apex of my career when I decided to work from home. It was actually accidental; I moved back to my home town (very small with minimum opportunities) and was just looking for an HR role.
A friend of mine worked for the company, told me about the position over Facebook and it was the first time I’d even heard about work-from-home opportunities. Well, after I started working from home and no longer working crazy hours I realized just how much I had missed out on (family time, my nieces’ softball games, Holidays…etc.) with the crazy work hours and high stress. Sometimes taking a pay cut is worth the time you gain. The old adage “time is money” has never been more true.
4. Talking too much about growth when the job has little room for advancement. Candidates who are looking to move up the ladder are the ones that don’t stay long. Whether they are trying to move up in their current company or constantly pursuing other opportunities. If a candidate constantly talks about moving up-up-up, the interviewer may assume that they won’t stay very long and that the job that they’re applying for is only a temporary transition until they find something else.
5. “Well what do you want to know?” Trust me, don’t do it!
This is based on my opinion only. I’d like to think I am knowledgeable and capable of giving my professional opinion on how to answer this question based on my own research and my background as an HR Recruiter. I interview on average 4-6 people a day so I will give you examples of what I want to hear and also what I have shared when “asking/telling me about yourself:”
1. Something personal, (but not too personal). Examples: “I love art and enjoy going to galleries in my free time,” or “I’m a big sports fan,” or “I am someone who you can find around the kitchen trying new recipes on the weekend.” I like to hear something about them that you won’t find in a google search or on the candidate’s resume. Just remember that you don’t want to mention anything that could interfere with your work. Example: “I am big into gambling and spend a lot of time at the Casinos.”
2. A candidate’s skill set that matches the job description. Remember when you are talking about your skills to discuss what strengths or experiences that will be useful for the job you’re interviewing for. You don’t want to talk about how analytical and great with numbers you are if the job doesn’t require those skills. If the position talks about customer interaction talk about your skills that involve communication, rapport building, customer interactions…etc.
3. What they are doing currently, what they are looking to do next and why they want to work for the company that they are interviewing with AND why that position specifically.
So here would be an example:
Well I am originally from [fill in the blank]. I moved to [City, State] where I attended the [University of XYZ] and earned my bachelor’s degree in [fill in the blank]. Most of my experience has been in the field of [fill in the blank].
I currently work for ABC Inc. in the [fill in the blank] department where I [enter responsibilities] and have [enter accomplishments]. I have been with ABC Inc. for 6 years. When I started 6 years ago I was hired as a temporary [job title] and was hired 6 months later as a permanent employee. I was quickly promoted as the [job title] in the [LMNOP department] where I [few main responsibilities] and then promoted to my current role as a/the [job title/position].
In my current role as [job title/position] I have [enter accomplishments] and [enter responsibilities that would be beneficial in the position you’re interviewing for].
***You may also want to add specific examples of ways that you’ve benefited/impacted the company, awards you’ve earned, specific compliments given to you by important people (name/title drop for those examples), specific difficult goals you’ve accomplished and how you accomplished them (as long as they relate to something you may do if hired) and then any other additional information you would want them to know that is relevant and not on your resume.
The reason why I have chosen to purse the [Position your applying for] with [Company’s Name] is to [fill in WHY you are applying and be specific without giving TOO much detail]
Common reasons: supplement income, more opportunities for growth, career change,…etc.”
With my [fill in the blank] experiences, I feel that I would be an immediate asset to [name of the company] company, I am able to meet [necessary requirements], and am very excited about this opportunity!