One of the most commonly asked questions during a job interview is the classic “So… Tell me about yourself!”. This question can be panic inducing to many job seekers as they struggle to draw the line between sharing too much information or not providing enough.
Laura DeCarlo, the founder of Career Directors International, calls this question a ‘spider web’ because of it's ability to trap you in a sticky situation. Your response to this question is very important, providing information that is not relevant to the position or is clearly unplanned can blow your opportunity and cause you to leave a lasting bad impression.
Here are our top 3 interview tips designed to help you answer this question like a pro!
Do your research!
DO NOT answer this question by reciting your life story.
Skip Freeman, CEO of Hire to Win, pointed out in his article "How you answer this 'warm-up' question may leave you 'out-in-the-cold', that the very last thing an employer wants you to do when you are answering this question is actually tell them about yourself! Instead they want you to tell them about your relevant career experience and why you are perfect for the job.
To do this well you need to research the company and the role prior to the interview. Then identify what expertise, strengths, and unique values you have that are relevant to the position and the company. Once you have identified these points write them down and refer to them while rehearsing your answer.
In addition to mentioning why you are a good fit for the role take some time to learn about the company culture. Culture fit is as important (if not more) as job fit, particularly in the current employment market. In fact, according to Psychologist and Researcher Kerry Schofield, a good culture fit is associated with many positive outcomes including; greater job satisfaction, higher retention rates, more superior job performance, and more commitment to the company. You’ll want to show your interviewer that you’d slide into your role in the company seamlessly.
Structure your response
Structuring your response will allow the interviewer to follow along with what you are saying and remember your main points.
Skip Freeman suggests using the 'Past-Present-Future' model.
Past - Start off with a condensed version of your career history. Try and keep it as concise as possible.
Present - Give a brief summary of a specific achievement to capture the interviewer’s interest. Freeman suggests choosing an accomplishment that can easily be explained or illustrated, in addition to highlighting a time when you have positively impacted an employers ‘bottom line’.
Future - Conclude with a few definitive sentences about what you hope to accomplish in your career moving forward.
Kathryn Mishew, CEO and Founder of The Muse, also suggests using this model with a slight twist. Instead of starting the conversation by summarizing your past Kathryn recommends that you begin by discussing your current situation, then giving overview of how your past experiences have molded you into the person you are today. She then recommends that you end the response by discussing what excites you about the job opportunity.
Message is key, but delivery is important!
You can have the perfect response mapped out but if you fail to deliver it in a way that is captivating there is a high chance the interviewer will not pay attention to what you are saying.
An upbeat attitude, positive body language and professional demeanor is required during the interview process. You want to appear enthusiastic and memorable, be nice to everyone you meet and remember to smile.
In addition, don't forget to let your personality shine through although it is good to practice your answers prior to the interview, don't rehearse so much that you end up sounding robotic. Companies don't want robots anymore they want team members who will add value and life.
A Final Note
You are hireable because of your answers. When people ask you to tell them about yourself, make them glad they asked!