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What Can You Tell Me About Yourself?

Be prepared during your job search to answer a version of "tell me about yourself." It is one of the most common job interview questions that can leave a candidate fumbling for an answer.  The key to answering it well is to understand the meaning behind the question and how to formulate your answer. Here are some tips to help you improve your response to one of the most common interview questions.  

Why they ask it

Hiring managers have found “tell me about yourself” as a great starting point. The response can help shape the tone and direction of the interview. Most importantly, the answer to this question showcases who you are and how you would mesh at the company. Spending some time perfecting your response can help you grow your career faster by landing that next role. After all, it is one of the most common job interview questions that, as a candidate, you should really teach your self how to perfect.

How to answer "Tell me about yourself"

As a sample scenario, we'll demonstrate the key to answering this question for any company. A 'tell me about yourself' sample scenario will be useful to consider, for you and your career. Here is how to answer tell me about yourself.

Keep your answer simple and concise. You don't have to really love it and it doesn't need to be totally perfect but at least functional. You do not want to ramble on and lose the interviewer’s attention. Since this question is almost always asked you should have a prepared answer, of maybe even a lot of them after some self training.  You can break your answer into 3 steps. Think past, present, and future. 

Step 1: Start with your current role. Include any recent sample of any accolades or accomplishments that are relevant. If you have formal training or take classes to advance your career be sure to share them. This is a good time to also share why you are looking to make a career change. They might pose a question about your career path anyway.

Step 2: Follow this with how you got to where you are today. Briefly mention a past position or two and how it led to your current level. Share an experience that highlights your strength as a candidate and how you would be a great fit at the company.  

Step 3: A great way to end your answer is about where you would like to see yourself next in your career. Explain why this role makes the most sense for you and why you are the perfect candidate for their company to hire.

Tips for making your answer stronger

Keep it professional

The biggest mistake people make at job interviews when answering this question is getting too personal. Whether it's an interview for customer service or you are being asked 'tell me about yourself' for an interview at a company that creates sample answers and tips for answering 'tell me about yourself' (hey that's me), the process is the same.

In the interview, the fact is that interviewer does not want to know about your childhood or the fun trips you have taken.  Focus on your career while answering the question, your achievements at a professional level, and why you'd love to work at their company. Find ways to incorporate details from the job description, whether it's from sample answers you created yourself, or 'tell me about yourself' sample answers that you found online, and how you have those qualities.

Stay positive

During the interview, focus on the positive aspects of your past or current role. When answering the question 'tell me about yourself', you do not want to come off sounding whiny or negative. You can give an example of a negative but include how that has helped you grow or motivated you in a positive way. It’s important to not speak poorly of an old or current company. You never know who the person you are speaking to knows, plus to answer 'tell me about yourself' it should never turn into a rant about your previous company. This is one of the most important tips because it's a common mistake that people make at an interview when asked 'tell me about yourself'.

Practice

It’s almost certain you will be asked 'tell me about yourself, so prepare your sample answer. Writing your response to the question down can help it sound more natural. Be careful to not sound over-rehearsed. The key is to find the balance between off the cuff and scripted. Keep your answer unique from what the hiring manager can read on your resume, including previous company details at your interview.  

Know your audience 

Chances are you will answer this question a lot throughout your job search. Tailor your answers to the interview. The human resource representative will not need as much detail as the person that would be your boss. A short version of “tell me about yourself” is great to have prepared for senior management and c-level executives who might only have a few minutes of interview time.

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