It’s one of the most predictable interview questions out there, yet many job seekers are still caught off guard when asked “So tell me about yourself”. Instead of dreading this question, job seekers should relish the chance to present themselves as an ideal match for the position for which they are interviewing.
Why they ask the question
Interviewers ask this question for a number of reasons. First, they may not have spent much time with your resume and they’re hoping you will bring them up to speed. Second, they may view it as an easy warm-up question to get you started. Third, it may be warm up question for them. While you are answering, they will be thinking of deeper interview questions.
What are they really asking?
In most cases they are asking for an overview of your skills, experience and successes. Most job seekers answer by reciting their entire resume or saying whatever comes to their mind. The typical answer is usually so bland and worse yet, long, that the interviewer will use this time to glance at the resume and figure out what to ask next. But, that’s not the first impression you want to make.
Turning it into an opportunity
Instead of filling the air with an uninteresting or unfocused answer, prepare for this question in advance and view it as your golden opportunity. Your answer should give your listener good reasons to want to continue the interview. This means your answer should center around your fit for this job. Thoroughly research this job opening and know the job description and requirements. Also make an educated guess at a couple of hidden requirements, if possible. Then, do some research on the company.
Putting it together
The best approach is to:
- Be relevant. Only talk about relevant experience (such as similar roles or industries). Don’t mention anything that is not related to this position.
- Be brief. Don’t talk too long without giving your interviewer a chance to make comments or ask questions.
- Ask. Find out what about you the interviewer is interested in.
This means you will give a concise summary of your career highlights that are directly related. Short success stories are the best. Then ask your interviewer what she/he wants to hear more about.
Practice and tighten
Practice your answer and make it flow smoothly. Tighten it. Give enough information to make clear you’ve got what it takes, but don’t overwhelm. Leave lots of room for them to follow up. Then you’ll be able to go deeper in the areas that they think it’s most relevant. Time yourself. Your answer should be no longer than one minute.
Prepare your question
Make it very easy for your interviewer to ask you about one of your successes, which will help you further demonstrate your achievement and match for this position. A great way to end is to say “Would you like to know more about one of these projects?” or “Do you have questions about any particular role I had?”
If you’re not asked
If you are not asked this very common question, that’s OK too! The work you’ve put into learning about their needs, requirements and hidden requirements is invaluable throughout the interview. The matches you’ve found between your successes and their needs are easy to weave in during the interview and you’ll be well served by practicing and preparing.