Interview questions: Tell me about yourself

20.05.2015 35410

Some people think this is an icebreaker question because it’s one of the first questions they ask you in the interview (and because in normal circumstances, it is an icebreaker question).  So they answer it like they would in a social situation and say something along the lines of, “I’ve got 3 kids, I love to run marathons, I’m a Steelers fan”…whatever.  That’s a mistake.  It’s the wrong response because that’s not what this question is about.

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When they say, “Tell me about yourself,” what they really want to know is “Tell me something that will matter to me as I consider you for this job.

This is a golden opportunity for you to set yourself in their minds as a great candidate.  It’s completely open-ended, so you can say anything you want.  So think about the job, the job description, and all the research you did before the interview, and put yourself in that hiring manager’s shoes:  what is he or she going to be the most impressed by?  What is going to get that person’s attention and make them sit up and take notice of you for the rest of the interview?

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You might start with your education—what’s your degree?  If you had an especially high GPA, you might mention it—but if you didn’t, then don’t.  Just talk about your degree.  If you did coursework that is different from your degree but pertains to this job, this is a good time to mention it.

And then go into your background.  Just hit the highlights:  promotions, awards, or key accomplishments.  Not necessarily the things that you’re most proud of—the things that this hiring manager for this job will be most impressed with.

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This requires some strategic thinking on your part before you get there—but think of it like tailoring your resume.  You tailor that to the job before you submit it, right?   And you’re going to tailor your answer to this question before you give it.

Just think:  What parts of my story would be on this hiring manager’s list of reasons to hire me?  That’s what being strategic in the interview is all about.

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You don’t need to talk longer than a minute or so—just deliver a very targeted message that says to that hiring manager:  “I am skilled, I have accomplished some great things, and I can bring that to work here for you.”


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