"Tell me about yourself" is among the most frequently asked questions in an interview, and if you don't know how to tactfully handle it, you definitely will find yourself in hot water during an interview. When asked this question, very few people are able to meet the expectations of the interviewer. This may sound strange, and you might be thinking "Who knows me better than myself?" so what can go wrong with this simple question? On the flip side, this question is considered to be one of the toughest and most stressful questions asked in an interview. Let's see what this question is actually all about.
Why it is Asked
Why would the interviewer be interested in knowing about you? Is it because the interviewer is fascinated by your life and wants to listen to your exciting life story? Or does he/she want to befriend you? It is highly unlikely; we say this because there are other strong reasons behind asking this question in an interview. This question can reveal a lot about you to your interviewer, for instance, what you deem important to share and how confident you are when talking about yourself, or how well you understand the requirements for the position you are applying for, and what is it about you that make you the best fit for this job. Moreover, the way you tackle this casual question will help the interviewer can judge how focused, organized, and creative you are.
This tricky question may unnerve many while a few may take it as a unique opportunity to take control of the interview and establish their credentials as the perfect fit for the job.
How to Answer
If you prepare properly, you can turn this question to your favor by highlighting the points that you most want the interviewer to know about you. A well prepared answer would include who you are, what you have done, and why you are here now.
Who you are
You should start by giving a brief introduction of yourself; this should be a balance of personal and professional traits. Try to be creative and keep it brief: don't get into details that are irrelevant to the job. Instead, share information that is pertinent to the job. Relevancy is critical. It is difficult to strike the right balance between your professional and personal traits, therefore you need to prepare in advance.
What you did
In this portion, highlight your expertise by focusing on your strengths and abilities. Catch the interviewer's interest by talking about your past experience and proven success. This should be designed to convince them that you have what it takes to fulfill this responsibility.
Why you're here
Conclude your introduction with a closing statement about why you want this job.
Tips You Should Know
Here are a few tips on what you should not include in your introduction. By leaving these extra details out, you can deliver the kind of introduction the employer will be glad to hear.
- Don't be conceited or too modest
You have to sell yourself and the interviewer is going to judge you based on what you say, so stay factual/ This means don’t over or under state your accomplishments.
- Don't recite lines on your resume
Mention things that the interviewer can't learn about you from your resume. The interviewer already knows what is on that, so he/she is looking for something new that can be used as an extra plus for the job.
- Don't tell your life story
It's a job interview, so there is no need to slip into your life story, because it is going to be of no interest to the interviewer unless it's relevant to the job. Unnecessary personal details indicate a lack of professionalism and result in wastage of time. Remember, it's not about you, it's about them.
- Don't make a 10-minute monologue
As mentioned in the earlier sections, your introduction should be brief and to the point. If you will introduce yourself in the form of a 10-minute monologue, you will lose the interviewer's attention.
Remember, planning is the key to a praiseworthy introduction. Take your time to tailor your script according to your position, and then practice it over and over again until you feel confident about it. Below are a couple of sample answers designed to help you understand the purpose of an introduction better.
One that focuses more on academic achievement when you have less working experiences
"I have completed an Engineering, with a focus in materials and manufacturing from Yale University with a distinction average. During my four years of university, I was active in both curricular and extracurricular activities. For instance, I was an executive member of the American society of materials, and organized four events as an executive member. Being an engineer, research and analysis are among my strong suits and I believe given my technical background, I can be an asset to this company."
One that focuses on working experience
"I offer more than five years of experience as a project manager in the power sector, at Siemens. In the last two years, I have conducted fourteen outages with a team of thirty-five people, which I put together. I can handle stress well and thrive in a challenging environment so right now I am looking for an opportunity at a worthy company like yours, where I can add value by putting my problem solving and management expertise to good use."
The bottom line lies in being well prepared and coming up with a well-structured answer that you can easily give when asked, "Tell me about yourself" in an interview. Carry research about the company and the designation you have an interview for, and prepare a relevant introduction accordingly. Your introduction should focus on things the company puts a lot of value in, and how you can meet their criteria. Rest assured, practice makes a man perfect, so practice your introduction over and over until it becomes a positive and fun exercise for you. Once you have command over it, you will always be looking forward to this question from the interviewer so that you can take control and set the tone for the interview proactively.