As I drive to work every Thursday morning, a local radio station features a kid’s quiz segment. The radio host has kids call into the station and asks them trivia questions. Before she begins, she always asks them, “Tell me about yourself.” Some of the kids are prepared and will share their age, school, teacher, favorite subject and their interests. Others are hesitant in their responses and she prompts them with questions to get them to talk. As I listen to these interactions, I’ve realized she’s preparing these kids for future interviews. Are you prepared to answer this question?
One of the initial questions of an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” This is a very important question. The reason for the question is it’s an open-ended way to start the conversation, allows you to feel at ease during the interview and to get you talking. It’s a way for the hiring manager to get an insight into your personality and helps them determine if you’re a good fit for the job and the team. The interviewer’s first impression of you will be your response to this question.
Answer the question as to what most interests the interviewer. Your focus should be on what you’re going to do to fulfill the needs of the company.
Prepare your response in advance. Neither sharing too much or too little information is a good idea. The interviewer doesn’t want to know everything about you, but disclosing too little can make them wonder why you aren’t more open.
Avoid a long recitation on your résumé, hobbies, or personal preferences. Keep your answer focused and short, ideally 60–90 seconds. Include information as to who you are and briefly highlight two to three points regarding your experience. How do you properly answer the question? It depends on where you are in your career.
Summarize what you have done that qualifies you for this opportunity. Present the most significant highlights and the ones most relevant to the job. Focus on advancing your career and emphasize the opportunity to move forward in your career.
You may be thinking to yourself that your previous experience doesn’t apply. Identify the key qualifications in the job description and summarize what you have done that qualifies you for this opportunity. This experience could be from previous jobs or academics.
The hiring manager has seen your résumé and would not have brought you in if they didn’t think you had at least some potential to do the job. You can share your choice of major, reference your academic achievements, athletic endeavors, charity and volunteer work. If you participated in group activities, these experiences are great examples.
Betty Boza is a Career Development Specialist for the Fulton Schools Career Center. Her primary responsibility is assisting on-line, graduate and Ph.D. students with all aspects of career development including résumé preparation, professional network expansion, effective job search strategies and mock interviews.