How Much Do They Want to Know?
Some interviewers prefer to kick things off with a general question instead of something specific. Asking you to talk about yourself tells them two things: 1. How you handle being put on the spot and 2. Information about your experience they can use as a baseline for the rest of your interview.
Since the question is so general, it can be hard to figure out where to start. But the open nature of the question also allows you to create a unique answer that shows off your personality and experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- This is an interview, not a first date
The funny part about the “tell me about yourself” question is it typically pops up in two contexts: interviews, like here, and first dates.
But that doesn’t mean you should answer the question the same way! If you were on a date, you’d probably say something like “I work at XYZ company, I like long walks on the beach, and pork sandwiches.” Okay, that’s a horrible date answer, but the point is things would be pretty casual.
The key to answering this question in an interview is to keep everything professional. Your answer should be relevant to the job you’re applying for. How long you’ve been in the industry, your pertinent training and education, accomplishments on the job, etc. Keep things like children, politics, religion, and your astrological sign out of it.
- Mention specific accomplishments
Although the question is open-ended, your answer should be structured with specific achievements lined out.
Start off with a bit of background (education, time in the industry, most recent position, and how it relates to the job you’re interviewing for, etc.), then go into your experiences at specific companies. Quantify these accomplishments when possible. Instead of saying you “liked writing a newsletter,” mention how you increased weekly opens by 15%. You didn’t “provide excellent customer service,” you “increased customer satisfaction by 10% while decreasing customer service time by 5%.”
- Show your personality
Yes, you need to be professional in an interview. But that doesn’t mean you have to play a character. Don’t be afraid to be you, to talk like you. You’re being the most professional version of yourself, not a perfect robot interviewee.
Essentially, avoid trying too hard. It’s not just your experience on display here, it’s your personality, too. People want to work with people they like. So, if you’re up for it, finish your answer to this question with a few short details about your hobbies, tying them into the job if you can. “I love to read, too, and my favorite book recently was this great read about customer service,” or “one of my biggest hobbies is traveling. I love going to other places and seeing how they handle [newsletters] [customer service] [welding], [etc.]
And that’s that!
Oh, one last thing before we go—keep your answer short! Try to get everything down to a minute or so. Remember, this is just an introductory question, and the rest of the interview is still coming up. You’re going to do great!
For more in our Answering the Interview Question series check out:
Do you have any other ways to answer this question? Let us know in the comments section below!