“Tell me a little about yourself,” is often the one of the first question you hear during a job interview.
The hiring person may be stalling because they have not had the proper time to study your resume or they may realize that an open-ended question, such as this can be an effective way to identify candidates who can fit in with their culture and perform well. In either case, they are often deciding whether it is worth continuing the interview based on how you answer this seemingly innocent and casual ice-breaker.
But, there is a lot at stake, and you can make the situation work to your advantage. Learn how to describe yourself quickly and compellingly so you can land more job offers, and advance when you are hired.
Welcome the Question
1. Stand out
- While you may feel a bit awkward talking about yourself, it is truly a golden opportunity.
- Think of it as an invitation to tell your potential employer what you want them to know about you and what makes you different from everyone else.
2. Guiding the conversation
- Instead of waiting to see what the interviewer will do or ask next, you can steer the discussion toward your strengths and concerns.
- A good opening will prompt the interviewer to ask follow-up questions about areas where you know you already shine.
3. Is it a fit?
- Remember that you are also evaluating the company while they are screening you.
- Do you sense a connection with the interviewer, especially if they will ultimately be your supervisor?
- Are they listening attentively or shuffling papers?
- Your initial rapport may give you some hints as to what your working relationship will be like.
- You rarely meet someone at a social gathering who asks about you about your five-year plan.
- Most conversations are unstructured, so it is of benefit to learn how to sound articulate and make a good initial impression.
Answer the Question
1. Keep your answer professional
- The interviewer is mostly interested in whether you can excel at the job in question, and mix in well with the corporate culture.
- Talk about your career goals and achievements rather than your family background and hobbies.
2. Write it out
- The ideal response time is about one to three minutes.
- Developing a script, an elevator pitch, helps you check that you can cover each main point without sounding overly long-winded.
- Practicing your statement will help you to come across as competent and confident.
- You can practice in front of a mirror or recruit a friend who can give you feedback.
- You want to sound natural and engaging, not stiff and wooden, as if you were reciting your lines in a third grade play.
4. Rehearse, but stay flexible
- Even if you have delivered your pitch 50 times, you want to sound fresh and interesting.
5. Tailor your approach
- Just like you customize your resume and cover letter to each employer, you can adjust your self-description to fit the situation.
- Depending on the position, you may concentrate on your accounting skills or your customer service orientation.
- Doing some background research on the company will help you determine what is appropriate.
6. Provide a few testimonials
- While it is crucial to be able to talk about yourself, what others say about you is often even more influential.
- Mention the flattering comments you have received from clients and colleagues.
- This will also demonstrate to the interviewer that you work well with others and appreciate feedback.
7. Learn to tell stories
- We are each much more than a list of keywords.
- Share interesting anecdotes that will make the interviewer remember you in a positive light.
8. Create buzz
- Your self-description is like a movie trailer or the free first chapter of a novel.
- Instead of trying to cram your whole life story into a few minutes, make the interviewer want to hear more.
Walk into your next job interview prepared and eager to talk about yourself and why you are such an outstanding candidate for the position.
Focusing on the intersection between your strengths and the interviewer’s needs will help you to find a job you will love.