How to answer the question: “Tell me about yourself”

Another question that is almost always asked in an interview is the open-ended: “Tell me about yourself.” One must understand that employers are trying to gauge many things from the answer they get from you:

  • Do you communicate well (confident? well spoken? eye contact?)
  • Past work experience, reasons for leaving, future plans
  • Personality!!! (are you a culture fit? what type of personality are you?)

“They want to gauge how the person thinks,” says Eileen Finn, president of executive search firm Eileen Finn & Associates in New York. Even though there is no one right answer, focusing on the past, the negative, or the too personal can hurt your chances of making it through.

Here are some pointers to consider when formulating the answer to this question .

  • A good option would be to ask your interviewer: “Where would you like me to start off?” If they don’t tell you, or let you decide, then talk about your previous work experiences and tell them why you’ve chosen the career you’re in. Don’t bad mouth previous employers.
  • Keep personal negative events out of your answer: You also don’t want to tell an interviewer you’re divorced; you want to tell them something positive, like you’re a big believer in giving back to the community.
  • Length: If you’re too wordy you’re going to lose them, but if you just give them bullet points without any narrative or conversation then they’re going to think you’re not self-reflective or self-aware. It is a fine line! The answer should be short and succinct, never more than five minutes
  • Some things you need to include: Brief details about who you are, things you’re passionate about and areas you focus on, and past positive work experiences. Ensure you don’t go over any facts a second time during the duration of your interview. You should sound confident and at ease, but never cocky.
  • Mention achievements, but don’t brag about them.
  • Role-playing your answer to a family member or close friend can go a long way (if they are willing to be honest with you).
  • Preparation, however, is the key!

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