How to Answer This Question - Why Don't You Tell Me About Yourself?
The question, "Tell me about yourself?" is a sticky spider web for the job interviewee. You probably find yourself wondering, "What is it they really want to know?" Excellent thought!
That thought is, luckily, your ticket to understanding the question – putting yourself in the shoes of the interviewer to imagine what they would want to (need to) know.
Now, I call this question a "spider web" because if you simply tell someone about yourself without planning or context to the target job for which you are there to interview, you could give away all kinds of information that leaves you over-qualified, under-qualified, or simply a risk for the company.
Most people talk about what they know, ramble even, about where they live, kids, likes/dislikes, but, remember, THIS IS AN INTERVIEW.
For the employer, the sole purpose of this interview is to see if you are a fit for them and a fit for this job!
Therefore, your goal is to avoid answers that give away personal information about yourself. An employer isn’t going to select you to hire because you have such cute children, a wonderful husband or wife, or interesting hobbies.
Focus on the position at hand.
You might wish to start your response with a question of your own, "I would be glad to. Could you give me an idea of the type of information you would like to know?"
By starting this way, you can direct your answer better and be more conversational.
What else should you do to prepare?
Before you ever go to an interview, you need to KNOW YOURSELF in terms of qualifications for the job and match for the company.
To know this you should:
- Research the company;
- Identify, catalog, list, and review your expertise, strengths, and unique value; and
- Practice, practice, practice so you sound natural and confident.
Then, you will be ready to put yourself in the employer’s shoes and emphasize what will make you stand out for the company and for the job.
For example, someone seeking a management position with a local branch of a transportation company might say:
"I was born and raised in this county and have an excellent knowledge of the area as well as Central and XYZ counties. During the last 9 years with the ABC Freight Company, I have progressed through positions of Package Loader, Courier, Dispatcher, and Team Lead.
In my most recent position, I have had the opportunity to complete numerous management training programs, provide supervision and leadership to all positions within the station, and participate in special projects in conjunction with Senior and District Managers. I enjoy being a Lead and the opportunity to empower and motivate my team. Last year I was awarded 'Lead I' for greatest team gains in productivity.
I believe this experience and training has prepared me to take the next step and pursue a management position with you."
As you can see from this sample answer, this individual emphasizes the tangibles that qualify him for the job, from his knowledge of the local area, long-term tenure with the employer, and recognition for management results within the industry.
He does not focus on fluffy stuff or personal information, but paints a picture of why he is a perfect candidate for this employer and this job.
With advanced planning and practice you can know your target employer and how to sell yourself for the job. "Tell me about yourself" then becomes a positive and fun exercise in demonstrating your value and getting one step closer to winning that great new job!
© Copyright Laura DeCarlo 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
About this author: Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s "career hero" making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Twitter; username: @careerhero.