Tell me about yourself: how to craft the perfect interview answer

So you’ve finally been called to interview for that job you’re dying to get.

Or maybe you have an informational interview lined up or will be attending a networking event next week.

You’ve researched the industry, the company, confirmed that your references will provide glowing recommendations, and prepared a list of questions you’ll ask when given the opportunity.

The Dreaded “Tell Me About Yourself” Question

Important as all those things are, success is likely be beyond your reach if you don’t effectively handle a question asked in almost every interview and other job search situation you encounter: “Tell me about yourself”.

Some people find this question challenging because they don’t like to talk about themselves while others have no problem telling others their personal story.

Unfortunately, the story they want to tell usually isn’t one the interviewer wants to hear.

Preparing for and practicing your elevator pitch is key!

Prepare Your Job Search “Elevator Pitch”

Here, then, is what you need to know to craft the perfect answer to the inevitable “tell me about yourself” job search question.

  • Remember why you’re there.  You’re engaged in a job search.  The person interviewing you has been tasked with assessing whether you can do the job. “Tell me about yourself” may be what you hear.  “Are you the solution to our problem?” is what you’re really being asked.
  • Strictly business. Your resume has (hopefully) already spoken for your bona fides (shameless plug: it WILL if you have Distinctive Career Services professionally write your resume for you). Now it’s time to talk about what makes you different from all the other candidates who likely have a similar educational and career background to yours.  You want your response to be noteworthy, one that clearly demonstrates that you are the right person for the position.
  • Be prepared.  This seems fairly obvious, right.  But we don’t just mean to have an answer ready, we mean be prepared with that answer as if the question is the first one you’ll actually be asked.  If it is and you’re caught by surprise, chances are you won’t answer it smoothly and you’ll spend the remainder of the interview overcompensating for your performance, an effort that will only make you appear unprepared when in reality you weren’t.

This is your job search.  Who knows better than you why you applied, why you think you can do this job, and why you want this job?

Compose a short presentation that conveys to the interviewer those reasons.

Script it out.

Weave your training, experience and personal attributes into a narrative that addresses the needs of the company or organization.

Be focused because you will have to be brief; an overly detailed story about who you are becomes decreasingly interesting the longer you tell it.

Include accomplishments, any particular skills you may have, and your personal value proposition (if you commence a job search without a clear vision of how you can be of your highest and best use and be of differentiating value to your next employer, you may want to address that first).

Practice Makes Perfect

Entertaining is engaging. Yes, we said to be businesslike.  After all, your job search is serious business.  It is not, however, somber business.

When you tell someone about yourself, how you tell them is almost as important as what you say. While you certainly want the interviewer to be interested in what you’re saying, you want that person to be just as, if not more, interested in you.

When you talk to someone about yourself with confidence and humor, you begin to establish a connection, one on which you can continue to build for the duration of the interview and beyond.

If you’re prepared to effectively respond to “Tell me about yourself”‘ you become memorable for all the right reasons and your job search will likely end well.

If you’re not prepared?  Well, then it may not end at all.