Tell Me About Yourself: The Best Way to Answer this Dreaded Interview Question

“Tell me a little about yourself.” Oh, the interview question no one wants to hear! While we often expect the question in every job interview, answering it always seems to fluster many of us.  

This is often the question that everyone hopes the interviewer skips or forgets to ask. When you think about it, this shouldn’t be such a difficult question to answer. 

We are all unique individuals with our interesting histories, hobbies, and lives. Why does this question fill us with so much dread? Perhaps it is because we are unsure what the interviewer is looking for in the answer. 

Today, we cover how to answer this stress-inducing interview question so you can relax a little more when you get to your next job interview.

Why Do Employers Ask This Interview Question?

To answer this common interview question, it may help to understand why job interviewers ask the question in the first place. 

According to career coach Theresa Merrill, this question gives people so much trouble because it is “broad, open-ended.” We end up being unsure of precisely what, and how much we should reveal. 

Some interviewers may ask the question because it is a way to allow you, and themselves, to get comfortable before the tougher questions begin. 

job interviewSource: Shutterstock

In other cases, an interviewer may ask this question to set the direction of the interview. Your answer may eliminate the need for them to ask specific questions and open up different ones. Remember, a potential employer has your resume, so they know your job history. 

Many job coaches will tell you not to just give them a recap of it. They’re looking for you to fill in their knowledge gaps. Your resume says them where you’ve been, but they are looking for how you got there.

Start Preparing Your Answer

Now that you know why a prospective employer may ask this interview question, you can start planning your answer. 

A great way to start trying to frame this answer is to consider other common interview questions. You could use it to lead the conversation to your other qualities, skills, and experiences that got you where you are today. Doing this could also help you make the interviewer realize why you are the best fit for the job. 

Popular internet job board, recommends asking yourself these four questions:

1. What skills and experiences make you the right choice for this job? 

While preparing your answer, you can go over the job posting and find skills, experiences, and qualities you have the match their requirements. 

2. What attracts you to this position? 

The answer here will put why you are excited about this opportunity and where you feel it fits into your larger plans.

3. Why are you interested in being an employee here?

This question gets you thinking about how you emulate the company’s values and mission statement. It will also help you tie in how you feel you and the company can benefit each other in the long term.

4. What are some qualities about you that will make you a great fit for this job? 

When you answer this question, think about ways you have been praised by past employers. This will also get you thinking about specific times you’ve embodied those compliments.

How to Formulate Your Answer

Thinking about interview questionsSource: Shutterstock

Telling your potential employer about yourself may set the tone for the rest of the answer. So it’s a good idea to know what you’re going to say when you go in. Plan how you’re going to say it. 

Writer Lily Zhang suggests forming your response using a present, past, and future outline. The present is where you talk about your current job, your responsibilities, and a few of your significant accomplishments or recognitions. 

The past is where you can discuss past job experiences that connect with the role for which you are interviewing and what qualities and skills got you to your present job. When you talk about the future, discuss why you’re interested in the position, your goals, and what makes you the best candidate.

If you can find a way to weave it in, showcasing your personality could be helpful. Try to stay away from personal details about your life. But it might not be a bad idea to bring up your involvement in the community. You may also think about discussing any continuing education you have done or is currently doing. 

Avoid Common Mistakes When Answering this Interview Question

Something to remember when you go into a job interview is that the employer wants you to succeed. If you blow them away with the answers to their questions, they will have found the person they need to fill a position. In their mind, they want to find the best candidate as quickly as possible. 

While it is true they want you to win the job, they also want to make sure they find the most qualified individual for the position.  

You can avoid making these common mistakes when telling future employers about yourself.

Restating What’s On Your Resume

Some folks simply end up just going through their resume in an attempt to tell the employer about themselves. Remember, the interviewer already has that information.

interview questionSource: Shutterstock

By going over it again, you have not given them any new information about yourself. Consequently, you’ve lost the opportunity to shine and let them know why you are the best fit for the role. 

Feeling Uncomfortable “Selling Yourself”

Another common mistake that some people make is that they feel uncomfortable “selling themselves.” While you shouldn’t brag about yourself and be boastful, bringing up accomplishments backed by figures and facts is a good way of demonstrating to an employer that you can get results. 

Winging It

Lastly, the worst thing you can do is to go in unprepared for the question or planning to “wing it.” If you can’t answer an interview question, how can a potential employer determine you’re the best person for the job? Do your homework before going in for the interview if you genuinely want to get the position. 

Be Confident 

Preparing for this question and formulating your answer helps ensure an engaging, thought-provoking, and memorable response to the question. It is also important to remember that you applied for the position because you know you had something to offer the company. 

Take a deep dive into your skills, qualifications, and knowledge. With a little preparation, you could turn this common interview question into something that can make you stand out to your future employer.

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