How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview
Most of the time a hiring manager will review your resume before she meets you to make notes of things she’s either curious or concerned about. She might circle a few lines, put a question mark in red ink, or leave some other reminder to explore that issue.
Start by preparing for two of the most overused and dreaded questions: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What can you tell me about yourself?”
If your first instinct is to Google the top five responses…go for it. But you’ll probably end up with something generic (which the hiring manager has heard many times), and you’ll be left wondering if that got you anywhere. Instead…
Whenever you’re asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” - toss the question back!
Reply with: “I have a few ideas about where I’d like to be in that time frame. However, in your opinion, what opportunities might be available to someone in this position over the next five years?” The hiring manager will probably respond with three or four paths you might take in that role, and at that point, based on what you’ve heard, you can choose the ones that seem appealing, and answer “based on what you are saying, I would definitely be interested in a couple of those opportunities”. Feel free to be specific about why each might be good for both you and the company.
Another of my favorite interview scenarios (note the sarcasm, please) is a hiring manager who says: “Tell me about yourself.” Do they really want to hear all about you? Not a chance in hell! If you get an offer and start working there, you can share lunch with your former interviewer and tell her who inspired you to take ceramics in high school. For the purposes of getting you hired, there’s a much better way to answer the question.
As an applicant for a position, you’ve provided the company with an overview of your accomplishments through a resume, an application form or a conversation with someone in Human Resources. They may also have access to content you’ve created. They do not want to hear you repeat all this back.
The interview is a place to build on what they already know by adding details or new information and, at the most, offering a quick recap of the basics. Start with something like, “As you can see, I have a fairly extensive background in media relations. Is there anything you’d like me to discuss in more detail?”
This is a great reply because it:
• saves them from hearing a whole lot of stuff they don’t care about.
• takes them off the hook if they’ve forgotten (or neglected to review) anything essential.
• prompts them to ask you about something they have a specific interest in.
You’ll soon learn how to avoid many of these standard scenarios by guiding the conversation, as you seed the interview with information you want people to know, anecdotes that show what makes you tick, and ready-to-go questions that prove how insightful and resourceful you are.
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All the best to your success,