“Tell Me About Yourself” is perhaps one of the most common interview questions. So much so, that I’d be willing to buy you a gift card to your favorite small business if you’re not asked “Tell Me About Yourself” or some variation during your next interview.
Although it’s pretty annoying, the answer to this question is pretty helpful for the interviewer. It helps them get to know the person behind the resume, and the answer helps set the tone for the rest of the interview.
In this post, I’ll share the why behind this question along with a few tips on how to answer it, and an example.
The reason companies ask Tell Me About Yourself is to figure out what you bring to the table. They’re not interested in knowing your life story, and they definitely don’t want you to just give a verbal account of your resume. They want to know why YOU are the person that can make their life easier. This is your trailer; make them want to watch the entire movie.
In my case, I like to share a mix of personal and professional. That’s because there are things that have happened in my personal life that have shaped me professionally. I’m a Software Engineer; that’s what I went to school for and what I did at the beginning of my career. I now work in Talent Acquisition. Not many people take this path. So here’s an example of how I answer Tell Me About Yourself:
“I have a degree in Software Engineering & had a successful career as a developer. I then worked my way up to Engineering Manager. One day as I was preparing for my performance review, I started reflecting on what I wanted to do next. Looking back at my roles, I realized that what I enjoyed the most was hiring people and building teams. So I started studying about hiring & sourcing, networking with recruiters, volunteering to help other departments with their hiring, and I even picked up a few freelance recruiting gigs.
The challenge of writing a job post that would attract the right candidates, reaching out to people and convincing them to interview with me, helping a hiring manager see that this is the right person for the job, and getting to see that person enjoy their job and thrive; is a high I can’t explain. Every time I can help someone find a job they love at a company that loves them, I’m reminded that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve had both candidates and hiring managers tell me I’m the best recruiter they’ve worked with! Partnering with a company that’s committed to building and maintaining an environment where different people can come together, be treated equally, given the same opportunities, be respected and supported is what I’m looking for.”
With that answer, I gave them enough personal details for them to understand who I am, how I show up at work, and what I’m looking for. They now know that hiring is part of who I am, and they also know that people think I’m the best at it. But I know you can’t be passionate about every job. Sometimes you just need a job that pays the bills. When that’s the case, preparing an answer to this question is even more critical.
Look at the job ad, take one of the requirements and make it your own. Find the one thing that they are looking for that you can easily demonstrate expertise or innate skill in and share that story.
So it’s pretty straightforward. Remember, employers want to know who you are and what you bring to the table. Let them know you’re the person for the job. Unless your birth story can tie into what you bring to the table for their specific job, it’s probably something you should leave out. Practice your answer before interviews and time yourself. I’ve had people spend 10 minutes answering this question, and that’s NOT what you want.
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