It’s a stock question, “Tell me about yourself”, yet it is still consistently used by human resources and hiring managers. It’s easy for them to be able to ask one question, sit back and see where it leads.
It is important to be prepared to answer it in a way that is not too long and drawn out but not so short and blunt it makes you appear uninterested.
I have seen some advice for job seekers saying develop and rehearse your answer to this question. If you are a very nervous person this may be a good idea. On the other hand, researching the company and the position for which you are applying and creating a response to this question that more closely addresses how “you” can solve the company’s problems and will fit in with their culture may be a more successful way to respond.
In interviews over the years I’ve heard some truly amazing responses to this question. A few things that do not work:
- Do not “really” tell the interviewer about yourself. Don’t launch into personal information that has nothing to do with the job or your educational or professional background. (e.g., Do not start with … “I was born in a small town in…” or “After my divorce or release from rehab…”).
- Stay focused with a brief sentence or two about your education, your relevant work experience, your interest and experience in the field/industry and how it applies to this job.
- Avoid droning on about each job you’ve ever held, what all of your responsibilities were, details about your co-workers, how the company was managed, how the department was run and why you left.
- When describing your past work experience, talk about how it relates to the job you are applying for, how the skills you have acquired in these past positions will help you to be a valuable employee in this company.
- Do not ever talk about what a horrible boss you had, how awful your previous company was to work for or say anything negative about anyone. This will only reflect poorly on you.
- Do not tell stories about your college days. How many friends you had in school, how much you partied and how hard your college professors were to please is all information you should keep to yourself.
- If asked specifically about something, perhaps a senior project, be sure to focus your answer on what you learned that will apply to this specific job. Let the interviewer know if you were the project lead, were responsible for all the equations, or for the final presentation.
What does work: A brief description of what your most recent job is or was (how it applies to the job for which you are interviewing), how much experience you have relevant to this job, what education you have relevant to this job and perhaps why you think you would be a good choice for this job. A good interviewer will ask questions to gain additional information and insight into who you truly are and what you bring to the job.