The question-statement “Tell me about yourself” has been a staple in job interviews. Sometimes it goes in other expressions like “How would you describe yourself?” or “Walk me through your resume.” At times, when the interviewer wants to make it more challenging and intimidating, he or she would say, “Tell me about yourself that is not on your resume.”
The question tell me about yourself has rattled many candidates, even those with the best skills and abilities. But, here’s a secret. You don’t have to be nervous because most often than not, the “Tell me about yourself question,” is only a way for interviewers to break the ice and set the atmosphere before going deeper with the interview. This does not mean you can disregard it and treat it as an insignificant question. Rather, you should take it as an opportunity because if you did well in your answer, then you might just have made a good first impression. And as they say, first impressions last.
In short, the question can make or break you. So, how can you overcome it and turn it into a well-spent golden opportunity?
- Plan for it.
Preparation is the key. So as not to be rattled by the question, then it is only logical that as you expect it, you have also prepared for it. You have to brainstorm and ask yourself a set of questions such as:
- What qualities make you fit for the position you are applying for?
Critically think of what you have that most candidates don't have. Maybe you have gained years of experience or perhaps you have acquired accreditation for a certain skill or specialization related to the job you are applying for.
- Why are you interested in the position, company, and industry?
Interviewers would prefer applicants who are passionate about the specific field they are offering. They would prefer someone who knows what he or she is about to enter. Never let the company feel like you only applied because you need a job or just because of the pay. Worse, don’t let them feel like you had no choice or they are your last option. Bring enthusiasm before, during, and after the interview.
- Mention past experiences and success.
Your answer should only be about 1-2 minutes brief because you have to consider that you won’t have all day and there will be other questions and other candidates that would follow you. As such, when mentioning your past experiences and success, make sure to pick out only your Top 3. To deliver in a short time, it helps to be organized in answering. How to do this? Experts recommend following the STAR method which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
- Situation – Start by telling when or where the event took place. For example, “I was about to attend a meeting to discuss a project with one of our biggest clients when I was informed that there were last-minute revisions in our proposal.”
- Task – Briefly state what was the specific role assigned to you. To continue the prior example, “Being the project team leader, I have to study and present the proposal well.”
- Action – State what you did in response to the situation. For example, “I was with two other staff so I delegated the work for the revisions to them while I supervise their work and at the same time, I was studying the changes made and then went on to change my speaker notes where alterations are needed. We did all of these in just about an hour before the presentation.
- Result – State the results of your actions. For example, “We completed the revisions in time and I was also able to rehearse the new presentation flow before the meeting started. With our teamwork and initiative, I consider it ultimately rewarding to survive such a situation under time pressure.”
- Include only your strengths which you can support with examples.
Companies prefer a measurable or concrete example rather than a vague statement of your strengths. As you relate your abilities, they will only have to rely on your words without any proof of truth to it. So, interviewers would appreciate a lot if you would quantify every strength that you relate to them. For example, rather than saying, “I have good people management skills” you can say, “I have increased the performance of my team by 2-3% each month.”
- Format your response
Always remember to make your answer clear and concise, In presenting it, you may use one of the two common formulas that are:
- Present – Past – Future
- Past – Present – Future
If your current work is related to the position you are applying to, then it is more advisable to start with the present. However, if you are making a career transition and your current job is not related to the role you are applying for, then you may opt to lead with your past.
- Bring up your personality.
Employers will not only look for competently skilled candidates. They also look for people “with a pleasing personality”. In fact, we have seen the words in every job description. So, consider it a wise way to wrap up your answer. You can include your personal interests but choose those that demonstrate intellectual development like reading or community engagement like volunteering.
- How to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question with no work experience?
For fresh graduates with no experience yet, the question can be challenging but this does not mean it falls on your disadvantage. In fact, you can make your lack of experience to work in your favor. The general trick is to use it as a strength by telling your interviewers that you are fresh, enthusiastic, and excited to start a career with them.
It would also be helpful if your resume or CV is organized and presented well. Be sure to include positive words and phrases. Since you lack experience, your resume is like the only tool you bring with you during the interview. So, make it attractive. Some positive words which you can use are:
Also, if you had part-time jobs or volunteer works before, it helps to include them in your answer.
Remember that the “Tell me about yourself” question is a golden opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewers. So, seize it and make the best out of it.