Job Interview Preparation – How To “Tell Me About Yourself”.

Almost every job interview begins with the interviewer asking the interviewees to tell about themselves. This seemingly innocent and obvious question sinks more interviews than any other part of the interview. Everyone knows this question is coming, however, very few candidates prepare for this. They assume that they know their background, and so they can just talk about it. However 90% of candidates talk themselves right out of a job just in telling about themselves. Because they have not prepared they:

  1. Ramble
  2. Bore the Interviewer
  3. Say irrelevant or even damaging things
  4. Do not demonstrate relevancy to the company or the position
  5. Do not demonstrate track record of success

Nailing this part of the interview makes the rest of the interview so much easier. If you strike out on this, recovering is almost impossible. Since you know they are going to ask the question, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare? I have heard recommendations to respond by asking the interviewer to first explain what the job entails. If I am interviewing, and a candidate asks this question, I will wonder why they did not read the job description, and assume they are unprepared. So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind, when interviewing, your primary objectives are to:

  1. Answer “What is in it for the interviewer”?
  2. Demonstrate how your values and culture align with the company values and culture.
  3. Articulate what you are known for, and how that is a benefit for the company.
  4. Articulate your value proposition.

Also you need to be concise and to the point. In preparing for the “Tell Me About Yourself” the following tips will help you nail the shot when the game is on the line.

  1. Read and understand the job description.
  2. Research the company.
  3. Total time should be between 1½ and 3 minutes.
  4. Give a BRIEF synopsis of your career. Shape your synopsis to the needs learned from the job description and prior research.
    1. Do not list every title and company you have worked for, but give a range.
    2. Do not give a laundry list of responsibilities tasks or processes you performed, but give a range.
  5. Based on the job description, as well as the required skills and experiences, give 2 or 3 SHORT accomplishment statements to demonstrate your success.
    1. Do not go into details.
    2. Do not take time to “set the stage”.
    3. Give a simple Quantified Result and action statement including key skill or experience.
    4. Should be 20 words or less.
  6. Summarize skills and experience inferred from the accomplishment statements focusing on skills and experiences required in the job description.
  7. Say why you want the job! Why are you interested in the company, and their products or services?
  8. Solicit their agreement that your background and experience enable you to meet the objectives of the position and the company.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the interview “Tell Me About Yourself” and how you prepare.

Published by Above The Rim

Executive & Career Transition Coach helping professionals take their career Above The Rim.

8 thoughts on “Job Interview Preparation – How To “Tell Me About Yourself”.

  1. Thanks for this great article! Job seekers shouldn’t underestimate the importance of being prepared to respond to “tell me about yourself” in any setting. You have to know what you want others to know about you!

  2. Greg, fantastic posting. You are exactly right. When I interview candidates, their response better be relevant to the job and have done their homework on the position requirements. When I interviewed for a new position, I provide a few highlights of my best job performances and accomplishments, allowing them to ask for more details later on how I did it. My overall answer is approx. 3 minutes. When buying a home, the real estate industry suggests focusing on location, location location. In interviewing, once you have prepared the response, practice, practice, practice.
    Keep up the great work.

  3. Great points!
    As a former Career Consultant, I would teach my clients “The Turn Around”.
    In response to the question, “Tell me about yourself” gentle say “I would love to, but first, what would you say are the three most important challenges for the individual taking on this position?” Now, you have a relevant frame of reference for what you say about yourself.

    1. Thank you for the comment Bruce! I also believe that if you can research the company and the position enough ahead of time, you will have a good idea of what the most important challenges would be. Unfortunately most candidates do very little research prior to going in for the interview. But your point is also very important, because it is key to be able to ask questions, listen to the need and then be able to relate the benefit to where the hiring manager needs it most. I have also heard the question phrased very poorly and makes the interviewee sound extremely abrupt or at the very least, unprepared. However, the way you phrase the question works very well. Thanks for your contribution.

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