How to perfectly answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question.

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How to perfectly answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question.
How to perfectly answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question.

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The “tell me about yourself” interview question can be difficult to answer if you are not prepared. Job hunting, especially in a struggling economy, is stressful enough without adding the embarrassment of answering such a personal, open-ended question.

You may feel at a loss as to how to answer this question because it can be difficult to talk about yourself without guidance. Fortunately, speaking confidently about your successes can be much easier when you prepare your answers in advance.

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Here are our top tips for formatting and anchoring your response.

A job interview is all about getting to know you. Interviewers ask the “tell me about yourself” interview question as a way to transition from small talk to their technical and behavioral interview questions.

The interviewer wants to assess whether you are able to communicate clearly and professionally. Freezing the first time you are put in place leaves a bad impression.

The interviewer hopes that the candidate can answer the question in a natural way that shows they are prepared and care about the interview. A great answer can help you stand out in a job interview.

If you are asked this question during a video or phone interview, you can have your answers in front of you. If the interview is in person, you should be prepared to answer without checking your notes.

Other ways interviewers can ask this question

The interview question “tell me about yourself” sometimes sounds different. Interviewers may ask:

  • Tell me more about your background.
  • I am interested in learning more about you.
  • Tell me about the time you worked for company “x”.
  • Can you tell me more about your experience?
  • Tell me something I don’t already know from your resume.

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Be prepared for any version of this question with your structured and practiced answer.

Breakdown: How to answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question.

There are many strategies for answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question. How you choose to structure your answer may depend on your past experience. A recent graduate will have a much different answer than a principal who has been employed for decades.

While it’s important to prepare your answer, you should also leave room for spontaneity and make sure it doesn’t sound too rehearsed.

Once you find a form that best suits your experience, be sure to practice. Write down your answer so you can rearrange it, make sure it flows and keep track of key points.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to relate it to the specific job and company you are interviewing for. The answer should make the interviewer think that it makes sense that you are interested in the role.

Components of your answer

Your answer to the “tell me about yourself” question should describe your current situation, your previous work experience, why you are a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company’s values.

Current condition

Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent major accomplishment or positive feedback you received. Avoid talking negatively about your current job.

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The interviewer wants to hear how your current role is similar to the position you are applying for.

If you’re currently a student, use this time to talk about relevant school experiences like classes you’ve taken, projects you’ve enjoyed, or internships.

Previous work experience

The interviewer probably has your resume in front of them, so don’t just tell them what they already know. Use this question to touch on your past work history and highlight areas that are applicable to the position you hold now.

Describe your past work experience in chronological or reverse chronological order.

If you changed industries, explain why with a quick personal anecdote that demonstrates your passions or interests.

your why

Why did you choose this job to apply for? Why are you the best candidate for the role? Use this time to sell yourself to the interviewer and tell them your “why.” If you’ve tailored the other parts of your answer to the job you’re interviewing for, this part will be easy.

Explain how this role aligns with your personal career goals to show that you will put in the effort to be successful.

Aligning and connecting your goals, passions and strengths with the company/role

Explore the company culture. If you and the company both value working as a team or doing things individually, talk about it here. Be sure to mention if you have any other interests or skills you’ve worked on that make you a better asset to the company.

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Knowing the company’s overall mission to help you tailor your why. If you’re interviewing for an outdoor apparel company that values ​​a good work-life balance, don’t talk about how you like to work nights and weekends to complete projects.

Remember that interviewers want to know more about your work experience and your personality. Answering this question in a few sentences may seem shallow, and talking for ten minutes is a red flag that you might do the same in meetings.

Try to keep your answer to one to three minutes. Watch your interviewer’s body language and feel free to expand on any parts they seem excited about.

Dos and Don’ts for Tell Me About Yourself

There are some rules when answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question. Interviewers have certain expectations when it comes to how you answer this question, so you don’t want to deviate too much from them.

One of the most important and basic interview tips is to remain professional. Being too negative or sharing too much about your personal life can end up costing you your job.

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Do it

be positive

No company is perfect. Talking negatively about other places you’ve worked for can give the interviewer the impression that you won’t be happy at the new company either.

If the interviewer asks why you left your job, keep it simple with an answer like, “I was looking for a new challenge.”

Avoid making long term plans

You wouldn’t talk about plans after a month on a first date, so why would you bring it up in an interview? Rushing into conversations about future goals with the company may seem premature. Save these conversations for later stages of the interview process.

Know your audience

It is crucial to learn about the company you are interviewing with in advance. You can tailor your answer to focus on where you fit the company culture and be able to ask more informed questions at the end of the interview.

Concentrate on examples that you can quantify

Saying you brought in new customers is fine, but saying you “increased website traffic by 27% in one quarter” is much more meaningful and impressive. If you don’t know the exact numbers, make a realistic estimate.

Emphasize your personality

Mentioning that you quilt or play chess reveals more about you than what you do in your spare time, it shows part of your personality. Interactive roles such as volunteer work or being on a softball team show that you are friendly and can communicate well with others.

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don’t do it

Get too personal

Avoid mentioning too much information about your personal life. Talking about politics or your religious affiliation, marital status or children can end up working against you. You wouldn’t want the interviewer to select a candidate based on the answers to any of these questions.

Remember your answers

Giving a canned answer can sound inauthentic. Remember a few of your main points and fill in the gaps naturally. Memorizing the answers can even make you more likely to make mistakes if you forget a few words and can’t find where you left off.

List your strengths without examples

Just saying you’re great at working in a team doesn’t mean much without an example to back it up. Add a sentence telling a story about a time you demonstrated each trait you highlight in your career.

Overwhelm the interviewer

Pick three or four personal strengths and stick to them. Talking about yourself or being too personal can spoil the interviewer’s first impression of you.

Keep it short, sweet and professional to keep them interested.

Summarize your resume point by point

The person interviewing you has already read your resume, so telling them exactly what’s in it could make them lose interest. Tell them the high points that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for, and add a few things you like about each one.

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