You're sitting across from a hiring manager who says, "So, tell me about yourself," during an interview.
It's the perfect open-ended question to jump-start the conversation and your now-racing pulse. What is the interviewer really asking? Are they looking for a riveting monologue about your work history? A detailed account of why you chose this career path? Do they want to know what types of software you've worked with? Maybe they're just curious about why you named your fish Mr. Sushi.
Before you sweat through your shirt, I'm going to let you in on a little industry secret: how to answer the "tell me about yourself" question.
The truth of the matter is, this question gives you an incredible opportunity to take center stage and compose your own distinct song; one with such a clear melody that the interviewer can actually visualize you in the role you're interviewing for.
What you don't want to do, is hand your interviewer a jumbled mess of disconnected pieces. That's like expecting them to reassemble a piñata after it's been whacked apart by a swarm of candy-loving 5-year-olds. Instead, your answer should be succinct and enticing, instantly drawing the interviewer in.
Fear not, job seekers: While you'll need to inject some color and personality into your response, if you use the following advice to guide your answer, you'll be able to tackle this question with ease.
This question ≠ an invitation to deliver a long-winded narrative about your life story.
The blueprint is simple: Your answer should feel a bit like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, discussing your experience as it relates to the past, present, and future. Provide the interviewer with a roadmap of your career, addressing the thought process behind each new path you traveled down and how it has led you to the opportunity you're pursuing with the company today.
Connecting The Dots
Rather than simply outlining what you do career-wise, focus on demonstrating how your skills align with the needs of the position. Quantify your achievements, choosing 2 to 3 examples of how your efforts have had a measurable impact on your current or previous employer's revenue, procedures, services, or productivity levels. When sharing your story, there should be a clear correlation between your past successes and the demands or challenges of the role you're interviewing for. When you're confident in your message, the interviewer will walk away from the meeting feeling assured in your ability to perform the job well.
For example, if you're vying for a position within the company's customer service department, you'll want to convey strengths such as creative problem-solving skills, proven success building (and expanding upon) customer relationships, an ability to satisfy deadlines or quotas, and having a strong reputation for following through with clients, which contributes to revenue generation and customer retention rates.
The Future Outlook
You should always have a destination in mind when you show up for your interview. What I mean by that is, you should be able to articulate why you're seeking a new opportunity and have a clear vision of how you can be a valuable asset to a potential employer. Whether you're looking to grow professionally, take on more responsibilities, or work in a different office environment, you should always present your 'why' statement in a positive light, using it as a segue into how you believe the company can support your needs. Making this connection not only shows you've done your homework and researched the company, but it also tells the interviewer that your thinking about how you can contribute to the future success of the organization.
Rehearse Your Response
Remember that glorious day when you proudly removed the training wheels from your bicycle? There's a good chance your first few times out you were a bit wobbly; maybe you even inherited a few scrapes or bruises. With any new undertaking, it takes a little practice to feel confident in your actions. Once you've come up with a few different winning responses to "tell me about yourself," practice delivering your answer to a friend or family member.
To be clear, you're not an actor memorizing a script; rehearsing your response is merely a way to paint an intelligent, organized picture of who you are as a worker and have effective talking points in your pocket. During your interview, you want to sound natural, as if you're chatting with a friend over lunch, and not like an Autobot from Transformers or Baymax from Big Hero 6.
Even if your interviewer doesn't hit you with the "tell me about yourself" question, by doing a little pre-interview preparation, you'll be armed with information that can be useful for answering many other common interview questions.
Think about the interview as an opportunity to sell a game-changing new product to an employer. That product is you! It doesn't matter how much experience you have or what type of position you're pursuing, a job interview can be insanely nerve-racking for anyone. Quelling your anxiety and nailing your interview is as simple as investing the time to sketch out a few powerful responses in advance.