Here’s the easy way to answer the interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”
If you’ve experienced an interview before, you probably know some of the questions you can expect:
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“What attracted you to this job?”
“Tell me about yourself.”
That last one can feel pretty loaded, especially with so many different facets of your life and personality to try to sort through.
Part of making sure that you walk into an interview with confidence and poise, however, is being ready for questions like these. Fortunately, there are some surefire tips to help you take a breath and break down your response to such a big question in a way that is well-formed and effective.
Keep Your Personal Description Brief
Are you creative? Bookish? Maybe you’re a recent graduate or just moved into town.
When the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they mean it. However, this definitely isn’t an invitation to launch into a full backstory, complete with charming anecdotes about your childhood or philosophical ideas you conjure up while washing your hair.
Definitely open up your response with a fun an honest personal description but try to limit it to the things that feel most central to an explanation of who you are. You want them to feel like you are talking about the “real” you, but there are many other things you’ll want to touch upon that have more relevance and importance to the job or position.
Discuss Your Achievements
When given the opportunity to talk about who you are, you’re basically given a free pass to bragging rights.
This can be a little uncomfortable for some people. We’re taught from a young age to be humble and not to brag too much about how great we are, but you need to put that aside a little bit when it comes to interviewing.
There are graceful ways to present your achievements in a prideful manner that doesn’t come off as boastful or conceited. Mention some previous projects or accomplishments that make you light up with pride and excitement, but avoid blanket statements like “I was the smartest in my class!” or “I’m the best writer I know!”
Solid, real achievements will speak for you. You don’t have to pat yourself on the back too much if you simply share the things that you feel are the biggest showcases of your real talent and ability.
Touch Upon Personal Projects and Goals
While education and work experience are critical, personal projects can sometimes be just as big a part of your life and achievement.
If you’ve done something impressive like publish a book or gain a significant leadership position in a club or organization, it’s definitely worth sharing. Sometimes your personal, out-of-school or out-of-work endeavors are the things you’ll speak about most passionately, and that’s what interviewers want to hear.
Sure, achieving high marks in school and having valid and relative work experience is something to be proud of and will definitely play a part in your consideration for the role, but this is something that can pretty easily be told through a resume.
Additionally, discussing the goals you have for yourself (both personally and professionally) will show that you have ambition and dedication to your future. It also shows that you are capable of organizing yourself and striving for something, traits that make you a valuable asset to any team.
Look at your interview as your opportunity to bring that resume to life and talk about the things that your interviewer may not have read on there or inferred from the positions and experiences listed.
Highlight Relative Skills and Experience
It is, of course, important to remember that this is an interview for a specific job, and you want to frame yourself as the perfect candidate for that position.
While there are many skills and bits of experience you have under your belt, it’s important to highlight the ones that are most applicable to the job in front of you. If you’re applying for a job as a receptionist, for example, it’s probably good to highlight your ability to organize and multi-task.
When going over this part of yourself, try not to be too shy about your strengths. Once again, it can be easy to feel uncomfortable in your pride, but it’s okay to tell a potential employer that you are really good at time management or that you thrive as a team player.
Discuss Your Strengths and Faults Honestly
I can pretty much guarantee that if an employer wants to know about your biggest weaknesses or challenges, they aren’t interested in hearing things like “I work too hard!” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist!”
Everyone has flaws and struggles. What will stand it is how you approach them. If you have difficulty with organization, say so, but frame it in a way that also shows how you overcome it. If you are shy and have a hard time opening up, say how you’ve made progress on working as part of a team.
Of course, you also want to avoid being too honest and saying something like “I’m rarely on time” or “I’m kind of lazy.” The interviewer wants honesty, but don’t sabotage your own interview by just mentioning a significant downside to yourself!
It is important to realize, though, that the employer asked about your weaknesses for a reason, and that reason isn’t to help you sabotage yourself. They want to see how self-aware you are and how dedicated you are to bettering yourself, and they want to know what things you may still need to work on so they can make sure it’s a good fit!
Make Sure to Maintain That Honesty in Other Areas
It can be tempting to lie about a strength or weakness, telling your employer you are incredibly neat and organized when it couldn’t be further from the truth or fibbing about a bit of experience that you don’t actually have.
This is incredible dangerous territory, and it’s never worth the possible benefits. Interviewers can almost always tell that you are lying, and if they can’t tell in that moment, they will likely find out later on.
This is an incredibly awkward and embarrassing experience that can entirely be avoided with genuine honesty from the very start. Maybe you don’t know how to code or use a specific software the company uses. Say so! If it’s an absolutely necessary skill to already have significant experience with, you likely would not be ready for the job. Otherwise, most employers would be happy to help you grow.
Additionally, honesty is much easier to keep up with. If you are trying to navigate the interview and first few weeks at the job trying to keep up with lies that you’ve told, it can distract from what should be an exciting and fulfilling new experience.
Be true to yourself and show them how great that honest and genuine version of you is! There are plenty of great things that anyone could have to offer, so why threaten your chances through dishonesty?
Don’t Badmouth Previous Employers
So, maybe you got a little burned at your last workplace. After all, there are a number of reasons why you may be seeking a different position, and many of them could be related to compatibility issues or poor experiences.
Even if you’re right and were absolutely the victim of poor management or a frustrating work environment, never tie that to your description of who you are or why you want to work at this new place.
Ranting about the problems with a previous workplace will only reflect poorly on you, and you’re the one who will be hurt by it. It attaches a certain negativity to your name and personality, and it leaves the interviewer wondering if you’ll bring some of the issues along with you to the new job.
Make sure that no matter what sides of yourself you showcase during that interview, you come out looking positive about all of it.
Even if you are describing a particular challenge or hardship that was quintessential in shaping your identity, it should be a story of conquest and growth, not one that is solely damaging. The interviewer wants to see your best sides as well as how you’ve overcome and taken on your worst sides.
Just like you don’t want to come across as a negative person by badmouthing a former employer, you don’t want to show any negativity or shortcomings about the other sides of your personality and experience either.
In Summary – When you get asked: “Tell me about yourself”
Breathe. Staying calm and confident is the most important thing when talking about yourself because it keeps the focus on your words rather than your nervousness.
Take a moment with yourself before the interview to really think about what makes you ‘you’. Even if you aren’t asked this question directly, knowing the response will absolutely come in handy for a variety of other questions.
After all, they can see your resume without having to meet in person. They want to put a face to the name and know who you really are, so show them!
YOU GOT THIS!
Here at Work It Sister, I’ll help you to be career confident and become a perfect candidate and get noticed by recruiters. I’ll show you how to write an amazing resume, raise your game online with a fantastic Linkedin profile, increase your job search success and get you ready to interview to get the job you want, get a promotion or move up the career ladder.
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