You just sat to begin an interview, and the first question is the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself.” Yikes! Where do you start? Does the interviewer want to know about your beloved kindergarten teacher? Your hobbies? Your favorite movie? The answer is none of the above.
This seemingly innocent query borders on trick question territory. When formulating your response, remember an interviewer has one purpose: to find out how you can contribute to the success of the organization. Look at this question as an excellent opportunity to start talking about your strengths and to set the tone for the reminder of the interview. When answering this question, you goal should be to stand out from the other candidates.
Prepare for this question as you would any other. In other words, compose your answer in advance and practice, practice, practice until you can repeat it without hesitation.
First: don’t babble, focus. Maureen Anderson, host of The Career Clinic, advises: “The employer wants to know a little bit about you to begin with — not your life story. Just offer up two or three things that are interesting and useful. You should take about a minute to answer this question.”
Career coach Lee E. Miller suggests starting with what interests the interviewer most, meaning match your qualifications to the job. You can then highlight your most important accomplishments as a way of explaining why you are the right candidate for the position. Adds Nancy Fox, of Fox Coaching Associates, “In other words, you want to be selling what the buyer is buying.”
Finally, keep in mind that first impressions count. Observes Scott Ginsberg, creator of Nametag TV.com, author, and award-winning blogger, “The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm, and passion with which you answer it. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem. Ultimately, it’s about answering quickly, it’s about speaking creatively, and it’s about breaking people’s patterns. You are hirable because of your answers. When people ask you to tell them about yourself, make them glad they asked.”