If you are headed to an interview, be prepared to “Tell me about yourself.” This commonly asked “question” is also is one of the most dreaded. Where should you begin?
Because of its open-ended nature, it is easy to answer incorrectly. And, as this often is an opening question, you can miss the chance to make a great first impression.
The trick to this inquiry is to rephrase it. The interviewer is not asking about your life history, your hobbies or your family. Rather, they want to know, “Why are YOU, with your unique talents and qualifications, the ideal candidate?”
Use these tips to plan your response.
- assume this is an icebreaker or throwaway question;
- outline your life history beginning with where you were born;
- discuss your hobbies, outside interests or family;
- repeat everything on your resume (the interviewer already read it);
- complain about past jobs or employers;
- answer with another question such as, “What would you like me to tell you about?”; and
- talk for more than two minutes.
- prepare and practice an answer in advance;
- focus on your professional qualifications;
- research the position and the company;
- customize your response to match your strengths with the needs of the organization;
- be positive, confident and enthusiastic; and
- keep your answer under two minutes long.
3 Steps to a Great Answer
Basically, you need to create an elevator pitch or a short summary highlighting the value you bring to the organization. Address the following questions in this order to craft an overview.
Who Are You?
Choose the position or experience that most closely relates to the job for which you are applying. This will help to define you to your potential employer. For example, “I am a machine operator with 10 years of experience working for company ABC and XYZ. I specialize in computer-controlled equipment.”
What Are Your Top Selling Points?
Next, discuss two or three qualifications that directly relate to the position. These may range from on-the-job experiences to professional certifications to special recognition. If you are new to the job market, consider mentioning internships, education and special training, volunteer work or even closely related experiences from a summer or part-time job.
Why Are You Here?
Wrap-up your answer by explaining why you are interested in this job right now. Did a friend or relative refer you? Have you wanted to work for this company for a long time? Are you excited about new opportunities within the industry? Emphasize how this position is a new challenge and/or a next best step.
Finally, once you have drafted your thoughts, practice your response. Set a timer to make sure your answer stays under the two-minute mark. Then, rehearse in front of a mirror, or better yet, ask for feedback from friends. You want to look poised and polished on interview day.
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