One of the interview questions that most intimidates job seekers is one that most interviewers assume will be easy: “Tell me about yourself.” It sounds straightforward — but as every job seeker knows, it’s not that simple. What do they want to know? Are they looking for a complete history of you? Do they want to know about your personality and personal life, or should you focus strictly on work? Is this supposed to be a 30-second overview or a more involved rundown? Luckily for you, there’s a pretty simple way to approach this question. Here’s how to answer “tell me about yourself” in a job interview.
First, understand what your interviewer is looking for.
“Tell me about yourself” doesn’t mean “give me your complete history from birth until today.” It doesn’t even mean “walk me through your work history.” It means “give me a brief overview of who you are as a professional.”
You might wonder why interviewers even ask this question; after all, they have your résumé! If they’ve read it, they already know your professional background. (And personally, I don’t use this question, largely for that reason; I just don’t find it very useful.) But interviewers who ask this question are generally looking to get a broad overview of how you see yourself as a professional as a sort of introduction before starting to dive more deeply into the specifics. Some interviewers, ironically, even see this question as a icebreaker question that will help candidates relax. Little do they know!
So, what exactly should your answer include?
The specifics of your answer will differ from person to person, but generally a good answer will summarize where you are in your career, note anything distinctive about how you approach your work, and end with a bit about what you’re looking for next.
For example, one version of a good answer might sound like this:
“I originally got into fundraising because I really wanted to work with mission-driven organizations and I know how crucial it is to raise money to support work like yours. Pretty early on, I found that my science background was especially helpful in being able to talk with prospective donors about the work we were doing at organizations like A and B. I love being able to show donors how their gifts translate directly into outcomes like C and D, and I think my ability to do that while translating the science into layman’s terms is responsible for some of the largest donations I’ve raised. For example, last year I raised our single largest donation in our history by doing ___. I’m excited about the role you have open here because it would let me continue to use my science background while raising money for an issue I feel strongly about.”
That answer is short, but it hits on why you’re in the field, a special skill or talent you bring to it, what resonates with you about the work, an impressive accomplishment you’ve had, and why you’re interested in the role you’re interviewing for.
But don’t get too tied into this format! This is one example, but there are lots of ways to do a brief professional overview. As long as you’re giving a basic sense of what differentiates you professionally — and you’re not just regurgitating your résumé — you should be fine.
Your answer only needs to be about one minute long.
“Tell me about yourself” isn’t usually going to be a major part of the interview — it’s the easing-in that happens before you get into more nitty-gritty topics, so it doesn’t need to be an extensive treatise. Roughly one minute is a good general guideline.
This post was written by Allison Green for the Cut Magazine. Full article here
Photo culled from corporateblackgirl Instagram page