It’s the day of your interview. You have researched the organization, practiced answering questions about your work history, and are dressed impeccably. Here comes the first question: “Tell me about yourself.” You either freeze completely or start describing your soccer triumphs and dislike of peanut butter.
“Tell me about yourself.” Sounds simple but these four words can make even the most practiced speaker stumble. ‘ Who am I?’ is one of the great philosophical questions of all time. Does the interviewer need to hear you struggle to answer this epic question? No. They need to hear about you in a way that lets them know you are perfect for this role.
Start by thinking of your audience. Typically, you will be meeting with a manager from the organization or one of their human resources professionals. Busy people who will meet several candidates. The interviewer is a person like you who wants to connect with the right candidate.
You want to demonstrate your qualifications and be memorable. Remember, this answer is your introduction and a high level, memorable summary of you. What you tell them is the start to your professional qualification….with just a touch of personality. Here are three things to help you get off to a great start!
- Body language counts. So before you speak, take a breath. Don’t rush. Sit up straight in your chair. And, most importantly, smile. You always speak better when you are smiling and the interviewer will respond better to a smiling confident candidate.
- What does the job posting require? Now, think about the traits or qualities that the company is looking for and that you believe qualifies you for the job. Is the company looking for a great communicator with a financial background? A team player to jump into a busy customer service department? Your answer should reflect or highlight your qualities that fit the organization’s need. Don’t exaggerate or embellish. For example, if the posting mentions working in a team setting, you might start off by saying, “I am a team player who….”
- What qualities make you the best candidate? Finally, think of the one thing that you know you do really well. I am a diligent worker; or I am a great problem-solver; or a patient teacher. Pick the one quality you believe makes you standout and work it into your answer.
Whew! Simplicity isn’t easy. It takes work. That’s why it is important to practice before the interview. Say your answer out loud. Is it easy to say? Are the words familiar to you? Practice it on your family, or a colleague. Hear how it sounds. Does it make you feel confident? Change it till you think it sounds good. Then, practice, practice, practice!
So let’s see an example. You are applying for a job of Marketing manager for a financial organization.
Tell me about yourself:
I am a marketing professional with a background in banking. I have a lot of energy and love building brands that connect people and services.
My marketing experience has been with big banks. I really enjoy assembling a team and bringing a brand to life. I love social media and produce videos in my spare time.
And now you are ready. You have a few simple statements—in your own words—that highlight your skills for the job and your best professional trait. Delivered with a smile. So go ahead, “tell me about yourself” in the comments!
Guest Blogger, Suzanne Kiraly, Volunteer and Traveler, Former Executive VP