Tell Me About Yourself - A Good Answer to This Interview Question
How to Talk About Yourself During a Job Interview
Many people are uncomfortable talking about themselves during interviews. However, you can prepare by drafting sample answers to common interview questions and practicing them until they feel natural. If you are asked about a criminal conviction or financial difficulty, you should be especially careful in how you frame your answer.
Practicing What to Say
Anticipate common interview questions.You can avoid being tongue-tied in the interview by practicing answers to interview questions. There are some common questions you can anticipate, such as the following:
- “Tell me about yourself.”This might be the most popular personal question to ask interviewees.
- “Why do you want this job?”
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
- “What are you most proud of in your life?”
Review the job description.Interviewers don’t ask personal questions because they are fishing for personal information. Instead, they want to know how you will help the company. You need to review the job description carefully to see what skills and experience they need.
- For example, if the employer wants managerial experience, then be sure to mention your management experience when answering the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Get in the right frame of mind.You might be uncomfortable promoting yourself in an interview. Women, in particular, can tend to be afraid that people will think they are arrogant. However, you should realize that you are promoting your accomplishments, not yourself.
- Focus on how you have added value to an employer or your team. This shows you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are promoting your value.
- For example, you wouldn’t say, “I’m the greatest customer service rep at my company,” which is arrogant. Instead, you can say, “My customer complaint rate was the lowest in my office and I helped lower the overall complaint rate by 30% when I was promoted to manager.”
Draft sample answers.Your answers should be honest. However, your answers also need to relate to the job you are interviewing for, which is why you reviewed the job description.Identify four or five strengths you want to highlight, such as being good with communication or multi-tasking.
- Write answers that convey these strengths. For example, you can answer the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” with “I’d like to develop my management skills by supervising a larger team. Right now, I supervise two subordinates.”
- You might answer the question “What are you most proud of in your life” by emphasizing your dedication. You can say, “I stayed at my first job even after my direct supervisor quit in the middle of our busy season. But I still managed to increase our sales by 20%.”
Don’t give answers that will hurt you.Some answers might make the interviewer question whether you are suitable for the job. Try to keep the following out of your answers:
- Anything that suggests you might leave the job. For example, don’t tell someone you moved to the area because your spouse got a job. This suggests you’ll leave as soon as your spouse gets a different one.
- A lack of interest in your career progression. Never say, “I’ll do whatever you want.” Instead, the interviewer wants to see that you are passionate and actively pursuing goals.
- Any admission that you don’t have experience. Instead, find something in your school or volunteer experience to tout in the interview.
- A word-for-word repeat of your resume.
Structure your answer properly.If you’re asked, “Tell me about yourself,” you shouldn’t run through your entire life history in your answer. Instead, structure your answers in the following manner:
- Present: “I’m currently an administrative assistant at the University of Colorado, where I juggle the schedules for twelve faculty members in my department.” Remember to mention a crucial skill you rely on—in this example, multi-tasking.
- Past: “Before that, I worked in various clerical positions in the private sector, including at a bank and two hospitals, which let me handle financial reporting.” Also remember to mention skills or experiences that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for.
- Future: “I’d love a job that combines the academic experience with financial management, which is why I’m excited about this office manager position.”
Practice off-beat answers.If you are comfortable talking to people you don’t know, then you might want to give a slightly offbeat answer to questions about yourself. These answers are not for everybody. However, consider the following answers to the question “Tell me about yourself.”
- “I can summarize myself in three words.” For example, you can say, “Passionate. Thoughtful. Tireless.” Expect the interviewer to follow up and ask you to provide examples for every word you pick.
- “Let me show you instead of answering.” If you’re creative, you can draw a picture. If you’re a people-person, you can pull out your cell phone and show your extensive contacts list.
- “Other people tell me I’m….” This answer shows you are aware of how others perceive you.
Do a mock interview.Ask a friend to interview you. You’ll get to run through your practice answers until they sound natural.Remember that you want to sound conversational and not rehearsed.
- Your friend will probably come up with questions you haven’t thought of. That’s good. You can then work on developing answers to these questions.
- Take advantage of any mock interviews offered by your school. Call up the Career Center and check.
Discussing Sensitive Personal Issues
Identify red flags for a hiring manager.As a hiring manager reviews your application, they will look for certain red flags. These won’t necessarily prevent you from getting the job. However, you’ll need to address them. Identify if any of the following apply to you:
- criminal history
- financial mismanagement, such as bankruptcy
- plagiarism in school
- poor academic performance
- gaps in employment
Explain a criminal conviction.Having a criminal conviction will make it harder for you to get a job. Nevertheless, you must address the convictions. Most applications request your criminal background information, and you must be honest.
- Try to put them off until the middle of the interview. Hiring managers remember the first and last things you say the most.
- Acknowledge the crime but then explain what you’ve learned. For example, “That DUI was a huge mistake. But it was the wake-up call I needed. I started AA and began to focus more on my future, which is why I entered school shortly afterwards.”
- Pivot to your current and future plans as much as possible. For example, you should discuss your educational goals and any job training.
Put your financial difficulties in context.You can expect an employer to perform a background check on you at some point in the interview process. Accordingly, they will find out your terrible credit score or bankruptcy. Provide context for your financial struggles.
- For example, a family member might have been ill and you racked up large medical bills. You needed the bankruptcy to wipe out your debts.
- You can also explain that a family member had a period of extended unemployment, which caused you to rely on credit cards.
- The worst answer is to admit that you blow money in an irresponsible manner. If that’s why your credit is bad, you can focus on what steps you’ve taken to correct the problem: “I lost control of my credit situation, but I’ve been focused over the past three years building it back up. Credit counseling has helped.”
Discuss your academic difficulties.You might have struggled to graduate, with many failed courses along the way. Or you might have been punished for academic misconduct, such as plagiarism. In either case, you should prepare to discuss how you grew from the experience.
- To explain bad grades, you can say, “It’s true, I struggled my first year in college, but I was unprepared at 18 to live away from home. After transferring closer home, my grades soared.”
- Or, if you were caught plagiarizing, you can say, “There’s no excuse for that. But I did learn that there’s no substitute for hard work. And I joined the student disciplinary council the next year.”
Talk about gaps in your employment.You’ll need to spin any gap and put it in a positive light.Don’t hope that the interviewer will ignore the gap. Instead, try the following:
- Talk about new skills you learned. For example, you might have been freelancing in a new field or volunteering. You can say, “I volunteered at a woman’s shelter for the past year as I searched for jobs. I’m glad I did. I’ve become much more skilled at listening because of the experience.”
- Discuss how the gap clarified your focus. For example: “I actually traveled to India for six months. It was really eye-opening. I realized that my passion for law was stronger than ever, so I came back to re-enter the legal field.”
- Acknowledge you were let go. If there’s a reason, e.g., the company downsized, then make sure to mention that.
Sit up straight.At least half of all communication is non-verbal. At the interview, sit up straight, which projects confidence. Don’t cross your arms or angle your body away from the interviewer, either.
- Leaning back suggests that you don’t like the interviewer or are uninterested in the interview.
- Leaning forward can be perceived as threatening, which is also a problem.
Place your folded hands on the table.Gesturing can also be a problem. For example, pointing your finger is an aggressive gesture.Also, putting your hands in your pockets is too casual. Instead, fold them and rest them on the table. If you’re seated in front of someone’s desk, then rest your folded hands on your lap.
Calm your nerves.Many interviewers are less interested in the substance of your answers. Instead, they want to see that you are confident and passionate.Get a handle on your nerves before walking in to the interview.
- Breathe deep. Put a hand on your stomach so that you are breathing in from your diaphragm. Three deep breaths can calm you.
- Smile. Smiling releases endorphins into your brain. Smiling also makes you appear confident.
- Accept your fear. The more you fight your nerves, the more nervous you’ll become. Instead, release your anxiety by accepting that you are nervous.
Answer questions quickly.You’ll look unsure of yourself if you pause too long or fumble around for an answer.Based on your preparation, you should be sufficiently comfortable to answer quickly.
Know when to stop promoting yourself.You want to sound confident and comfortable. However, you don’t want to come across as egotistical. Pay attention to how the interviewer is responding to your answers. If they break eye contact or show impatience, then it’s best to stop talking.
- Remember to focus on highlighting a few of your strengths or experiences. There’s no reason to run down a laundry list of everything you’ve accomplished.
Avoid getting defensive.You might say your five-year goal is to be a manager, only to have the interviewer say, “That’s not realistic.” It’s easy to get defensive in these situations, and some hiring managers can be condescending when interviewing younger people. Try the following:
- Ask the hiring manager to explain themselves. You can say, “Really? Do you think it will take 10 years to become a manager?”
- Be open to learning. Maybe the hiring manager has helpful advice for you. Be willing to receive it.
Video: Tell Me About Yourself - Learn This #1 Trick To Impress Hiring Managers ✓
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