One of the most predictable but most difficult questions for job candidates to answer in a job interview is “Can you tell me about yourself?” It’s a question that strikes fear into the hearts of job seekers everywhere. Why? Because we are taught throughout our lives to be humble. We are taught from an early age to not brag. To not take ownership of our success and accomplishments. To live a life of humility and recognizing ‘the team effort!’ It is embarrassing to feel as if we are complimenting ourselves for all of our hard work, skills, and experiences.
When approached the right way, how you answer this first question can immediately help you set a positive tone and direction for the interview that will lead to a job offer.
Take this perspective: you are a product in the marketplace of job seekers. You are selling, marketing and differentiating yourself to employers and are trying to create that ‘a-ha!’ moment that convinces them you are going to add value to their organization. When you think of the job search in these terms, you can start to peel away the awkwardness and insecurities that often comes with talking about yourself.
Your best tools going into an interview are preparation and anticipation. Research the job, the company, the industry and even the people you’ll be meeting with. Anticipate questions and issues you may be required to discuss and write out answers. Have a friend do a mock interview with you in preparation for the real thing. Also, think about the questions you want to ask at the interview. Prepare specific stories about your accomplishments and successes that can display how you’ve used specific skills and talents that are tied to the job you are applying. Think about any perceived weaknesses you may have relating to the job and be prepared to address those if asked.
That very first question, “Tell me about yourself,” is the best opportunity to lay out the direction YOU want to direct the conversation. Direct your answer to your background, skills, successes and how they are connected to the job.
Here are some openers to the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question that can help you become comfortable in your response:
Talk about your passion for your work: “The key to understanding me is realizing that I’m passionate about *my chosen field*. “I love *chosen field*. It excites me, it’s what I live for and I’ve what I’ve dedicated my career to.”
Talk about your skills: “I’ve been trained in *skill*.” “I’ve spent the past *# of years* working in *career/industry*.” “I bring *# of years* to the table and have a proven track record of accomplishment in *skills*.