Toughest Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself

Chances are, your future employer doesn’t care about your favorite ice cream flavor!

“Tell me about yourself.”

Those words are heard by hundreds of candidates each day as nerves rise and the clock starts ticking on their chance to sell themselves to a prospective employer. Considered one of the toughest interview questions, that particular question/statement is intimidating not only because it comes at the start of an interview; it’s also a tricky, vague, open-ended question that presents a tall task to answer appropriately.

While the validity of the question can be and has been debated, the fact remains that this pesky nemesis, “Tell me about yourself,” remains as a staple in the interviewing of many hiring managers. So, what are some principles to prepare yourself for handling this question in a way that gives you the best chance to land the job?

Don’t get personal. I recently had a candidate who began to answer this toughest interview question by waxing poetic on his married life and his personal hobbies. Safe to say, those weren’t the answers my customer was looking for. Generally, interviewers are looking for an answer related to their job needs that focuses on what you’ve done and what you can do–not your favorite ice cream flavor!

Don’t get long-winded. I don’t chart this stuff, but I think the number one complaint I hear from hiring managers is that a candidate was too long-winded in his or her answers. Candidates who go on a rabbit trail and never catch a rabbit are a bit of a nuisance to the interviewer. When you answer this tough opening question, keep it under two minutes. To be prepared, you should practice your answer and time yourself.

Don’t be too general. Lastly, while the right answer focuses on what you’ve done and what you can do in your career, you don’t want to be too general. Sometimes a good method before answering is to clarify what the hiring manager’s priorities are before answering this question. Ask something like, “Well, I know exactly what a Network Administrator does, but to make sure I’m speaking your language, why don’t you tell me what your top priorities are in this job opening.” That way, you’ll know what skills and experience to include in your answer and which ones to leave out.

Interviewing isn’t easy, and it never will be. But “Tell me about yourself” gets a little bit easier when you have a sound game plan for answering that toughest interview question!

Worried that you might get tricked into saying something you shouldn’t? Click here for what not to say in a job interview!

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