One of the most dreaded parts of an interview is the question, “Tell me a bit about yourself.” Usually, most people are professionally prepared for any other question, yet the vagueness of this question leaves many unsure of what kind of information to give, and how much. As most of us know, this is usually the first thing asked, and it can set the tone of the entire interview. Understanding the reasoning behind the question and using the below tips can enable you to control the outcome of the meeting from the get go.
Why do they ask this anyway?
- They want to gauge your confidence in the interview. Not only will this tell them how prepared and equipped you are for this interview and possible position, but it will also show them how you perform “on the spot”.
- It enables them to understand what you deem important, and how you structure your answers in relevance to the position. Your answer will show them whether you really grasp what is needed skill wise, time wise, ability wise, and background wise to be a good fit for the position you are applying for.
- People skills are key to most positions. Your reaction to this will indicate how well you do in social situations. For jobs where you may deal with clients, customers, or investors, this question is tantamount to the interviewer’s understanding of your social skills.
Before we get into how to answer, you need to know what not to do.
Here are some of the most common mistakes:
- DO NOT get very personal; This is not the time to hash out your life story, where you are from how many dogs you have or your marital status. The hiring manager doesn’t care unless your hobbies relate directly to your position or experience. For example, if you are applying for a park ranger then hiking would be something to bring up.
- DO NOT become a robot. We all prepare these answers in advance, but a rehearsed list of events or important things about yourself is exactly what they don’t want. “In 2015, I made a robot. And in 2016 I won top Robotics Engineer. Then in 2017, I got a raise…”, that sounds like you memorized a check list.
- DO NOT answer it with a question. “A bit about myself?” “What would you like to know?” “Can YOU tell me about yourself?” This answer shows a lack of confidence and unpreparedness, ranking at probably the worst way to respond.
- DO NOT run through your resume verbally. They read it. They know all of that already.
Great, then how DO you answer?
- Do your research and find out what the company is all about. Then, answer the interview questions based on your research. That means that if you are applying for a job at a software company, you should probably know a lot about software. You want to tell them what about you will make you fit in with their software organization.
- Talk directly about the qualifications you have that match their specific job position. This is trickier then it seems as each position is different. Review the job description and answer this question in a way that makes you seem uniquely qualified. For example, if you are applying to become a graphic designer for a modern art museum, simply saying “I have a BA in design” wouldn’t be enough. However, discussing your involvement and love of the modern art scene and how it has been a major influence in your graphic art would be great.
- Keep it concise. No one likes a run-on answer which either comes off as bragging or worse, like you are trying to fill in an empty background.
- Break it into 3 segments:
- General qualifications that make you a great fit.
- 1-2 specific experiences that showcase those qualifications.
- Your current desires in a position (DO NOT TALK ABOUT SALARY HERE) and your desire to “grow roots”.
While you should most certainly have this prepared before going in, always be prepared for variations of this question. You may also be asked at unexpected times, even be asked before you are sitting down to throw you off. If you have done your research and are comfortable with the preformatted answer you will do great! Don’t let this tricky interview question stump you! Good luck.