“Tell me about yourself.”

10 Feb

Applying for jobs is very time consuming. A person can spend hours filling out applications, constructing resumes, and writingImage cover letters, purely discussing one’s education, work experience, volunteer hours, strengths, and skills. Ironically, once you get through all the paper work and ready for the interview, most likely the first question that will come out of an employer’s mouth is, “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” So you rack your brain thinking of what to say or what you think they want to hear. They’ve already read through your cover letter, resume, and possibly all your social networks, so what is the right thing to say at this point? I hear this all the time in mock interviews with students. How much is too much?

Well, there are a number of ways to go about this. It’s all about reading people and communication. One way to prepare for this open-ended question is to research your interviewer beforehand if possible. Say you find out that your interviewer plays golf, which you love and have played since you were 7 years old. Mention that! I don’t recommend telling every single golf story you have, but you can make one story engaging enough to make the employer want to learn more. Be aware of your surroundings. Scan your interviewer’s office and find ways to relate to him/her. Also saying where you are from, a little information about your family, and the school you are attending/attended are other relatable topics. Even though this is an interview, you want this to be as natural and conversational as possible. That being said, I don’t recommend getting too personal about your life. You don’t want to overwhelm your interviewer. Remember, it’s not only about your skills; your personality plays a large role as well. An employer can learn a lot from this question and compare it to how you will adapt to other employees at the company. Employers want good chemistry in the office. Key strengths or maybe a recent accomplishment that you are proud of is great material for this question as well.

Never bring up negatives or weaknesses when asked this question. If you do bring up a weakness, make sure you turn it into a positive somehow. You can’t really get an employer to like you if you are coming off as if you don’t even like yourself.

The 5 Finger Rule is another useful way to conquer this question. Think of a company/organization you would love to work for and pretend you were offered an interview at that company. What are five things about yourself that you would want the employer to know? Assign each point to a finger so you won’t forget one. Make sure that when you think of these 5 topics that they flow nicely. You don’t want to sound like a robot or scatter-brained.

The key to this question is to not over-think it. Remember that the interviewer is still human, so just relax. And if you can’t think of a topic to assign to your pinky, you can always say you would love to work at that organization in your future. That always goes over well.

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