“Tell me about yourself” – sounds simple enough, right? When it comes to job interviews, that request could be more than it seems. Interviewers often use this opening to break the ice and see how personable you can be, so thinking about the answer ahead of time is definitely in your best interest. In other words, when you do tell the interviewer about yourself, make sure your focus is on-point.
To successfully respond to tell me about yourself, it’s important that you set aside some time to work on it. Start an interview notebook where you keep track of your interview questions and answers. Make columns or lists to sort through your work, school, volunteer, and life. In the next steps, you will see how helpful a notebook will be.
Begin by looking at the job description carefully and thinking about what you and that job description have in common. Sound strange? Think again – it’s not. Assuming that you have the required skills to interview for the job, let’s look at some of those qualifications and see how they can be applied to your life.
◈ Teamwork: Do you play or coach a sport? Do volunteer work? Sing in a choir? Take a class that involved a team project recently? That’s teamwork.
◈ Organization: Maybe in the past you were a loved one’s caretaker, coordinating their medical appointments and medications, or a softball or soccer coach, or your volunteer work, or you are a parent, and so on. Those are organizational skills.
◈ Planning: Tutoring, being a student, coaching, leading Bible study group, being a parent, creating a garden, and so on. That’s planning.
◈ Time management: Being a parent, coach, volunteer, babysitter, caretaker, student, tutor, anytime you have a specific amount of time to successfully complete one or more tasks. They all take time management skills.
◈ Dependability: Showing up on time, showing up when you said you would, doing a task you were asked to do – these are qualities of dependability.
Look over the list of qualifications again and think about your own life and the different ways you have used those skills. Once you have found something in common with some, you can begin to plan your answer. Remember, this list doesn’t cover all of the qualifications that can be found on job applications; when you see others, follow the same process.
Start an interview notebook and keep track of your interview questions and answers. You may find that your answers change over time!
You might start with the basics, like where you grew up, and one or two little (quick to tell) details – maybe you grew up in a huge family or raised your own siblings or were honored in some way. That could include graduating at the top of your class, receiving a full scholarship to college – if it could be considered an “interesting factoid,” it could work. Talk about current or recent volunteer work – bonus points if you can weave some of those qualifications in. Include previous experience doing the kind of work you’re applying to do, whether you did it at a job, in volunteer work, or in your life.
As you work through this process, just think – you are learning how to tell your own story. You can’t tell the whole story (you probably wouldn’t want to, either!) so you are choosing the brightest highlights to share. If you wonder whether or not a topic is good to mention, ask yourself if it will make the interviewer think better or worse of you. (The week you won a drinking game every night is a no; volunteering to help deliver food to shut-ins is a yes.
Put thought and effort into telling your story and you’ll become better and better at it; practice often with another person or in front of a mirror, or both, until you feel comfortable telling your (interview) story. Do it until you can talk about yourself clearly, honestly – not too much and not too little.
Finally, remember to begin every interview by thanking the interviewer for meeting with you and end every interview by thanking the interviewer for meeting with you.
You can do it!
These are examples, intended only as guidelines; please do not use them if they do not apply to you and your experience.