Job interviews — and prepping for them — can be stressful. Especially when it comes to open-ended questions like the much-dreaded "tell me about yourself" Q. That's why we tapped two career coaches — Anna Belyaeva, founder of The Career Diet, and Samara Elkins, founder of Coaching by Samara — for their takes on how to respond.
Why is the 'tell me about yourself' interview question so common?
According to Belyaeva and Elkins, asking this question helps hiring managers get to know you and find out if you're a good fit for the role. Elkins says it helps them decide "if they can picture you on their team and a part of the company." With Belyaeva adding, "They've been interviewing candidates for a few hours...they're looking for that candidate who will make them think, 'Oh, this is going to be great! This person, I'm excited to talk to!'"
Hint: A hiring manager may not say ‘tell me about yourself’ verbatim. Check out Elkin’s video below for some variations you might hear. But no matter how the question is asked, it’s a great chance to show off your personality and skill set.
Any tips for how to answer 'tell me about yourself' in an interview?
Both career coaches agree that you should keep the focus on your career. Elkins shared an outline to help you come up with a good answer:
Start by providing a broad overview or summary statement on your career. Examples: how many years you’ve been in the industry, what kind of roles you’ve held, etc.
Next, share relevant examples or stories that speak to your expertise and value. Belyaeva suggests having three on hand. This could be starting your career one way and taking it in a new direction, or multitasking different projects in one role.
Last, show how those examples resonate with the role you’re interviewing for. This could be why you want the job or the value you bring.
Bonus points if you can keep your answer to 90 seconds or less.
Pro tip: Keep the personal details...personal. No need to go into your hobbies, family life, or the TV shows you're currently bingeing.
The classic ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question is an opportunity to show the hiring manager why you’re a good fit for the role and showcase yourself. So don't let it stress you out — and keep things short and sweet.
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