Almost every interview starts with a question similar to “Tell Me About Yourself.” Although this is asked as an ice breaker, it is often the most difficult question of the interview. Failing to answer this successfully can doom an interview.
Fortunately, this can be an easy question to answer and a question you can be certain you are prepared to answer. The key to this question is being brief and articulate. You control the information that you provide and you control how long you talk. You want to show that you can talk about your background and summarize it clearly. This provides the interviewer an insight into why you are qualified for the position. It also demonstrates your communications skills.
To be successful here, avoid following your resume exactly. Although walking through your background in chronological order can provide a good structure for this, you don’t want to just repeat your resume. Listing dates is usually a mistake here since they should be clearly displayed on your resume.
WWWWWH – Who, What, Where, When, Why and How are questions you need to answer when telling a story or writing a news article. When you are considered for a job, these are the same questions that need to be answered. Your resume answers the Who, What, Where and When, but rarely touches on Why and How your career progression developed. The Tell Me About Yourself question gives you the opportunity to fill in this detail.
The Gaps – Addressing the transitions and gaps in your resume is a good way to make an impression. Why did you take each position? What did you learn in each role? How do the positions you have had link together?
Providing these details allows you to turn your individual career steps into a cohesive story. Showing how you have developed professionally is the key.
Accomplishments – When discussing an experience, focus on your accomplishments, not your responsibilities. This is a good time to highlight the sizzle – why you will make a difference for the employer.
Wrapping up your answer so tie in directly to why you are interested in the position. Discuss how your progression has let to this point and this opportunity is right step for you and for the company.
Your answer should be between 2 and 5 minutes. I find that candidates that do not prepare for this question often say little of value, leading to overly short answers. Individuals that prepare find that keeping the answer under 5 minutes is tough. They script so much into this question, that it runs too long. Remember, you have an entire interview to illustrate your background.