By Barbara Mitchell
Q: What is the best way to respond when an interviewer asks me, “Tell me about yourself?” What do they really want to know?
A: This is not an opening to tell your life story or to go through your resume bullet by bullet. It is an opportunity to connect your strengths, skills, and background to the job for which you are applying.
You should prepare for this question before any interview. Even if you never get to use your response, it will help you feel confident. Put together a few sentences and practice them before your interview so that you are comfortable with your answer, but don’t make it sound rehearsed.
You want your response to tell your story. One approach is to use a “present-past-future” model. For example, if you are interviewing for a marketing position, you might say, “Currently, I’m the marketing manager for a small nonprofit where my focus is on developing new materials using my creative skills. Before this job, I served in several other marketing-related positions where I learned a lot about managing people and projects. My strengths are in coming up with creative solutions to problems, managing complex projects, building and managing a diverse team, and promoting the organization’s mission to the world. I love what I do and am extremely excited about the possibility of using my strengths and skills in the position you have open here.”
You want your response to tell your story. One approach is to use a ‘present-past-future’ model.
Hopefully, the interviewer will ask you to elaborate on what you’ve said about your strengths. Then, you can go into greater detail about work you’ve done and what you’ve achieved.
“Tell me about yourself” can throw an applicant who isn’t prepared for the question. Know your strengths and put together your response ahead of time so you are ready if asked.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].