One of the more common interview questions you will receive is: "Tell me about yourself." It's often the first question you receive in an interview, and while it might seem, on the surface, to be a lazy and simple one, it's actually quite calculated and complex.
First, it's important to discuss what this question is NOT trying to get at. It does not mean: “Tell me about your life history, beginning with where you were born, how many pounds you weighed at birth, where you went to elementary school, and what your relationships are with your parents and siblings.”
Instead, what it really means is: “Tell me more about you as a person. Are you interesting? Are you sociable? Can you remain cool and calm when in the spotlight? And tell me about your recent education and job history, and why you are here today."
And so, when answering, briefly talk about relevant achievements, personal tastes, and any interesting facts about yourself, such as the various cities in which you’ve lived, and your interests and passions. Be short, informative, and, most of all, articulate.
Most important, give your interviewer a short summary of your background and career path thus far, making sure to focus on those experiences that are relevant to the position. The description should end with why you applied for this role, how it fits into your trajectory, and why you are excited about it.
Keep in mind that this question might be an intimidating one, but it’s actually one of the best opportunities an interviewer can give you because you can answer any way you’d like. Prepare for this question by going over your resume as well as the qualifications and responsibilities listed in the original job posting. You might even research the person or people interviewing you. You could find details in their work history that you have in common.
One last thing to remember about this question. Ideally, interviews are conversations, not just Q&A sessions where your interviewer peppers you with questions and you give questions that don't beg a follow-up. Rather, interviews are back-and-forths where you and your interviewer are both engaged and are having a pleasant discussion.
With this in mind, "Tell me about yourself" often presents you with the perfect opportunity to start a conversation from the get-go in your interview. Perhaps there are places in your answer to ask a question of your interviewer. Or perhpaps it's just in the tone you answer that creates an open environment. Whatever the case might be, don't waste this opportunity. Make sure to use this question to your advantage to get your interview off to a positive start.
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In interviews, it's certainly important what you say, but it's also important how you say it. That is, you want to give clear, concise, relevant answers to your interviewers' questions, and you also want to maintain an even tone and congenial temperament while you give them.
You’ve practiced your answers, prepared questions you want to ask, and feel confident about going into your interview with a sense of direction. The only thing that’s got your nerves a little off balance is anticipating the small talk pre-interview—which interviewers often use to gauge your personality and get a sense of who you are, unrehearsed.