“Tell me about yourself.”
This four-word question can be paralyzing especially if you’re a fresh graduate seeking to land your first job.
After all, your response to this nerve-racking sets the tone for the rest of the interview and creates the first (and last) impression. You are left wondering what it is the interviewer expects to hear from you, and expects NOT to hear from you.
Is this the part where I boast my school achievements and impressive career background? How about my special talents? Do I have to repeat what I’ve just written on my resume? Or rather, is this the time to tell personal details that have nothing to do with the position I am applying for? Is the interviewer judging me based on the information I disclose or rather the way I deliver these data?
A lot of questions are going through your mind. And when you failed to prepare, it’s easy to mess things up, blab vague, irrelevant answers, sprinkle your statements with filler words, and demonstrate bothersome nervous mannerisms.
So here’s a little tip: The interviewer wants to know how your character and experiences are relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for.
In a nutshell, this intriguing question gives you the opportunity to convince the interviewer that you’re a good fit for the role and you are on the same page.
If you are currently preparing for an upcoming job interview, here are five significant steps to keep in mind.
Step 1: Study the company profile and job description
Chances are you saw the company’s job hiring online so take the time to study the job description to figure out exactly what personalities they are looking for.
In addition, learn more about the company you’re applying for, their history and their culture.
Step 2: Define who you are and what you do
Next, to studying the job description, see how fit you are for the role given your abilities and professional background. You don’t have to recap your professional experiences year by year. Just give a snapshot of your work history.
Highlight about three to five previous experiences as well as three to five strengths (traits, skills, etc) that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Make sure to include the following:
- The name of the company/industry you previously worked at
- Your job title
- How long you stayed in that position
- A list of major responsibilities
- A list of major accomplishments (awards, promotions, and recommendations)
- Any transferable skills you have (which you might’ve gained from your previous experiences)
If you haven’t had any work history, assess your education background and internship and list down the experiences, knowledge, and accomplishments you gained which are pertinent to the job at hand.
Step 3: Write a script
Do tell a story; a professional work story that is clear, concise, and compelling.
You have all the relevant data about the experiences and skills you have acquired. You just have to tell your story in chronological order and detail them in an engaging and organized fashion.
Start with a condensed version of your career history. Include something meaningful from your career trajectory that the employer cannot find from your resume. Then, give a brief summary of a specific accomplishment to capture the interest of the interviewers.
Next, in just a few sentences, let the employer know what you understand about the role.
Psychologically, you are giving the notion that you’re not only aware of your own abilities and achievements but you also acknowledge the company’s needs and expectations. With this, you establish a connection with the employer.
Lastly, convince the employer that you’re the best candidate for this role. You can also conclude a few examples of what you hope to accomplish next in your career which might also be aligned with the goal of the company.
- Keep your script brief. Every detail mentioned should be significant. Take out filler words, redundant phrases, and too many adjectives.
- Make it sound seamless by using short transitional words when you jump from one work experience to another.
- Your story should be achievement-oriented but keep it professional. Never speak in a boastful, demeaning manner. Ground everything you say on the goal of demonstrating competence.
- Unless it’s asked, don’t tell about your personal information, like your favorite sports or the number of pet dogs you own.
Step 4: Mind the time
How long do you plan to approach your response?
There has been a debate among career coaches about this. Some people suggest that taking 3-4 minutes to answer this question is fine. Some people think that the duration is too long and you should limit it to 60 to 90 seconds.
One said that long durations tend to kill the interest of the interviewer and you should limit your answer to 15 to 30 seconds.
Personally, I believe 3-4 minutes would set up the interview for success but there are certain stipulations. If you provide an effective, comprehensive, and engaging response up-front, three minutes will not feel “too long and boring” from the listener’s POV.
As a matter of fact, the duration also has the potential to demonstrate preparedness and the ability to structure an answer and to speak in a clear and articulate manner. Oftentimes, having less follow-up questions from the interviewer can be a good sign.
Step 5: Practice your delivery
Practice with your script until you are confident about the things you want to highlight in your statement. Another reminder is the script should only be your guide.
You shouldn’t memorize the script, or your response might sound either too robotic or too theatrical.
Next to rehearsing your script, you should also consider the non-verbal cues that may make or break the deal. It’s always important to maintain eye contact.
Watch your nervous mannerisms such as slouching postures, crossing and uncrossing your legs, playing with your clothes and hair, biting your nails, scratching your head, and unconsciously shaking your legs when sitting.
You should also never put your hand or elbow on the interviewer’s desk.