“Tell me about yourself,” is undoubtedly one of the most commonly asked interview questions.
Its right up there with “Walk me through your resume,” and “Talk to me a little bit about your experience or background.” They all seem so simple and yet strike fear in the hearts of so many simply because there is no perfect way to answer them. Most choose to focus solely on their education and experience believing that this is all the interviewer is looking for. Others try to win the interviewer over by telling jokes and revealing personal information hoping to establish a relationship right away. Both options force the candidate to omit valuable information critical to the decision-making process leaving them at a disadvantage. With so much room for error, even the most confident candidate second guesses themselves after they’ve answered this question.
The secret to crafting the ideal response is quite simple: balance. Your interviewer, whether or not they themselves realize it, is not looking for one thing. They’re looking for three things. The want to know that you can connect your own background to the skills needed for the role. (They already believe you have potential or you wouldn’t have landed the interview so remember that when you’re feeling nervous.) They want to know that you’ll be a fit culturally with the organization and the team. They also want to be able to envision you as someone they (or their client) will want to work with.
- The knowledge, skills and abilities needed for the role
This is probably the most obvious one. This is an interview after all, so you clearly need to demonstrate that you are a technical match for the role. This is accomplished by connecting the dots between your educational and professional background and the needs of the position in your conversation. It’s safe to assume that the person you’re meeting with has the job description memorized and probably had a hand in writing it. Pick out some skill sets and keywords that align with your background and integrate them into the conversation.
- Culture fit
When it comes to hiring, fit is everything! There are countless hopefuls that are rejected simply on the basis of cultural fit. Every organization has their own individual culture and ideally, you want to be a fit for the company and be able to show that in the interview. Do your research! If the culture is fast paced, results driven and thrives on competition, you’ll want to prove that you are a match for this type of environment. You can do this with job related examples and/or taking the direct approach and saying it outright in your interview. Make it clear that theirs is the kind of culture you thrive in and are looking for.
- Your interviewer
Your interviewer wants to hire the person that’s a joy to work with. Pay attention to the manager, executive or recruiter your meeting with. Take notice of their verbal and non-verbal cues and leverage that to present yourself as someone they can see themselves working with.
Implementing these three into your interviewing strategy will give you a serious leg up on the competition.
Focusing only on one or two of these items and failing to connect to all 3 in your answer would put you at a serious disadvantage and possibly cost you the offer. If this question comes your way, use it as an opportunity to confirm that you are a technical match for the role, a cultural match for the company and someone the interviewer can see themselves working with.
Best of luck in your job search!