When you sit down in interview, one of the most common interview questions the interviewer will ask is: “tell me about yourself?”
Unfortunately it’s not a question that people answer very well. In my career as a recruiter and HR consultant, I’ve asked this question of hundreds people. People tend to answer this question two ways. They’ve either told me their life story, or shut down the question with three or four words.
Most career advisors will tell you that you need to answer this question succinctly. Now recent research supports this advice.
In 2011 the recruitment company Accountemps surveyed over 500 hiring managers. 42% of respondents said that they would draw conclusions about interviewee between the 6 to 10 minute mark, 60% said they did this in less than 10 minutes.
With less than 10 minutes to make an impact you simply cannot afford to waste any valuable time on irrelevant information or meaningless waffle. So that means no talking about hobbies, your pre-school education or the town you grew up in.
If you dread being put on the spot here are a few tips to help you master this question.
Job Interview Tip 1 – Keep it short
As the research above shows, recruiters and interviewers have short attention spans.
Job Interview Tip 2 – Be sincere
This research from Princeton University shows that people are hard-wired to make snap judgments. This has interesting implications for people attending interviews.
The researchers found that when people see a new face their brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within one tenth of a second.
This means that any attempt to fake interest will probably work against you. So, make sure you apply for roles that genuinely interest you. You can show that interest through your research, appearance and body language.
Job Interview Tip 3 – Make your interview be more about the interviewer
One of the fastest ways to get someone’s attention is to make the topic about the other person. So in an interview make sure the interviewer can understand what you are able to do for the interviewer or the company.
Job Interview Tip 4 – Show empathy
Most people can relate to the emotions of a situation. You want your interviewer to understand how you helped people or clients by describing how those people would feel without your help.
Job Interview Tip 5 – Back it up
You want to provide quantifiable facts to demonstrate that you can do what you claim. So think about how you could quantify the impact you have on your clients.
Now I’m aware that this might sound a bit confusing so here are a few short examples that should help you pull it all together.
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I am a professional resume writer.
I work with people who often struggle to describe themselves as they don’t know what makes them unique. [this shows I understand why people need my support]
In fact, over the past 3 years I have personally helped over 300 people stand out from the crowd. [this is quantifiable achievement that supports this claim and allows the interviewer to understand what the writer can do for them]
Just to show you how you can apply this structure to a completely different profession, here’s another answer for a Landscape Gardener.
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I am a Landscape Gardener.
I work with clients who can get overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a garden design for their homes. So I work with them to select the plans and plants they should use. [this shows I understand why people need my support]
In fact, a couple, whose Balinese garden I just designed, sold their house for $50,000 more than they were expecting. [this is quantifiable achievement that supports this claim and allows the interviewer to understand what the landscape gardener can do for them]
For more pointers and examples to help you nail the “tell me about yourself” question, take a read of this blog post:
Karalyn Brown is a former HR and recruitment consultant who now dispenses job search “wisdom” to anyone who stumbles across her blog www.InterviewIQ.com.au She’s written for major media outlets on careers and job hunting, including for News Limited and the national Australian broadcaster. Passionate about helping people find roles, she is constantly innovating in social media and with over 27,000 first degree connections is the most connected Australian woman on LinkedIn.