Be Careful How You Answer
By Natalie Johnson
As a recruiter, I have had the chance to interview a lot of people, and it’s amazing what some will share with you if you just sit back and listen. The simplest question, “Tell me about yourself,” can often lead to some incredibly profound disclosures.
When I ask that question, what I really want to know is more about your professional accomplishments, skill set and how those would be a fit with our team. I’m not asking you to tell me every detail about yourself—some things should just remain private.
“Tell me about yourself” is usually one of the very first questions asked in an interview. As the person being interviewed, this is your chance to have a brief statement about your professional achievements. Leave it at that—nothing more, nothing less.
Things to Include in your statement:
1. Say your name again—there may be people in the room that you have not been formally introduced to at this point, and let’s be frank—some people just aren’t good at remembering names. State your name again to be certain everyone knows who you are.
2. Say what you have been doing most recently—this will give you the chance to explain what you have been doing. Also, you’ll be able to draw a brief connection to how this relates to the position for which you have applied. This is also a good chance to highlight 1-2 accomplishments you have achieved in this most recent position.
3. Say what position you are applying for and why you might be a fit—this will give you the chance to show your interviewer you are interested and you have an understanding of your skillset and how it applies to the open position.
4. And then stop talking—this can lead to a moment or two of silence. Don’t feel like you need to keep talking to fill this silence. This can lead to rambling and embarrassing statements. Trust me—the silence is better. This gives you interviewer time to make notes and reflect on your statement.
Here’s an example of how I responded when I was interviewed for my position as a recruiter with MForce:
“My name is Natalie Johnson. I’ve most recently been working in a Career Services setting for a school in the area. During that time, I got to make a lot of great connections in the community and have developed a strong sense of what the job market in this area looks like. I have also been attending school to complete my MBA, where I have been focusing on marketing and human resources. Given my interest in the recruiter opportunity at MForce, you can see how my background should be a fit here.”
I’ve also had some experience hearing some very surprising answers to the “Tell me about yourself” question. Here are a few things to avoid:
1. Telling every detail of your life, starting with the day you were born.
2. Disclosing too much personal information—including family, marital status, political beliefs, etc.
3. Sharing personal drama, including arrest records, personal health, etc.
4. Revealing any proprietary information about your current or past employers. Also, don’t badmouth your current or past employers. It’s a small world and news like that travels quickly.
My best suggestion would be to practice your answer to this question a few times in the mirror. Practice the pause after you finish talking. Get some feedback from mentors and peers on your statement. Work with a professional recruiter to practice your interview skills. As with all things, practice makes perfect—so don’t forget to practice what you will be saying so you can say it with confidence.