Tell Me About Yourself: The Dos and Don’ts

Posted by John Carroll on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 Under: Job Search

“So, tell me about yourself.”
After saying hello, shaking hands and maybe exchanging a few comments about the weather, you may be faced with this intimidating imperative sentence.  Sure, you know exactly what to say when someone asks you how long you were at your last job or what you studied in school, but this open-ended interview starter might leave you struggling for the right words.  Here are some basic dos and don’ts to help you navigate this crucial first impression.

Do include personal details.
This is your opportunity to provide a broad view of who you are as a person, so make sure you come off as well-rounded.  Go ahead and mention a couple of hobbies or activities you regularly participate in if they further express any of the qualities that make you a great employee: intelligence, determination, conscientiousness, etc.  Even if they are not directly related to the job you are seeking, the positive decisions you make outside of work can act as a testament to your overall character.  Also, when you include details that are specific to your life story, your interview will become more memorable.

Don’t regurgitate your resume.
When transitioning from personal details to work experience, try not to spout out a list of your achievements like some kind of resume robot.  This is your chance to put an editorial spin on your work history.  Be selective.  Choose the most important, impressive or interesting qualifications and achievements you can share.  Don’t mention how many words per minute you can type unless you are the national speed-typing champion of 2014. Keep your tone conversational, and again, include specifics that make your experience stand out.

Do focus on the why.
You’ve already indicated your interest in this position by showing up for the interview, but what your interviewer doesn’t know is why you are interested.  Make sure to mention the reasons behind your decision to work in this field.  Why did you major in Marketing?  Why did you decide to change fields after working in another for 5 years?  Why are you so passionate about this line of work?  Your interviewer will ask you more about your technical qualifications as the interview progresses, but this is the moment for sharing the motivation behind your most important professional decisions.

Don’t tell your life story.
Try to keep your “about me” speech brief.  One minute should be enough to give your interviewer a quick overview of your most important qualities, skills, and interests.  Be detailed, but concise. You don’t want to be remembered as a rambling storyteller.  The interviewer may be happy to know you had the determination to finish a marathon this year, but they don’t need to know when you started running and how your first race made you feel. 

Do avoid controversial topics.
Unless you are interviewing for a political or religious organization, try not to broach polarizing subjects during your interview.  If you are a passionate supporter of your party, that’s great!  But don’t mention it during your interview.  At worst, you risk causing your interviewer offense, or giving him/her reason to question your ethics or character.  At best, you are still indicating that you may be susceptible to getting wrapped up in office debates that interfere with work productivity.  

Don’t Wing it. 
If you don’t practice your first impression, you might forget some important details in the moment.  Plan ahead and decide which information is most important to share.  Come up with some good transitions between your personal and professional qualifications to provide a cohesive image of yourself to the interviewer.  Select keywords that make an impact and help your qualifications stand out.  And, when you’ve got it all sorted, practice out loud to see how long it takes to get through your speech.  After a bit of practice, you will feel confident walking into the interview with a smooth, engaging and informative introduction to provide.

In : Job Search 


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