For most of us, talking about ourselves is easy. But turn on the spotlight and ask us to describe ourselves in the middle of a high-pressure interview, and many of us suddenly lose that built-in ability.
“Tell me about yourself” is often an interviewer’s first question. It’s a simple question but one of the most difficult to answer. How do you answer it without sounding arrogant or boring?
And you definitely don’t want that deer-in-the-headlights look if you weren’t expecting that question.
What information should you include? And what details should you leave out?
In this article, we’ll give you tips on answering this question effectively.
1. Keep It Professional
When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they’re not asking for your life story. Don’t take up half the interview talking about things they probably don’t need to know.
They want to know about your professional background, skills, and achievements, not everywhere you’ve lived for the past 20 years. Avoid talking about your personal life, hobbies, or interests too much unless they are relevant to the job you are applying for. However, mentioning a unique hobby or interest could help you make a personal connection with your interviewers. Just don’t make that the majority of your answer.
Start with a basic introduction to yourself. Here’s how to do that.
2. Start With a Brief Introduction
Start your answer with a brief introduction. This should include your name, current position (if you have one), and professional background. For example, you could say: “My name is Tom Jones, and I’m an accountant with five years of experience.” Nothing fancy. Just stick with the facts, and your interviewers will appreciate your answer.
3. Focus On Your Achievements
When discussing your professional background, focus on your achievements rather than your responsibilities. Talk about the projects you have worked on in the past, the problems you solved, and the impact you have had on your previous employers. This will show the interviewer that you are a results-driven individual.
For instance, instead of saying you were responsible for managing a 20-person team, tell them you lead a team of salespeople that generated over $10 million a year in revenue. This is directly oriented on results and will encourage your interviewers to offer you a job.
4. Emphasize Your Skills
After talking about your achievements, emphasize your skills. Talk about the skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for rather than random capabilities. For example, if you’re applying for a sales position, you could discuss your excellent communication and negotiation skills. But, you can safely leave out that you know how to fly radio-controlled airplanes.
5. Show Your Enthusiasm
Always show enthusiasm for the job you are applying for (and the company). Tell the interviewer why you are interested in the position and think you would be a good fit for the company. This will demonstrate that you have researched and are genuinely interested in the job.
If the company works in healthcare, for instance, mention that you’re interested in this position because you want to be involved with cutting-edge medical technology, etc.
6. Keep It Concise
I cannot stress this enough: Keep your answer concise and to the point. You don’t want to bore the interviewer with a long-winded answer. Respect their time. Aim to keep your answer to around two minutes or less. That may not seem like a long time, but when you’re sitting in the interview, 2 minutes can feel like an eternity.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, practice your answer before the interview. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend or family member. This will help you to feel more confident and prepared when it comes to the interview. Note that there is no need to memorize your answer because you don’t want it to appear overly rehearsed in the interview. Just know what you’re going to say.
Let’s look at an example of how to answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in full:
“My name is Cameron Rivera, and I’m an online marketing professional with six years of experience. In my previous role at XYZ Company, I was responsible for developing and executing web-based marketing campaigns that generated over $2 million in revenue. I’m skilled in online marketing techniques like SEO, PPC, and social media. I’m excited about the opportunity to work for your company because I’m passionate about your mission and your impact on the industry. My skills and experience would be a great fit for your team.”
Read the example out loud. It probably took you less than a minute to recite it. But it was also clear, direct, and complete, with enough detail for the interviewers. Leave further details for any follow-up questions they might have.
In overview, when answering the question “Tell me about yourself,” remember to keep it professional, focus on your achievements and skills, show enthusiasm, and keep it concise. By following these tips, you can answer this question confidently and effectively and set yourself up for success in the rest of the interview.
This post originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.