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“Tell me about yourself…”


One of the interview questions that seems to stump many people is the famous, “Tell me about yourself.”

Many interviewees lose all their poise and faculties at that question, and the variety of their answers ranges from nonsense to silly to mind boggling.{{more}}

So, what would you say?

Before we explore what you should say, let’s look at what you should not say. This is not the time, for example, to say something along the lines of, “Well, my name is Jane Doe. I am married with three kids, live in town, and really want this job because I like the pay.”

That is all wrong! First, the interviewer already knows your name. Second, in an interview, you should never mention your marital situation or your family status. (Depending on where you live, such questions can even be illegal.) Third, don’t give a lame reason for wanting a job!

Instead, use this question as an opportunity to tell the interviewer who you are professionally, and to sell them on how your knowledge and experience can help their organization. Sell your skills, your potential, your enthusiasm. Answer the question as if you are playing a game in which the person who can sell himself or herself best is the winner that gets the job, not the most qualified person. It’s a game you need to know how to play well.

Another common answer invokes a laundry list of adjectives to describe oneself. That is boring and does a great disservice to your chances. For example, do not say: “Well, I am hard working, dependable, and prompt, and I work well with people.” Okay, so what is the interviewer to do if he or she interviews ten people and they all give a similar, almost generic and predictable, description of who they are. This just does not work.

Interviewers have one job: to look at your resumé, to evaluate your skills and talents, and to figure out if you would fit into their company’s organizational culture and get a specific job done. Again, sell yourself-and be memorable. Their interest is in the company, not you. To increase your chances of getting the job, keep that in mind as you answer their questions.

So what should you say?

  • Be strategic; be on the offensive-plan ahead. Before you go into the interview, review the job description and decide what-exactly what-it is that you have in your background that makes you the best candidate for that description. If the job ad or overview says an applicant “must be able to work in a fast-paced environment”, then think of examples to illustrate when you worked in such a job and mention them in your answer to that question.
  • Keep the sales pitch brief but do give details. If you tell the interviewer you pride yourself in your problem-solving abilities, have really good examples of problems you’ve solved. If you saved your company thousands of dollars or you brought in a certain number in sales each quarter, say so!
  • Make your work experience come alive for the interviewer. Describe your attributes and back up what you say with examples and vignettes or stories that make your claims believable and real.
  • One final suggestion: Sit and write out how you would answer the question to ensure you do not miss any critical points about what you can do for the company. Think and practice-make this the only question they need to ask!

Karen Hinds President/CEO –
Workplace Success Group,
Toll Free: 1-877-902-2775;
Tel: 1-203-757-4103
Creator of The Workplace Success Program (TM)