We all get asked this seemingly simple job interview question.
And, we’ve all mucked it up at one time or another.
What question am I referring to?
The most straightforward question of them all: tell me about yourself.
This question pops up in every interview forum, including panel interviews.
It’s not even a question, but a statement or request.
Professionals fall victim to this simple interview question. They begin by telling hiring managers about their:
- Marital status
- Number of kids
- Goals in life
- Educational expectations
- The path for selecting a current job
The problem is, hiring managers likely don’t want to know any of this. Or, do they?
My view of this interview question changed in 2016 when I finished an in-depth marketing class.
One of the first lessons I learned was that people do business with and buy from those they know, like, and trust.
You might be asking yourself what does any of this has to do with answering the “tell me about yourself” job interview question.
Well, a job interview is very similar to the sales/customer acquisition process.
In this scenario, hiring managers (considered the “buyer”) are looking to make an acquisition from jobseekers (considered the “seller”).
When attending job interviews, how do you get someone to know about you and eventually like and trust you?
First, the KNOW part of this equation is taken care of for you.
Since the employer received your resume and scheduled the job interview, they presumably know SOMETHING about you.
The big question is, how much do they know?
Who skimmed your resume for the interview?
The hiring manager or a lower-level administrative person?
This is why you’ll want to reiterate in the interview your relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities that are most relevant to the company.
Second, focus on getting the hiring manager to LIKE you.
When a few personal details are given to answer the “tell me about yourself” question, hiring staff can better relate to you.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Do you volunteer at a dog rescue?
Do you mentor kids through Score.org?
Where have you gone the extra mile to support your colleagues?
There are many other ways to help someone dig your Rico Suave charisma. 😉
- Provide an example of your colleagues excelled with your help
- Give credit when credit is due
- Don’t overstate what you can do
Third, there are different levels of TRUST. It’s challenging to build trust with a hiring manager in such a short time. Yet, there are steps you can take to begin making some foundation of trust.
Be honest, accurate, and consistent at all times when interacting with hiring managers.
And, use more specific numbers in your resume. For example, $2.86M comes across as more truthful than $2.8M.
The added digit adds validity to your statement.
Another way to appear trustworthy is by using a professional LinkedIn photo. This helps build trust BEFORE meeting with interviewers.
You may recall that political candidates go to great lengths when picking the right pictures to use during their candidacies.
Well, I recommend you do the same thing. Use services such as Snappr.co to analyze and get feedback for your LinkedIn profile picture.
[Related Article: Time to Do Some Cleaning? Here are 5 Things to Remove From Your Resume]
Planning The RIGHT ANSWER For You
Okay, so back to our question: tell me about yourself.
Your goal is to produce an answer that lays the groundwork for managers to know, like, and trust you.
Then, weave in your skills and knowledge that match the company’s job requirements and performance expectations.
You may need a crystal ball for this.
Yet, the job description does offer you insight into what the company needs to help you formulate a better answer.
For example, a job description that asks for candidate qualifications that include:
- Troubleshooting material and vendor issues
- Maintenance of cost overruns/rising raw material costs
- Sourcement of new global vendors and suppliers
Your answer to this interview question and all others should focus on EXACTLY what the company wants to hear.
Another strategy is to use the S.O.A.R. answer model.
This strategy for answering the “tell me about yourself” question works best for those who are in revenue-producing, cost-cutting roles.
Those in sales and business management roles come to mind.
S.O.A.R. stands for situation, obstacle, action, and result.
You first describe a situation, the obstacles associated with that situation, the action you took, and what resulted.
The challenge with the S.O.A.R. method is that it causes answers to get exceptionally long.
With this said, I steer my interview coaching clients away from the S.O.A.R. method for this question.
You don’t have to stick with this advice however if you’re confident you can get your answer down to a few brief sentences.