Interview prep

Surviving the "TMAY" question a.k.a. stop being thirsty

"Tell me about yourself" is often the question that decides your whole interview. But do you know how to answer it?

Do you remember the first crush you had in high school? The one you would have done anything for, if they would just notice you? Most of us have done some pretty silly things to get a boy's attention.

Interviewing for a job you want can produce a similar reaction. Most people hyper-focus on how much they want the job, so when asked "tell me about yourself", they begin to rant about why they're the best candidate, not realizing that being thirsty will likely cost them the job.

In this article, we will break down how to answer "Tell me about yourself" (TMAY) and the biggest mistakes candidates make when addressing this question.

Why Is This Question Significant?

Every recruiter and manager is looking to hire someone they feel is a total steal. So you need to pique their interest, and have them walk away thinking you're the most interesting person they've met all day. Make them feel like they need to work to hire you. Candidates that instill that feeling will leave the door open with a company, even if they don't end up accepting the job. We've seen candidates that interview well be pursued and courted for years (yes, years) by recruiters.

What NOT to Do

These are some common mistakes that will wreck your chances:

Reciting your whole resume, your credentials, etc - recruiters don't want to hear a full recitation of a resume they've already read. Don't make them.

Coming off as desperate. Avoid saying things like "I'm qualified because..."

⛔ Using clichés like "I care about impact." or "I want to work on complex problems."

Name dropping like "I went to Harvard". This is SV, everyone has a prestigious degree. #next

In a nutshell: do not try to justify why you should get the job. TMAY and "why you" are NOT the same question. TMAY and "what are your qualifications" are also not the same question.

A Shift in Perspective

First, let me say that the candidates that ace this question have one thing in common: they're poised. To be poised, you need to create a sales pitch (for yourself!) that you can stand confidently behind.

Let's begin with this crucial point: When you're asked to "Tell me about yourself", the recruiter is really asking "What do you want me to remember about you?". This shift of perspective is important. Recruiters speak to 20 people every day and you need something brief but memorable. If you don't stand out, they're going to move on.

So how do you create that memorable sales pitch?

The Perfect Formula

I am driven by .... / I live to work on..../ I love to solve....

This is an opportunity to define who you are as a professional in one sentence (Please don't say "impact"!). How do your colleagues describe you? How would someone introduce you? What defines your work style? Do you have a claim to fame as the person that invented x? I promise that if you do this right, this is the longest time it will ever take you to come up with a sentence.

I am currently...

Be brief. Mention your title, team, product you're building, and company

Before that...

Same as above.

In my next opportunity I am looking for...

Be genuine about what matters to you in the team or product you want to work on. This should also be one sentence and should focus on a learning experience your current employer does not (or cannot) offer you.

Being confident in the clarity and brevity of your answer is extremely important, so we absolutely recommend practicing this one. Practice with a friend and recording it to play back to yourself. Or, check out Candor's mock interview tool, where "TMAY" is a staple question.

Some final takeaways: You want be being confident without being boastful. And, most importantly, make the interviewer want to hear more about you. Pique their curiosity!

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