"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? When you wanted to get noticed by your crush really really bad? Most of us have done some pretty silly things to get a boy's attention 👀.
Applying and interviewing for a job you really badly want is the same. Most people hyper-focus on how bad they want the job and when asked " tell me about yourself", they go into a rant about why they're the best candidate, not realizing that being thirsty is going to likely cost them the job.
In this article, we will break down how to answer "Tell me about yourself" (TMAY) and what are some of the biggest mistakes candidates make when addressing this question.
Why is this question significant?
Every recruiter and every manager is looking to hire someone they feel is a total steal. So you need to build their interest, peak their curiosity and have them walk away feeling you're the most interesting person they've met all day. Make them feel like they need to work to hire you and you deserve to be pursued. Candidates that master that leave the door open with the 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
The biggest mistakes we see that will flunk you:
Don't recite your whole resume, your credentials, etc - it's extremely hard and annoying to listen to 5 minutes of someone essentially reading their resume for you. Don't do it ⛔
Be careful not to come off as desperate - saying things like " I'm qualified because" =⛔
Using cliches like " I care about impact" or "I want to work on complex problems"= ⛔
Name dropping like " I went to Harvard". This is SV, most of us went there. #next ⛔
In a nutshell- do not sound like you're trying 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 get there, we need to create a sales pitch for you 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 you " What about you do you want me to remember?". This shift of perspective is important - recruiters speak to 20 people every day and you need something that will both stand out and be memorable/ brief.
I am driven by .... / I live to work on..../ I love to solve....
Please don't say " impact". This is an opportunity to define who you are as a professional in one sentence. 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 will is the longest time in your life 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
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 again should be one sentence and should focus on a learning experience your employer now 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 with a friend and recording it to play back to yourself. You want to strike a balance and sound confident without being boastful and as an interviewer - make me want to hear more about you. Peak my curiosity!