No matter how many interviews you’ve had in your life, there is one question that comes up in every one of them, it should be the easiest to answer, but in fact, it’s the hardest. So, tell me about yourself. Five simple words that we should be able to respond to quickly and easily. After all, who knows more about you than you? So why is it so hard to answer the most asked interview question?
If you’re at a party and get introduced to someone new, it’s easy to tell them about yourself. You mention your job responsibilities, your hobbies and interests, and related topics in the flow of the conversation. It’s the same when you’re catching up with relatives or friends you haven’t seen in a while. But in an interview setting, everything changes.
Instead of overthinking it or trying to answer in a way that you think will paint you in a favorable light, the best advice is also the simplest, just be yourself. Yes, it’s easier than it sounds. You may be fine until the moment you sit down and it’s just you and the interviewer, then suddenly the best laid plans go out the window.
Remember, the person you’re talking to is just a person, not that different from you. And they want to get to know the real you, not the interview version of you. As the labor market is evolving, so are the expectations of both companies and employees. There is heightened awareness around soft skills. Soft skills are innate, part of who you are. Thus, answering the tell me about yourself question, shouldn’t put your neocortex in overdrive. Here are a few suggestions for answering the question.
Share Something Personal
By personal we don’t mean anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, what we’re referring to is something about you that makes you, you. Not something work-related. There is plenty of time to get into your work experience, the goal here is to highlight what motivates you, share a personal achievement, or speak to how you’ve become the person you are today.
A benefit of this question is the opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd. Two people could be very similar on paper (e.g., their resume), but very different when meeting them face to face. You don’t want to come across as boring or uninspiring. Share your passion, what inspires you, what’s the thing that gets you excited when you get out of bed every morning. This doesn’t need to be a grand statement, like helping the homeless…unless that is a real passion of yours, but rather what gets you excited. It could be coaching your child’s sport, working on a book, wood carving, or flying drones.
The two previous suggestions lead to the final one, which is to be authentic. This circles us back to the beginning of the post, be yourself. This can’t be overstated. You never know what is going to resonate with someone, and it’s usually something that you would never have thought of or considered important. A client once mentioned to us that they were having a hard time deciding between two candidates. During the interview process, both candidates were still neck and neck with one another. You could say they both demonstrated the suggestions here. The difference came down to an innocuous response to a question that the candidate wouldn’t have given a second thought to, yet resonated deeply with the CEO.
Be yourself, be confident in who you are both personally and professionally. If you’re still nervous about this, there are great resources available to help you. Organizations like Toastmasters can help with public speaking concerns, many companies have mentoring programs, and executive coaching has come a long way in the past twenty years. In fact, we work with Hogan Assessments when working with candidates and clients to develop their executive teams into the best version of themselves. Good luck and remember, there’s nobody better at being you than you.