So… Tell Me About Yourself

Everyone who has ever been in a job interview has been asked this question. Most people will tell you that it’s the most difficult question in the entire interview process. What about this question is so difficult though? Shouldn’t this be the easiest question you’ll ever get since you know yourself better than anyone else?  

 Not necessarily and here’s why:  In an interview this question isn’t really giving you the whole picture. There is quite a bit more to this question that the interviewer isn’t actually saying. Ready for the biggest interviewing bombshell of your blog reading life?  What the interviewer is really asking is, “Tell me about yourself in relation to this position.” The last 5 words in that sentence change everything about the question and it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever actually hear them in an interview. 

The fact of the matter is that when you first hear, “Tell me about yourself.” you’re very likely going to start telling someone about your family, your likes/dislikes, your hobbies, or maybe even your pet fish who may or may not have been abducted and replaced with an impostor. What you’re unlikely to do is to actually tell the interviewer what they want to hear. So, how do you answer the first and most important question of the interview?  

Here are a few “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help you navigate the interview landmine-

Don’t – Tell the interviewer irrelevant personal information. Talking about your hobbies and family may be fine but chances are the company is not going to hire you because of your love for bowling.

Do – Tell the interviewer what unique qualities you have that will be an asset to the company. Remember, the bottom line is that they may be interviewing quite a few prospective employees, so you need to be sure to let them know why you are going to be the best choice they could make.

Don’t – Try and wing it. This is not your first speech in entry level public speaking class and your lack of preparation will be evident and not easily forgiven.

Do – Prepare for the one question you have a 99.9% chance of being asked.  Check out the company, see what they are all about in terms of values and goals and tailor your answer to fit. I’m not saying you need to make things up about yourself that aren’t true, but if you can’t find a way to match your interests or skills with the companies then it might be time to start looking elsewhere.

Don’t – Ramble on for an awkwardly long time. This is not the time to tell the autobiography of your life.

Do – Develop an “Elevator Speech”. An elevator speech is the idea that if you had to tell someone everything they needed to know about you on an elevator, what would you say? Basically, it’s a 30 to 60 second “all about me” that you should develop and have ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just keep in mind that they really want to know about you in relation to their company.

All of the “Do” suggestions on this list can be accomplished by visiting the Auburn University Career Center.  For instance, you can practice before your interview by setting up a Mock Interview appointment, or by using Interview Stream. Be sure to visit the Auburn University Career Center website to find out more about how we can help you!

Written by Bobby Whitehead
Graduate Assistant in the AU Career Center

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