The perfect answer to the cliché ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question, according to an HR manager
“Tell me about yourself.”
It’s hard to find a more stressful question during a job interview. The funny thing is, this is usually the interviewer’s “opener.” Maybe it’s their attempt to get you to relax; maybe it’s their way of discovering your priorities, or perhaps they just want to see how well you can communicate verbally.
But when you’re sitting across the table from someone who is deciding whether you get a job, you don’t really care about the purpose of the question — you just know that you hate it. It’s too open-ended, and you never know quite what to cover — after all, at this point, your life experiences could be worthy of a really bad novel.
“I once sat before a panel of ‘interviewers’ and this was the first question. I took a deep breath and began to speak about my educational and professional background and accomplishments. But I could ‘read’ their faces. It was boring — they had read all of this on my resume. I changed tactics and gave a brief rundown of what I believed to be the strengths I had developed over the years, with a couple of short examples. The weaknesses? Oh, yes. I wanted to cover those too. And so, in speaking to those, I said, ‘You could ask my husband about my weaknesses. They all lie in the housekeeping department.’ This brought a round of laughter, the ice was broken, and I actually got the job.”
As you know, I have been a successful high school teacher for the past six years. During that time, one of the key understandings I developed is that “one-size-fits-all” teaching just invites failure for many students. Everyone learns differently, and so I have worked hard to master designing learning activities that honor all of those types of learners.
In the very beginning of this journey, I had a student that just could not understand the workings of Congress in getting a law passed — not just the procedural process, but all of the other factors involved too. It was too complex for him. Finally, I went home and drew out the process in picture form and presented it to the whole class the next day. It was an “a-ha” moment for several students. Since that time, I have come to see that, no matter what I teach, there are many learning styles before me and I should honor them all. Then everyone has the opportunity for success.
And this is how I want to approach my new chosen career as a trainer in the corporate world. Whether it is training that I develop myself or that I incorporate from outside sources, the key will be to ensure that every learner has an equal chance for successful mastery. This is one of several strengths I believe I can bring to any organization.”
Susan nailed it. She led with her strengths, told a story, and explained why she was there. And she did it in about 90 seconds. That’s another crucial point — KISS: not keep is simple, but keep it short. You don’t need to run down your entire life story.
Go forth and practice
“Tell me about yourself” isn’t a question you should fear. In fact, with the right preparation, it can be a valuable way to kick off an interview and share details you actually want your future employers to know.