“Tell me about yourself.” This is one of the most common ways to open up an interview. In fact, in a recent poll that The Denzel Group ran on LinkedIn, 74% of hiring managers chose “Tell me about yourself” as the way they prefer to start interviews.
The question is open, and it’s intended to be that way. Hiring managers want to get an understanding of the way you think and ultimately if you’re able to communicate in a professional manner. There is no right or wrong answer, but the way you answer will provide insight in your ability to express accomplishments and experiences… and that will help the hiring manager understand if you are a fit for the role now and in the future.
Remember, hiring managers are not only concerned about your current abilities, but also your ability to grow within the organization, contribute, and be a positive team member for the long term. Start to think like a hiring manager, as they are only interested in a summary of your career. Your response should be a concise 2-3 minutes of your professional experience.
Focus on highlighting:
- Specific projects you’ve worked on
- Chronological path of learning, growing and being a part of a team
- How you were able to contribute to the success of the team
- Accomplishments, such as degrees/certifications/awards received
- Promotions attained over time
- Additional responsibilities, mentoring other team members
- Outline your leadership style (especially if position will require supervising)
When reviewing the highlighted areas, this is where you want to use the word “I”. Explain what exactly you did in each of the situations. Hiring managers want to hear the specifics of your contributions to the success of a project or accomplishment. Keep in mind how your current position and past roles relate to this role you wish to attain.
Stay focused on the question, limit tangents and keep your story on topic.
Keep your attitude and words positive. Hiring managers fully understand there are hiccups and bumps in the road that every position in every organization encounters. It is important to concentrate on the good, the learnings, the experiences that you accumulated over time that now put you in a position to secure the position you are interviewing for today.
This is also the time to let your passion for what you do shine through. Use your own words, as having a genuine conversation with the hiring manager is paramount. Practice the general areas you’d like to highlight prior, as this part of the interview will allow you to prove you are the correct choice for the job. This is the start of the interview and will likely generate questions from the interviewer that you may further discuss.
In summary… Be ready for this common question. It sets the tone for the interview, and likely happens very early in the discussion, when hiring managers are making an initial impression on you.