Tell me about yourself?


You have completed the lengthy application, done your networking and landed the interview. The excitement lasts for a moment but then for many the nervousness sets in. This reaction is often triggered by the fear of the unknown; not knowing what questions the employer will ask and if you will have the answers. Being prepared and practicing your responses to common interview questions can increase your confidence and lessen those feelings of nervousness.

Employers want to know three main things about a candidate:

  1. Can you do this job?

  2. Are you a fit for our team?

  3. Why do you want this job?

If you address these three main things in your interview question responses you will be telling employers what they want to hear.

Employers can decide in as quickly as five minutes whether they are interested in hiring a candidate. That makes the often dreaded first question, “So tell me about yourself”, a key question to prepare for and practice. When creating your response to this question consider adding the following three pieces of information. By answering in this format you will also be addressing those three main things that employers truly want to know.

Summary of your skills

Refrain from regurgitating a list of keyword skills or things the employer already knows about you from your resume. Instead make a list of key skills found in the job posting or what you know are key based on your informational interviews and networking. These are the skills the employer is looking for and you will want to focus on these in your summary. You might say something such as “I recently talked with Mike Smith and he said you were looking for someone who had experience with complex audit and reconciliation processes. When I worked for Hennepin County I…”


Strengths or accomplishments

While discussing your skills add in your strengths or a brief example situation. “When I worked at Hennepin County I was the knowledge expert in my team and the liaison between five different departments. If an account was more than 60 days past due it was transferred to me. I was able to reconcile over 100 accounts per day and in working with my team we were able to solve 95% of all complex cases”.

Giving examples of your work through outcome based statements gives the employer an idea of how you might function in the new role. Behavioral responses are about 55% predictive of how you’ll operate in the future where traditional responses only offer about 10%. In the example above we’ve given some quantitative data to back up experience yet we’ve also left some room for the employer to ask follow up questions such as “Tell me about how you worked with your team to achieve 95%?”

Passion or motivation for the work

Employers want to know you come to work for more than a paycheck. Motivation to be productive and provide good service or products comes from employees that enjoy their job. Give the employer a glimpse of why you are passionate about your work or what you enjoy about the work you do. When you talk about what you love, your face will light up and it will draw the employer deeper into the conversation and they will want to engage you in further conversation. As an example you might say, “What I love most about this line of work is…”

Now that you know what topics to cover in your response to “Tell me about yourself” go ahead and write it out. Practice your response until you feel comfortable enough with it that the “ummms” and hesitations start to go away. Your first rehearsal might take two minutes to recite but with practice you will lessen the overall time and you will be prepared and ready to start your interview feeling confident.


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