The Dreaded “Tell Me about Yourself” Interview Prompt

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One of the most dreaded prompts in an interview is the vague, “Tell me about yourself.” While this prompt is extremely open-ended, it is not asking for a laundry list of former positions or an hour-long exposition about an applicant’s life. In fact, this prompt is not meant to solicit any personal information at all, and answers that include personal facts can make the interview go south. Interviewers do not need to know about an applicant’s spouse, children, religion, or abiding love for their favorite sports team.

In general, applicants should keep their responses to this prompt short and informative. A great formula for a response is the Present-Past-Future pitch. With this approach, individuals begin by relating where they currently are in their career path, before moving into a brief description of their past work experience and finishing with what they want for their career in the future. This format allows interviewees to explain why they want the job and what their qualifications are in a simple, short format.

The response must be concise and focused. Applicants should ensure that they do not ramble on, especially if they are prone to nervousness. The best way to stay on track while speaking is to actually sit down and script a response prior to the interview. Once they write it down, applicants need to practice their script until the point where they can deliver it naturally and eloquently. Virtually every interview will include this prompt or some variation on it, so time spent creating a thoughtful response is never wasted.

Responses should build upon the details in an applicant’s resume. Too often, people will rattle off a bunch of positions that they have held without stopping to explain what exactly they did in these roles and how their experiences have adequately prepared them for the job in question. While applicants should typically keep their response focused on professional experiences, they can also delve into hobbies and volunteerism if they have gained skills relevant to the job through these activities.

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