Tell Me About Yourself: The Interview Question From Hell and How to Answer it Without Sounding Like an Idiot

tellmeaboutyourselfinterviewquestionThe day has come. You’re sporting your best professional wardrobe, that wild hair’s tamed, your shoes shined, and a folder of sorts holding your resume and scratch paper is under your arm. You wonder what kind of questions this person you’ve never met is going to ask you and if you’re even remotely prepared to answer them. Well, chances are, you’re not. But that’s okay because none of us ever really are. Getting drilled for 30 minutes about the minute details of your professional and sometimes personal life can be enough to break anyone into a cold sweat. (There’s a course to help prep the woefully unprepared: Job Interview Skills Training.) Rest assured that the question most employers start off by asking is about to be your golden ticket to a confident and successful interview. So, tell me about yourself?

What you say

Well, I graduated from [fill in name here] with a degree in [degree] with a [impressive GPA or honor here]. I love music (dub-step alternatives), animals (tailless tabby cats… of which I have many) and adventure sports (long walks through Walmart parking lots.) I’m organized (lie), punctual (only on accident) and have a great work ethic (when trying to beat my brother in Madden). I was head of my sorority in college (I was the drunk), volunteered in Haiti after the earthquake (I was drunk somewhere where no one could understand me anyways) and I was the star athlete on my track team (only because I practiced by being chased by the 5-0).

This may, or may not, sound something like the words coming out of your mouth and the subsequent thoughts distracting you from the relevant truth. Employers have heard it all and one thing they don’t appreciate is hearing about how many cats you have to feed while you sit in your underwear drinking beer and playing video games. Which, arguably, is what you just explained to them. The low down in this course on how to better prepare for that interview.

What you should say

My name is Mark Markerson and I’m currently working as a master of the custodial arts (janitor) over at Capital One. I spend my days at work ensuring the safety of my fellow co-workers and our customers by, rescuing important trash from all the receptacles (taking out the trash), picking up debris that clutters the hallways (moving people’s crap in order to vacuum), sanitizing our facilities (cleaning the bathrooms) and providing light for every member of our staff (changing light bulbs). One time, a light bulb exploded in my bosses’ office. I came to the rescue with a broom in one hand and a new bulb in the other. I’m attentive and dedicated to my job. Another time, my co-worker was precariously balanced on a ladder trying to fix a ceiling panel when he needed a flashlight, post haste. I made a miraculous Hail Mary pass and with one hand extended, he caught it. You see, I do my job with efficiency. I applied for this position because I want to better myself and move in a different direction with my career. I feel as if my attention to detail, my desire to learn and my ability to do my job with effortless efficiency is why I would be a great choice as your new personal assistant.

See what I did there? No mention of what I do in my spare time, where I like to hang out or what my favorite type of cheese is. Strictly business. I went over four very important topics that you, too, need to go over next time you’re asked to describe yourself.

  1. My name and current status (employed, in school, unemployed)

  2. What I actually do at the aforementioned (work, school) or why I have no job

  3. A couple of shining examples at how I excel at my current job

  4. Why I applied for this position in the first place and why I think I’m a good fit

Keep in mind that your employer is going to be conducting a lot of these interviews. It can get rather boring and mundane for them if everyone comes in saying the same things. You want to make your answers pop so that they remember your smiling face. Yes, smiling, don’t forget to do that. Use whatever part of your character that is the most endearing. If you’ve got a sense of humor and it’s not crude, slip a little sliver of that in your answers to show your employer you’re human and easy to get along with. Personable people go a long way in the working world.

Personality is not going to win you the job, though. Make sure you clearly state that your experience or skill sets directly match the need of the employer. If you know your employer wants someone that can travel frequently, then tell them that on your last job assignment you had to go to Kentucky once every three months for a conference. This shows them that you’re not only willing, but you’ve done it.

In addition to these four vital pointers, you’re going to want to do a little research on the company or person you’re applying to. Understanding the company philosophy, their values and goals is going to make you that much better of a candidate. Knowing these things and touching on them (subtly) in the interview is going to benefit you and impress your employer. For more potential interview questions and how to answer them, check out how to get hired.