How to answer the most important question in a job interview
Job interviews are some of the most nerve-racking experiences we have to go through and at the same time we have to be in top shape and perform at our best because important opportunities are at stake. In order to keep our nerves under control and give ourselves the best chances of succeeding it’s important to prepare in advance.
Many questions that employers will ask are quite standard, so we can think of the best answers beforehand. And there may also arise surprising questions or tasks that interviewers find relevant and that we’ll have to handle with calm and spontaneity.
So… tell me about yourself
When it comes to predictable questions that most employers ask, “Tell me about yourself” is probably the most popular one and also the most important one. It’s not easy to answer such a complex open ended question especially since this is usually the first question of the interview and the one that sets the stage for a lot of the discussion that will follow.
Through this question, employers want to find out the key things about yourself. But the information you provide is not the only thing they pay attention to. The topics you choose to talk about also speak volumes about you.
If you choose only to talk about your career path, you’ll be seen as a career driven person. If, on the contrary, you mostly talk about personal things like your hobbies, your roots, or your family, employers will get the idea that you mostly focus on your personal life.
The golden tip
The ambiguity of this question may put you off at first, but if you play your cards right you can earn bonus points from the start by emphasizing the right things in your answer. Besides actually getting to know you, your interviewers are also looking for some key points in your answer that will tell them how suitable you are for the job they’re advertising.
So, basically the golden tip here is to incorporate in your answer as many of the qualifications needed for the job as you can. BUT the trick is not making it too obvious. Don’t get too hung up on your assets from the start.
Begin with the story of your current job and let it flow backwards naturally towards your previous work experience, education, and any other type of relevant achievements. Just like in your resume, it’s always best to follow a backwards chronological order.
Structure your answer
You should turn your answer into a short interesting story about yourself, that emphasizes the qualities you possess for the specific job you’re interviewing for. The structure of your answer could look something like this:
- Past experiences that relate to the job in question
- Tasks you’ve performed that are similar to the ones required by this job
- Strengths and abilities that this job also requires
Whenever you talk about a previous position you’ve held, class you’ve taken, or achievement you’ve had make sure to bring up a few keywords that remind the employers of the job they’re interviewing you for. Whether they are required skills, assignments, or good-to-have personality traits, they will surely be noticed and appreciated. Also, think of what makes you stand out from other applicants and that says you’re a good fit for the job.
In essence, the answer to “tell me about yourself” allows you to openly tell your interviewers what you want them to remember about you. Answering this question the right way gives you the power to make a good first impression and set the rest of the interview on the path you want it to take.