Confused about how to answer the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question in a job interview? Join career expert and award-winning author Andrew LaCivita as he discusses tell me about yourself: best way to respond!

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Why the “question” is terrible…

This question is terrible for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is related to the employer. First off, it’s lazy, it’s ineffective and it doesn’t guarantee the employer it will actually get the information they need to make a good determination about whether you’re a good fit for the company.

Great interviewers design well thought out questions that elicit specific information that allows them to make those determinations.

The second terrible is it’s even worse for you because it puts you in jeopardy of falling over one of the greatest tripwires in the job interview.

The number one reason you do not get hired (see this video Job Interview Tip: The Number 1 Reason Why You Do Not Get Hired) is your inability to map your fit, value, qualifications, and skills to what the employer needs at the moment.

Think about what’s happening when you’re in a job interview. You know you’re fabulous. I know you’re fabulous. The employer has even said you’re fabulous by inviting you in for the interview. They think you’re qualified on paper.

They’ve also think the same thing about all the other qualified candidates who are interviewing for the job. But, only one or maybe a couple of you are going to get hired.

He or she who best maps their skills and qualifications to what the employer needs is going to be the person they hire!

Three techniques to nail this…

How do you know what they need to make that determination?

  1. Ask

The first technique is my favorite. When the interviewer asks, “Please tell me about yourself,” just respond…

“Hey, Mr. Lazy Interviewer Man, my background is lengthy and diverse. Is there any particular part of my background you’d like me to discuss so you can make a determination about whether I’m a good fit for your company?”

Oh. I know there are a whole bunch of you out there saying, “Oh no, Andy I can’t answer a question with a question! That’s just bad form. I was told never to do that!”

That’s ridiculous. It’s fine to answer a question with a question if you need clarification.

They’ve likely asked you this question at the very beginning of the process or the very beginning of the interview. They dumped you into a wide-open field. It’s okay for you to ask for some guidance. It only took you ten seconds to do that.

Want to know what’s worse than you answering a question with a question? That’s you spending ten minutes talking about something that’s fabulous about yourself that they don’t care about or has nothing to do with helping them determine whether you’re a good fit for what they need! Ouch.

The more important thing we should focus on when you ask your questions is being able to anticipate the possible responses or outcomes. What could their replies be?

The beautiful thing about your particular question is there are likely only two responses. When you ask, “Is there a particular part of my background,” their response is going to be either yes there is or no there isn’t.

If they say, “Yes, there is a particular part of your background. Here it is…,” you’re golden. Just respond to what they cited. That’s the best scenario.

If they say, “No, there isn’t any particular area…,” here’s your pro tip.

Always bring a copy of the job description with you to the interview. If you ask that question and they say, “No, there’s nothing in particular,” then pick up the job description and say…

“Okay, Mr. Lazy Interviewer Man, it looks like based on your job description you’re looking for these skills and qualifications and the role has these responsibilities, so I’m going to share my background as it relates to the job description so you can get the insight to determine whether I’m a good fit for your company.”

  1. Use the pro tip I cited with the job description…

For those of you who simply refuse to ask the clarifying questions, go directly to the pro tip I just mentioned using the job description.

  1. Don’t want to ask for clarification and don’t have a job description…

Sometimes you don’t have a job description or it’s so thin you don’t have much to go on. No problem!

Let’s make the assumption if you are in a job interview you have some inkling of what the job entails and what background best suits it.

When the interview says, “Please tell me about yourself,” simply respond…

“Okay, I’d love to tell you about myself. I assume the job entails [this and that] and these would be the skills you’d be interested in knowing I have so you can make a good determination about whether I’m a good fit for your company so I’ll share my background as it relates to that.”

Now, you’ve given them your assumption about what the job entails and what you think are the important skills you need to have.

If you are incorrect, there’s not an interviewer out there who wouldn’t stop you and say, “Actually, Mr. Smart Job Candidate, that’s not entirely true. Let me clarify that for you. Here’s what the job really entails and here are the skills we really need to assess.”

Now, you’ve got the information you need, you just got it a different way.

If they don’t interrupt you, take some comfort in knowing you’re on the right track and off you go.


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