The interview is set. You arrived a few minutes early, checked that you have a clean copy of your resume and references, dressed professionally – you are all set to knock their socks off during this interview. You are ushered into an office asked to please take a seat, watch your interviewer sit across from you, smile and ask, “So, tell me a little about yourself”. Ummmm
This is a very common question so do not panic. Actually, you should be prepared for this before you even woke up this morning. But for the many, many people who are not, let us look into this a bit.
First, let me explain, when an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they really, really do not want to know about your kids, pets, high school glory days (unless you just graduated high school and even then…). Please, do not start with your winning the spelling bee in the third grade and detail every detail until the graduation of your children through college. Please. I beg of you.
This is also not a time that you jump at them and say, “I am a people person, I love people, I love working with people, I love interacting with people”. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to ask someone (just because it is the sarcastic side in me coming out) “So, you’re a people person, as opposed to what, a dog person?” I never did, darn it, I wish I did. Please do not do this either.
So now you might be asking, “Alright Ms. Smartypants, what do I say”. Actually, I prefer skirts to pants, but that is beside the point.
This question is asked by one of three types of interviewers. The first is most likely inexperienced and using it as an icebreaker, or stall so they can prepare for the interview because they were running late before you arrived. The second is someone who is really looking for something – they have a specific person in mind they are waiting to hear key words they are looking for. The third is asking this question to not only listen to your response but size up your body language, general communication ability and “sum you up”. Does it matter which type asked you, no. You should be prepared regardless.
Prepared. Know your strengths, know the company you are interviewing with, know the position you are interviewing for – do your homework. This is a sixty to ninety second free forum for you to give your experience, talents, education/training and skills. A minute (but less than two) of All-About-Me time. Do not memorize this opening, but do be prepared. You will want to tie these qualities into the position that you will be discussing.
More specifically, you want to hit on a brief introduction, your key accomplishments, your strengths as defined by these accomplishments and how these are important for the prospective company based on your research.
Once you give this wonderful introduction of yourself as you have anticipated and rehearsed (without memorizing) just one last favor I must ask of you – shut up. The worst thing you can do is mistake their silence for anything but them making mental notes of those wonderful qualities. Do not feel as though you need to keep talking. Trust me, they have more questions for you and once they process your introduction, they will ask you. Just wait for it.
Lisa K McDonald