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How to Answer the "Tell Me About Yourself" Interview Question

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InterviewingThe "tell me about yourself" interview question often serves as a conversation starter in job interviews. It's a tricky question, though, because the information you reveal about yourself can lead the interviewer to keep considering you as a candidate, or it can cause them to cross you off the list.

(eHow: How to answer "Tell Me About Yourself")

Remember, this question is often used specifically to test your response to it. To keep yourself in the running, stay away from talking about personal topics. The interviewer doesn't want to hear about your family or spouse, your hobbies, pets, or personal life. The best way to answer to "tell me about yourself" is to stick to business.

The interviewer wants to hear what you've done in your career, and what you plan on doing. To give them the answer they're looking for, it's best to talk about your past career, things you've accomplished, and what made you decide to apply for this position. Include details about skills you have that directly relate to the job you are applying for.

How to Answer to "Tell Me About Yourself"

A good format to use is as follows:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Tell what your current status is (i.e. last job title or student status)
  3. Describe what you do at work (or school)
  4. Describe one or two things you've accomplished or excel at that directly relate to the position
  5. Mention why you decided to apply for this position

A few sentences, and around 30 seconds, should be enough to give your interviewer a positive idea of who you are and what you've done, as well as put your application in a good context. The following examples demonstrate this format:

Example 1: My name is Jamie Johnson (1), and I'm a senior at Washington High School (2) where I'm preparing to go to college for psychology (3). I'm good at public speaking, and I've been a group leader on several school projects (4). I want to get closer to the subject of psychology, so I think being the receptionist in a doctor's office would be a good step for me (5).

Example 2: I'm Kurt Smith (1), and I've been a hardware store manager for seven years (2). I'm especially skilled with electrical hardware (3), and I was previously the supervisor for the store's electrical department (4). I'd like to move more towards that industry, so I'm applying to be an electrician at your electrical repair business (5).

Using this format, you can tell your interviewer about your best skills, your recent accomplishments, and why you're applying, in a way that sounds organized and logical.

The Subtext to "Tell Me About Yourself"

Sometimes, simply answering this question with your strongest career information isn't even enough. In more competitive job markets, the interviewer will be "reading between the lines" while you answer, trying to see how closely your experience fits the position they're trying to fill. In these cases, you have to make sure you're using the right subtext in your answer.

To do this, you have to be sure to relay the career information about yourself that will match your goals to their needs.

This point is very important. To set yourself up as someone the interviewer needs to hire, you have to predict what the interviewer is looking for, decide which parts of your professional experience provide it, and tailor your answer to reflect that. For example, if you know that the position you're applying for might possibly involve managing others, and you have been working towards management previously, pointing that out in your answer aligns your plans with the company's goals, making you an even more attractive candidate.

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How to answer common interview questions:

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"What is your best skill?"

"What do you know about the company?"

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