“Hope you did not find it difficult locating this place?” the woman across the desk asks. “No, I’m a bit familiar with this area,” you reply her, now easing into your chair. She says something casual about the weather or about the room. Then she says, “Tell me about yourself.” Pause right there.
“Tell me about yourself”, “Walk me through your background” or in other cases, “let’s meet you.” The odds are that you will be asked one of these questions in your interview. Interviewers do not seem to get enough of them. They basically all mean the same thing. And the worst thing that can happen is not having a planned response. I have made a few notes on understanding the question and how best to answer it. Let’s dig right in.
IT IS OPEN-ENDED
This is actually one of the interview questions that many people fail. The reason is not far-fetched. It is open-ended. It leaves the candidate with the choice of what and what not to include. How do you describe yourself to a stranger within 2 minutes? Even more, how do you describe yourself to a stranger within 2 minutes in a way that would convince them to give you a job. Tricky.
What should you include? What should you leave out? What does your interviewer want to hear? While such a question could be the reason for one person’s failure. Another can answer it so well, it gets them the job.
WHY INTERVIEWERS ASK
It helps to see this all-important question from your hiring manger’s perspective. Michael Ogunbanwo, an experienced recruitment consultant, says recruiters ask this question to get an idea of the background of the candidate and how fitting the candidate would be for the job.
IT IS NOT A SOCIAL QUESTION!
Because it comes as one of the first in the series of questions asked, some candidates actually think the question is just some random chit-chat question before the interview starts. This could not be farther from the truth. Your evaluation has started.
WHAT THE INTERVIEWER DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR
Don’t be too brisk
Some people just stick to the basics. Full name, age, qualifications and the basic stuff. Some mention the places they have worked and that is all. This might
Do not include extraneous stuff
This is the bit folks that view it as a social question get it wrong. Except it shows why you are a great HR executive, there really is no reason to include your love for pets, your religious views, your favourite sports and so on.
Do not be Incoherent
This is equally bad. It does not portray you as a professional, neither does it show you as a candidate confident of their personality. Usually, people answer incoherently when they have not prepared for the question.
WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO HEAR
These are the answers your recruiter wants. He wants your ESP (Experience, Skills and Personality) summary and how it fits into his role. The ESP summary is like an elevator pitch. The recruiter wants to know how your professional life fits with the job role. In the words of Michael Ogunbanwo, “This is not the time to be modest.” State your achievements clearly and coherently.
Note that this should not be a repetition of your resume. Your ESP pitch should include, within those few minutes, simple example(s) of success handling a similar role. If you do not have work experience, you should include aspects of your school experience and personality that fit the role. Okay let’s do examples now.
Recruiter: Tell me about yourself.
Graphics designer: I’m Peter John, a graduate of Architecture. I became an illustrator in college. I have my expertise in all the Adobe Packages, and Corel Draw. I would say that` a high point in my career was creating illustrations for XYZ’s national conference. It involved leading the team on branding, and creating brand materials for their media campaigns and conference stationery. From then, I have gone ahead to work on many projects for clients from diverse industries.
One last thing, recruiters use this as a starter. So, expect follow-up questions from your pitch. Help the recruiter by putting the most important elements of the job in your pitch. Remember to be concise and coherent. Do not just go on and on. Use your pitch to convince your recruiter in the shortest possible time.