You’re a new or soon-to-be graduate and snagged an interview for a career you are passionate about. When you meet your interviewer, pleasantries are exchanged and you will begin the interview itself.
You might be prepared to talk about your previous work experience, strengths and weaknesses and what your goals are, but you may not be ready for open-ended questions. You KNOW they’re going to ask you in some fashion, “Tell me about yourself”! There are many ways to answer this question and it can throw you off guard and you end up rambling your way through your response.
Don’t let that be you! What IS the best approach to this question? The answer: Be PREPARED!
Pro-Tip #1: Keep it Short and Sweet
When you are first asked to tell about yourself, your response should be roughly 30 seconds long. It’s your “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself — something you could rattle off, confidently, in the time it takes to ride up an elevator with someone. In those 30 seconds, you should tell them about your professional self! Focus on your education, work experience, skillset and/or trajectory.
An employer is trying to gather your professional journey to this point. It’s a clear, lineal explanation of professionally where you came from, where you are now, and/or your intentions with your career. This is just the START of the interview, so you don’t want to give all the exciting stuff at the beginning, you’re just laying your foundation.
Pro-tip #2: Keep the Focus on Your Qualifications and Offerings
Make your story relatable to the position at hand. Things you should NOT mention include your age, religion, political leanings, shortcomings, disabilities, marital status and how many children you have. All of these can set an employer up to ”judge” you on things having nothing to do with your professional offerings.
For instance, mentioning children, an employer may unintentionally internally flag the candidate about attendance concerns and torn loyalties. Though many of us have children/families, it’s likely not relevant information to the job or your ability to perform in the role.
However, if you have a hobby or a community role that relates to your career, you may consider mentioning it. For example, if you are in nursing and you volunteer at a local summer camp every year, you may mention it to your interviewer. Instead of being too personal, these experiences may show your passion for your work even outside of your professional working hours.
Pro-tip #3: Start Preparing NOW
Practice answering this question! Say it a few times in the mirror and with your trusted colleagues or best yet, your Career Development Coach. Don’t wait until you’re driving into your interview to think it through. This is what MOST people do, so if you want a competitive edge, be the one who arrives most prepared.
However, you want to make sure you don’t memorize your answer. If you have your response memorized word for word, it seems very disingenuous. It would seem like you are just reading a script and not holding a conversation with your interviewer.
It is a good rule of thumb to create a mental outline of what you want to say. You should be able to hit the important points that you wish to highlight without having each sentence completely planned out.
Pro-tip #4: Be Yourself
Be confident in yourself — you got the interview and that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t qualified to be in that seat. Believe in yourself and your accomplishments throughout the interview. There is only one of you in the entire world who has had your experiences, dreams and passions. You can still be professional and have your passion shine through.
To get more employment pro-tips, Herzing University students and alumni can reach their career coach for more guidance.