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Interview Tips: Answering "Tell Me About Yourself"

written by: nataliajones•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 9/6/2010

The number of people that can confidently claim they know how to answer, "Tell me about yourself" in an interview is astoundingly low. This is despite the fact that it's a standard question that crops up in all types of interviews. This article looks at some tips to help perfect your response.

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    Answer Interview Questions Some interview questions are deceptively simple. A perfect example of this comes to mind when defining an approach on how to answer, "Tell me about yourself" in an interview. The following tips can help you to ace this question and in turn give you more confidence for the remainder of your time in front of the panel.

    Understand What the Question is Really Asking

    The reason most people have problems answering this question is because they mistake it as a simple ice-breaker or a question that is not really important. This question can be especially confusing when the interviewer has a very informal style so there may be an overwhelming temptation to tell all about your family life and your personal hobbies. This kind of information does not help to further the goals of the interviewer, and it is important to remember that the point of the interview is to choose the best person for the job. When an interviewer says "tell me about yourself" what he is really asking is for you to differentiate yourself from other potential candidates with respect to your ability to get the job done. He wants to know about you, but only where it is relevant to how you can solve his problem, i.e. fill the vacancy.

    Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

    Now that you can see that the employer is certainly not interested in the fact that you are the first of four children or that you really enjoy long walks on the beach, you can narrow down the things that are considered appropriate information to include. It helps to prepare a short response to this question beforehand; your response should resemble the typical "elevator pitch" in tone and length. The interviewer should get the gist of why you are special and what you can do but in a reasonably short timeframe.

    Don't Be Repetitive

    Since an interview can be a relatively high-pressure environment, you may second-guess the length of your answer and try to pad your response by saying the same thing in different ways. First, you should know that most interviewers prefer short answers as long as they adequately address the question, and interviewers will simply ask a follow-up question if they think they need to pursue an angle to something that was said. There is absolutely no need to be repetitive.

    Try to Be Relevant and Interesting

    Also, try to remember that while you might think you are riveting, the interview panel might not be in agreement. It helps to get your responses vetted by a friend before you enter the interview room and to always keep in mind that relevance is the most important trait that you can possess. When your answers cannot be related to the job or to the questions asked you will certainly be dismissed, and this is not what you are trying to achieve. If your responses are on-point and interesting you can make sure that you are remembered even after you leave the room.

    If you put these tips into action you can certainly be confident on the issue of how to answer "tell me about yourself" in an interview.

    Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net