by Nancy Yu
Of all the questions a hiring manager will ask you, “Tell me about yourself,” is one that will sure set the tone of the rest of the interview. It seems vague. It is a question so general and all encompassing that there seems to be a million ways to answer it. The question is simple, but many candidates find this question hard to answer because they are not sure how much of the story the interviewer wants to hear. So how much of your story do you want to tell and which version do you want to choose?
Mistake #1: Reciting Your Resume
“I graduated with a degree in software engineering at Cal. During my time in college, I did an internship with a gaming startup company. Upon graduation, I started working for a small software company in San Francisco as lead engineer. I also have experience in product development.”
Needless to say, this version is boring. Your hiring manager is fully capable of reading your resume. More likely than not, your interviewer has already glanced at your resume. The reason they want to interview you is because he or she wants to discover qualities about you that can not be found on a piece of paper. So do not put your hiring manager to sleep with the play-by-play of your resume, instead, show him or her your “superstar’ quality.
Mistake #2: Your Life Story
“I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I’ve always had a passion for engineering and creating things out of nothing. Even as a child, I spent my free time taking things apart and building it back together…”
Great story – but this is not a date and they do not care where you grew up, your favorite movies, and the model of your first car. You want to be able to sell yourself in 2 minutes or less with passion, enthusiasm, and confidence while demonstrating your skills and experience.
Mistake #3: Answering with a Question
“Well, what do you want to know?”
Nothing screams a lack of preparation than asking your hiring manager to clarify the most commonly asked question. Sure, the question is unstructured. But your interviewer expects you to answer this question quickly and well. It is your job to impress them. With an open-ended question like that, you have the power to answer in a way that showcases your best self.
Instead of making these mistakes, shoot for a response that convinces your interviewer that you are the person for the job. Start by summarizing your background. Then, highlight your expertise. And finally, tell them why you are here. It is good to keep it concise. After all, this is only one question. There is more time for specifics later. Try something like this:
“I can summarize myself in three ways: numbers, passion, and detail. I love numbers. I am a senior accountant who specializes in complex reconciliations with more than six years of experience working in finance and ten years in general accounting in small firms as well as Fortune 500 companies. I’ve managed the accounts of my firm’s largest international clients and have really enjoyed the challenge of developing and implementing improvements in accounting consolidation of foreign subsidiaries. Now, I’m ready to take my work to the next level and work on greater and more challenging projects.”
Not only have you told your hiring manager who you are as a professional, but you have shown your enthusiasm, a glimpse into your successful track record, and brought it back full-circle why you are interviewing today. Congratulations, you just told your story – this is who you are are and this is why you are here.