“Tell Me About Yourself:” What An Employer REALLY Wants To Know

April 13th, 2012

In nearly any setting, the question, “tell me about yourself,” is the perfect icebreaker. But when you’re in a situation that can make or break your career, it becomes much more significant.

For the person on the hiring end of a job interview, this question serves to open a conversation about the central topic under consideration: what you, an unknown entity, have to offer the employer. For the job seeker in the hot seat, a powerful, fact-filled summary sets the tone for the entire interview, and makes an impression that will last throughout the hiring process.

As a job seeker, you should anticipate that you will hear this question. It appears frequently on “top ten” interview questions lists from web sites like Monster.com and TheLadders.com. Hiring managers use it to gauge your comfort with a topic that should be the easiest thing in the world upon which to wax poetic: you. And that means that as a potential new hire, you need to have an answer that goes beyond the traditional 30-second elevator speech and into a detailed, concise and meaningful sketch of your experience and notable achievements. Do not walk into an interview situation unless you have rehearsed and practiced your answer.

Craft each element of your answer to describe your skills and knowledge in a way that gives a complete, but not exhaustive, outline of your professional history as it relates to the job opening. Throw in a brief anecdote or two that relate to your most significant achievements—be boastful, but don’t be vain. This is your chance to shine in front of people who could be your future co-workers, and it’s also your chance to be specific. “I like to work with people” is much less interesting than, “Throughout my career, I’ve sought out opportunities, such as three years ago at XYZ Company, where my ability to relate to people of all ages was an asset, especially in developing our business among elderly clients.”

You have the entire remainder of the interview to persuade, cajole and otherwise convince this cast of interviewers that you are the best man or woman for the job. Ultimately, an employer wants to learn what you have to offer their company, but with this question, do your best to limit yourself to a descriptive summary. Take the rest of the interview to go into more depth about yourself in ways that tie back to how your experience fits with this position.

Don’t fear the “tell me about yourself” question – embrace it. Telling a potential employer what you think they want to hear won’t do anyone any favors. You were selected for an interview for a reason. This is your chance to shine.

As you search for your next position, keep in mind that Olympic Staffing has connected job seekers with Southern California’s top employers for over 30 years. Contact us today.