You walk into a small, yet comfortable office space and take a seat at the desk.
The hiring manager looks you up and down from the other side of the desk, shakes your hand, and says, “Nice to meet you. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
He just got right down to business.
Normally you would clam up, frantically trying to figure out how to answer this ambiguous question. But not today.
We’re here to help you prepare a proper response to avoid that last part.
Let’s get started.
Employers and hiring managers are generally looking for several things when they ask this question. They want to:
It’s important to remember that a lot of the time, you’re getting hired by someone who you’re going to work closely with. That means that, in order to convince them that you’re someone they can spend a lot of time with in close quarters, you’ll need to connect with them on a personal level.
Sure, sometimes if the company is large enough or if you go through a staffing company, there will be some kind of hiring manager who’s largely unconnected to the work you’ll be doing.
But even then, they’ll have some idea of the company culture that any potential hire would be entering into, and it’s their job to make sure that you fit into that culture.
One way or another, it’s time to let that good old personality of yours shine.
The DO NOT’s:
Lastly, try not to go too offtopic in general. You want to stay on task as much as you can — the more tangents you go down, the less interested the hiring manager is going to be in hearing about you and your life, and the less likely they are to hire you as a consequence.
Now we’ll run through some examples of how to properly respond to the world’s most ambiguous interview question, and how you shouldn’t respond to it.
Let’s pretend that you’re applying for a new business analyst job. Here are some examples of how to properly answer this interview question:
“Well—I’ve been working for the past five years as a business and data analyst with IBM in Raleigh, North Carolina. During that time I’ve undergone multiple training courses, earned a number of certifications, and gained extensive software knowledge.”
“To generally describe myself, I would say I’m a hard working individual that has gained a lot of skills over the course of the six years I’ve been working in the business analyst industry. I’ll share a quick story with you that further explains what I can bring to the table for your company.”
“I’m now looking to take my career to the next level. After being in the field for ten years, I feel I’m ready to take control of an entire team and to embrace the difficult role of being the next business development director for your company.”
And just like that, you’ve conquered the savage, ambiguous question that used to plague you in job interviews. If you’re a recent college graduate, with almost no work experience, you can still answer the question successfully using these examples.
Instead of discussing what you’ve accomplished at previous jobs, discuss what you learned and accomplished in your internships and throughout your college career.
Give examples, or tell a story that mentions your unique skills and what you’ve learned so far in school.
Let’s say that you’re applying for a new nursing position.
“Well — I was born in Dallas, Texas. I’m the first of seven children raised on an armadillo farm. I love animals, and people are okay.”
Why It’s A Bad Answer
Uh oh. You just started rambling, and while doing so you began discussing irrelevant personal details of your life. The details you’re explaining don’t have anything to do with the job you’re applying for. Oh, and you’re boring the employer to death already.
“I attended Rocksburg University, graduated with my nursing degree, and now I’m here, desperately searching for a job. I live over in the East Cheshire apartments off Highway 86. I’m a huge wine connoisseur. I attended 39 wine sampling events last month. I almost never drink reds though. I also love cooking. If you have a favorite type of cake, I can whip it up in no time.”
Why It’s A Bad Answer
The employer does not care where you live…at all. It’s also inappropriate to talk about your love for alcohol here. And, the employer doesn’t want a cake from you — at this point they just want the interview to be over.
“I feel I’m the perfect candidate for the new nursing position here even though I have no prior work experience. I know how to take blood, monitor patients, and I have excellent people skills. If you give me a chance, I’ll prove I’m the perfect candidate for the job.”
Why It’s A Bad Answer
You only began to discuss your relevant skills in the last section of your answer. That’s not good. Your entire answer should have been riddled with skills and experiences that would aid you in being successful at the job you’re applying for.
Wow. That was rough. You almost successfully integrated all of the DO NOT’s from up above.
The biggest thing to remember when it comes to telling a hiring manager about yourself is that, at the end of the day, you’re telling someone a story.
That story ought to have a beginning, a middle, and most importantly, an end.
Make sure that, whatever you decide to bring up about yourself, you take the time to frame it effectively.
Take the time to set up the story with any information that you think is necessary to understand everything else you’re about to say, and when it comes time to end it, try not to just stop talking out of nowhere.
It’s worth it for you to spend time beforehand thinking about the main point you want to end on when you’re talking about yourself — it’s fine to improvise, but having an end point in mind will help you talk about yourself without going too offtrack.
And remember to prepare your response. Prepare multiple responses. Just make sure that you’re prepared. Practice your answer until you’re extremely confident.