How to answer “tell me about yourself” — part one

Among the best known tough interview questions you’ll face in a job search is “tell me about yourself.” As a matter of fact, it’s the granddaddy, the mother of all common interview questions.

Whenever you feel anxious and stressed, even when just thinking about being asked to “tell me about yourself,” think of this question as a gift from the interviewer. It’s your main chance during an interview to sell yourself. That’s because a hiring manager is offering you an opportunity to direct the flow of the conversation toward their employment needs and company goals.

Interviewers also want you to tell about yourself because it helps them start a conversation with you and determine what your interests are. This allows you to position your answer in a way that aligns your search strategy to the needs of the person with whom you’re interviewing. This is the part that’s the gift.

Before answering “tell me about yourself” you must know two things: Your goals—what you want to do—plus the needs and interests of your prospective employers. Then you can link those goals to your interviewer’s needs. This allows you to target your answer in a way that makes you a great fit for the job.

In my next post—part two of “how to answer tell me about yourself”—you’ll learn how to use what I’ve termed “the positioned approach” to answering this question. Job finders who I counsel find the positioned approach more effective and much easier than memorizing a two-minute pitch, also known as an elevator pitch. The positioned approach I’ll illustrate next is a conversation. While the two-minute pitch is a memorized brain dump. So stay tuned for part two of how to answer tell me about yourself.

You’ll find more about how to handle tell me about yourself in the chapter titled “Interview Questions: how to answer the toughies and strategic questions you should ask,” in my new book—Your One-Minute Job Finding Coach. Click here to learn more and to order.

Copyright ©2015 by Ransom (Randy) Place

About the Author

RANDY PLACE IS A JOB-FINDING and executive coach, writer on career topics, broadcaster, and host of For twenty-three years, he helped thousands of employees who had been let go from JPMorgan Chase find jobs. And he coached executives at CBS Television, Pitney Bowes, and major outplacement firms in New York on job-finding techniques, communications skills, and selling strategies. An accomplished seminar leader and speaker, Randy has designed and presented workshops on interviewing, telephoning techniques, job-search writing, and sales training nationwide. Randy's groundbreaking nationally syndicated radio series, Your Career Service, has been heard on over two hundred radio stations across the United States. And his articles on career topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly. A former broadcast journalist in New York, he has also been a commercial spokesperson for an array of national and regional advertisers. In addition, Randy was a sales executive at NBC Radio and the New York City sales manager for syndication at Wolper Productions. He holds a Bachelor's in Sociology and Broadcasting from Syracuse University, and a Master's in Journalism from New York University.