Job interviews are like dates. The same way you wouldn’t want to go on a first date and ask “Where do you see this relationship going?”, an interview is not going to go deep right away either. So, you want to be intentional as you ease your way into the conversation. The most common question used to break the ice: Tell me about yourself?
Now it’s a small question but it trips many job applicants up. Here are a few common mistakes candidates make with this question
- They share their entire life story: “Well it all started on June 18, 1993….”
- They use too much jargon: “I’m an analytics driven, team-player looking for gainful employment in this sector, because…”
- They state vague platitudes: “I like sales because I like helping people.”
The purpose of this question is to give you an opportunity to share a little bit more about yourself and where you’re going, and most importantly, how their company is a part of your story.
You can use this simple three-part story structure to tell a more effective story when answering the question: “Tell me about yourself?”
You have a character who overcomes adversity to accomplish a goal.
Using this three-part structure, here’s an example of how that question could be answered:
“I’ve been selling my whole life. I’ve had these sales skills and I’ve applied them in many different ways. I worked in retail in High School, and I was an admissions counselor for a few years after college, but now I’d like to grow as a seller and take my career to the next level in the sales industry. At first, it was difficult to land a sales role. But lately, I’ve been very intentional about navigating this transition. I recently graduated from a tech sales Bootcamp and now I feel like I have the confidence and competence to succeed. Specifically, I’d like to succeed by taking on more responsibility, having a measurable impact on both my company and customers. Ultimately, I want to be in a position where I’m paid accurately for my skills. If I do well, I’ll get paid well. If not, I’ll know for sure I need to find a way to improve, or perhaps find a different kind of work. I feel like I have the ability to help people identify and solve problems generally speaking and I’d love to be at this company because you can make it possible for me to have that kind of impact on people.”
Here were the specific story elements:
- Character: Someone who’s been selling but wasn’t technically in the sales industry.
- Adversity: Transitioning into sales as a career, and further developing sales skills.
- Goal: Have a greater impact on the company and customers while getting paid accurately for my ability.
In this story, the interviewee shared a bit about themselves and highlighted key character traits: self-awareness, discipline, and desire for growth. Yet, none of these were specifically stated. That’s because they didn’t just read out a list of adjectives, but instead, found a way for the interviewer to infer these characteristics and understand more about who they were through storytelling.
So, the next time you get asked “tell me about yourself?”, don’t overthink the question and simply focus on telling a story – one that allows them to see who you are, where you’re going, and why their company can help make that happen.