Tackle one of the most common interview questions: “Tell me about yourself.”

David Levine| January 9, 2019| Interviews

One of the most common—and feared—interview questions.

Job seekers can almost always count on fielding one of the most common yet difficult interview questions to answer: “Tell me about yourself.” While it seems like a softball question it could be this question in disguise: “Why should we hire you?”  While it’s true that interviewers might want to know some interesting facts that make you you, they’re ultimately  interested in your work skills, experiences, professionalism and other ways you can benefit the job—and the overall workplace. Think problem-solving in the office vs. rock climbing in Arizona.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for this and other similar interview questions:

Make a list of the good things you’re known for at work. Prepare by collecting some praise you’ve received from co-workers and managers, including language from a good review or something you’re always congratulated or recognized for doing at work.  Are you the “go-to” person for your boss and colleagues? If so, why? Have you won an award? Let the interviewer know. These are the kinds of things that help you shine on an interview.

Match yourself with the job and the company. Before the interview, research the company and the position so that you know how you can fit in or round out the team and to see just how good of a fit you may be for the role. List skills or strengths that you believe the job demands based on the job description (and anything else you may find). Then match what you do really well to those requirements, as well as to the company’s culture. If you find a lot of areas where your skills match the job’s requirements, you’re on the right track for a successful interview. Write your results down so you can remember them!

Ask and listen. You’ve already done your research, but it’s important to get a first-hand impression about the job. During your interview, it’s important to ask your interviewer about the position, including skills and qualities that are required. The interviewer may tell you directly what they need, but you should also listen carefully and read between the lines for what the interviewer really wants to know. When you’re ready, you can say something like, “From what I’m hearing in our conversation, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can bring organizational skills to the table. In my last job, I was known for being the most organized person on my team.” Follow this up with an example or two of how you put your organizational skills into action. This can be a problem you solved, an improvement you made or results that you created.

Be true to yourself. Be honest about your strengths and your weaknesses. You should focus on the things you enjoy and are good at, speaking with confidence and enthusiasm. Use real-life examples to highlight your strengths. But if your unique skills and strengths don’t match the job, be honest up front because you and the job may suffer in the long run. The interviewer will respect your answers and perhaps find a fit for a different job in the company.

Remember, no one is expecting you to be the best at everything. But if you can come prepared with a mental list of your strengths that you can tap into at any point during the conversation—with good examples and results to back them up—you won’t feel like you’re being put on the spot when you’re asked to talk about yourself. Instead, your confidence and enthusiasm will shine through with every answer.