It can be overwhelming to have to talk about yourself during an interview. What is ok to say? What isn’t?
It’s important to prepare yourself on how you will respond to this question before going into an interview. How do you know just how much you should disclose? What is right or wrong to say? How do you talk about yourself without sounding self-centered, yet speak highly of yourself?
Even though the “tell me about yourself” part of the interview is common, people still find themselves unprepared to answer this. Recruiters ask this question because it helps them ease their way through the interview and it usually helps the candidate relax a little. It also helps to set the tone for the rest of the interview. This usually also helps to connect the dots between who you are and why you’re applying for the position. It is important to a recruiter that you’re capable of speaking about yourself with confidence and not stuttering to find an answer you should already know.
Lily Zhang, a career counselor at MIT Media Lab, recommends a 3-step formula to compose the answer to this question. The 3 steps are Present, Past, Future.
PRESENT: Talk about the NOW. What is your role at your current job if there is one, and if you’re not working, simply talk about the present things going on in your life. For instance, what it is you do with your time? Do you care for your children, go to school, volunteer? Recruiters will get an insight into your present interests and can determine if you have current experience that relates to the position you are applying for. If your current job has nothing to do with what you’re applying for, find one specific thing that you do now that could have prepared you for something in the new job position. If there are things in your life that are relevant to the job, talk about the correlation between these things.
PAST: Talk about any prior experiences you’ve had relevant to the job. Mention any achievements you have accomplished. Let the recruiter know the things that led you to where you are now. You may include life events but focus more on professional events. Keep in mind that recruiters want to get to know a part of you, not your life in detail.
FUTURE: Work your conversation up to talk about what you plan for your future. Share your goals or any next steps you plan to take towards your goals. Make sure you include this with the company in mind. Imagine yourself already working for that company and how you fit in.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question if you provide an honest and educated answer. Prepare your answer ahead of time. Remember, your answer should be structured to be relevant to the position for which you are applying.
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