5 Experts Explain How to Answer the Most Common Interview Question

We asked our network to chime in on what you should say when the interviewer asks, So Tell Me About Yourself? It’s a question that if you are not ready for can doom your job interview. Here’s what several experts say about it.

Your answer to the question "Tell Me About Yourself" should begin with a succinct summary of your professional experience. Think of your CV as a novel with different chapters each leading to the final conclusion - which is you winning this role. In each chapter you gained the requisite skills, experience and knowledge and now you have everything needed to take this next step in your career.

Make sure you emphasize that this job is exactly what you are looking for and what your career has been leading towards. You are fully sold on the vision of the business, the culture and the role and you are passionate about this job. I cannot stress how important it is that you show your enthusiasm for this specific role and the hiring company. I have interviewed even highly intelligent candidates for senior roles who overlook this key aspect. For example, once I was preparing a candidate for an interview at Pizza Hut by giving him a mock interview.

I asked about his ambition and he told me "In the future, I really want to work at a business like Google,". Of course the right answer would have been that he wanted to work in a company like Pizza Hut for the rest of his career. The reason your passion for the role and company is so important is that hiring managers want to hire people that will enjoy working in their company and stay there for a long time. They do not want to have to keep going through costly and time consuming recruitment processes because their employees keep leaving to go to Google!

So your answer this question, "tell me about yourself" should involve you selling yourself on your experience, skills and passion for the role. Speak slowly and clearly and succinctly, and do not waffle. Time is money and good communication in business is simple, quick and easy to understand. Good luck!

Adam Riccoboni, www.criticalinterviews.com

When a potential employer asks you to tell him or her more about yourself, they're casting a large net to see what they can learn. What they really want to know is: Why should I hire you?

As you prepare for the interview, try to think of what you can say to wow your interviewer with facts that support the hypothesis that you're the best candidate for this job. You need to be truthful, but if you're interviewing for a commercial fisherman's job and you've been fishing regularly since age three because it's a hobby of yours, you need to make  it clear. When they ask you to share something about yourself, say something like: "I started fishing at age three. My grandpa took me and just loved it. I've been fishing ever since, every chance I get."

You also should include how much you love travel if the job involves travel and why you'd like to live in the city where the job is (or even move there). If you have  peculiar interest in fishing rods and even did a major research paper or thesis on it, share that.

Ask yourself what would you like to know if you are doing the interviewing.

Many people who interview for a job are uneasy because they're thinking about themselves and how much the job means to them. You can set yourself apart by being empathetic and helpful. And, where appropriate, you can take the pressure off yourself briefly by asking ...  if there's anything else they'd like to know.      

Cheryl Rogers, Founder, www.mentormecareernetwork.com

I am a career coach and it is true this is the most difficult question to answer for many job applicants. Here are my tips.

1.      Keep it to a max of 90 seconds in an interview and 30 seconds during networking.

2.      Tell the person who you are and what you can do for them, i.e. keep the topic fixed on what the employer is looking for and provide some important pieces of information and examples of how you can meet those needs.

3.      Do not retell your resume, they already have it, but rather point out what aspects of your experience will benefit them.

4.      Tell the listener what you are looking forward to or your next accomplishments.

5.      Ask a question.

Jennifer A. Bouley, CCP, www.Bouley-Mak.com

Here is how I coach my clients to answer the dreaded "tell me about yourself."

1. Thoroughly research the company. Figure out what the company's pain points are. Or, if this is unclear, really think about what need they're trying to fill by hiring for this position. Then, consider this as you're mapping out your answer: "How can I demonstrate that hiring me is the easiest, best solution to their problems?" Because they don't really care about your education and previous jobs, but they do care about how your past experiences will help them beat their competitors.

2. Your first sentence should be about how you add value. Don't say, "Well, I majored in communications at NYU and then worked in social media for a nonprofit..." Instead, start by saying something like, "I'm passionate about helping companies communicate better with Millennials. After majoring in communications at NYU and helping Nonprofit A extend its social media outreach by 30%...."

3. Wrap up your answer by referencing the company you're applying to. Don't end your answer with, "So then I worked for ABC Corp, where I enhanced my marketing skills, and now I'm looking to go to the next level." Instead, frame the ending in terms of why you want a job at the company you're applying to: "I improved by marketing skills at ABC Corp and contributed to a 15% growth in sales over the last two years, but now, I want to challenge myself by applying these skills in the retail sector. Your company is a clear leader in this area, but most importantly, I'm particularly interested in working with you because I feel I can contribute X, Y and Z."

Lidia Arshavsky, CPRW, jcstrategic.com

I’m a Career Coach with experience empowering and preparing individuals to be successful in their lives, businesses and careers. In addition to my being a career coach, I have over 8 years’ experience in the field of Human Resources. I am a certified HR professional and a previous manager of 2 full-time employees. I have conducted over 2800 interviews to date.

In reference to your query on the”Tell me about yourself question”, I can provide you with insight from a manager; coach and HR professionals standpoint.

When answer this question, most people do this incorrectly.They believe the employer wants to know personal things about them. They will start with their family information, where they grew up and their hobbies. This is incorrect! Even worse, you may divulge information that is illegal for the interviewer to ask. Don’t hand it to them on a silver platter.

The employer really wants to know about the things that led you to your current career path and specific details about what makes you the right candidate for the job.  Each and every question should paint the picture of what you can do for the employer.. Howy our skills are relevant to the job and why you should be selected. Wow them by telling them how you feel in love with the industry and/or how your personal values and mission aligns with the organization or role.

A candidate should practice telling their career story,building rapport and connecting the “I am made for this job” dot.  When they ask you to tell them about yourself, this is the perfect time.  It is usually the first question and sets the tone for the interview.

Devay Campbell, CEO & Founder of Career 2 Cents