How to Answer the Simplest, Yet Most Complex, Question in Your Interview

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“Tell us about yourself.”

It’s a question that is asked at just about every job interview. While it’s a simple question, it is also a complex one as well. It’s the “open-endedness” of the question that can trip some people up. The good news is that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about answering the question. As long as you stay within some constraints, and practice your answer before you go in, you can make the most of your answer. Here is some advice for how to properly answer.

They Don’t Want Your Life Story

If they ask you to tell them about yourself, they don’t want your life stories, and they don’t want to know about your hobbies or your pets. They want you to provide a broad and concise overview of your professional experience before they start to get into specifics. Unless you have a good reason to bring it up, there is no reason to bring up that fast food job you had at 17. A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t seem relevant, leave it out.

Keep Your Answer Tight

Your answer should summarize where you are in your career based on an extended version of your WIFM Commercial Script (for more information on your WIFM Commercial Script, check Pg. 4 of your AppleOne Navigating the Hiring Process book). You may start with a WIFM that is four minutes long; your job is to pare it down little by little until it is manageable. A good example of an answer would be:

“I got into accounting because it allows me to draw on my strong attention to detail and my love for precision. My first job in high school was in my parents’ shop. Their accounting system was a shoe box of receipts, but I found I really loved solving the puzzle and making the pieces fit. I studied accounting in a school where I got a 4.0, which allowed me to secure an internship at International Widgets, a large multinational. That led to a position as an accounting clerk where my boss, Jill, the head of Accounts Receivable, nicknamed me The Laser because of how quickly I was able to spot any errors. For instance, I found $338,000 that had been improperly allocated, which saved my company $5,397 in fees. Three years later, I still get a thrill every time my accounts balance, and my accounts always balance, so I really love what I do. I’m especially excited about your opportunity because it sounds like you really need someone with great attention to detail like me.”

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you have your answer, practice saying it until it sounds natural and you can quickly respond in a fluid way. While you don’t want to sound like a robot, you don’t want to try and wing it either. The only way to be truly confident in what you say is to be through in your preparation. You want to walk into the office feeling like you can take on the world!

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