How to Answer Tell Me About Yourself
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Prepare Yourself for This Type of Conversation by Planning Ahead
In a number of professional settings, you may be asked the question, “Tell me about yourself.” This could happen during a job interview, at a networking lunch, or in another work-related or even semi-social venue. To make a good impression, have on hand several succinct, descriptive and articulate responses, ready to adapt to the audience you’re addressing.
The Job Interview
A job interview is the most likely place to be asked the question, “Tell me about yourself.” In this instance, the prospective employer is trying to get a feel for you as a person and as a professional. If you project a confident and conversational (and not overly rehearsed) response, you can use the opportunity to paint the picture you want others to see.
- Brief personal/professional summary: “I’m originally from the Midwest, but I decided to go to school on the West Coast because I love the weather. I pursued a degree in accounting, and five years ago, I earned my MBA from UCLA. I’ve been working for the ABC Company since graduation, and I’m looking for the opportunity to grow my skills in an advanced position.”
- Specific skills: “I specialize in corporate tax preparation, and I thrive when I’m handling complex figures under tight deadlines.”
- What sets you apart: “Knowing every client is different, I take a personal interest in learning about the client’s financial objectives for both the short- and long-term. I find this helps build rapport and leads to the creation of long-term working relationships that benefit the company.”
- Wrap it up: “I learned about your open position from a former colleague who worked for you several years ago, and she couldn’t say enough great things about the people who work here.”
What Not to Say
When someone asks you to describe yourself, particularly in a professional setting, he or she is not looking for overly personal information. For example, a potential employer may ask you about hobbies or personal pursuits, but this is not the forum for divulging anything negative or intensely personal. Avoid political or religious narratives, in particular.
If you are applying for grad school or an academic appointment, the nature of your personal introduction should focus on your academic successes to date, as well as a description of your future educational and professional plans. This is the venue where it’s acceptable, even preferred, to use facts and figures to highlight your accomplishments.
Committees and Councils
Participating in a work or community council or committee offers an opportunity to introduce yourself with a mix of information. Note who you are, what you do, your connection to the organization and your reason for joining.
“My name is Sue Smith, I’m the manager of the local library branch, and I’ve lived in the community for more than 10 years. My kids attend school here, and literacy has always been a personal passion of mine. I decided to join this committee to offer my help with the annual book drive.”
Social and Networking Groups
When you’re asked to introduce yourself in more of a social setting, you can tailor your response to the group or individual you’re addressing.
- Networking: “My name is Sally Jones, and I’m a local real estate agent. I’ve been serving the greater metro area for 10 years, and I’m here today to make connections with lenders and title companies.”
- Book club: “My name is June Hill, and I’m an avid reader and a fledgling fiction writer. Barb invited me to join this group because she knows I love murder mysteries.”
- PTA: “My name is Alice Rogers, and my twin girls Jesse and Kate are in Mrs. White’s fourth-grade class. I’ve been a room parent for the past two years, and my specialty is paper crafts. I’m also a part-time soccer coach, and since the PTA is trying to bring soccer into the school, I thought I could be an asset in helping make that happen.”
Things to Consider
First impressions count, so always project a confident, friendly manner when telling others about yourself. Don’t over-share, monopolize a conversation, or come across as aggressive or cloying. Rather, make eye contact, ask questions, and give others time to speak as well.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.