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The ''tell me about yourself'' question is a chance for you to show your enthusiasm for the job and the experience you have that makes you qualified. In a job interview, it's usually one of the first questions you get, and it's your first opportunity to show the employer that you're the best person for the job.
Tell Them What They Want to Hear
Everything you say during an interview should be geared toward convincing the employer to hire you -- so for this question, it's good to lead with the strengths that pertain to the job, suggests career coach Ronnie Ann of the Career Nook website. To do it right, first review the job posting to refresh your memory about the skills you'll need -- but also the traits that the employer is looking for. Think of it as the time to tell the employer plainly that your background and interests match the ideal candidate's.
A Little Personal Info is OK
At the same time, a little bit of personal information doesn't hurt either -- but only if it can help you stand out. Ahead of the interview, research the people with whom you'll be interviewing, if possible. Use LinkedIn or search online to find out whether they're blogging somewhere, for example. If you find out that one of the hiring managers is a soccer buff, for example, it might be worth mentioning that your hobby is soccer. That can give you something to chat about with the hiring manager, and may make you more memorable.
Formulating Your Answer
Combine your professional history and attributes with a bit of personal history to come up with a very brief description of your professional history. A one-minute description should suffice, suggests Alison Green of the Ask a Manager blog. Talk about the level you're at in your career, the types of work you enjoy doing or are good at doing, and why you like your work. Include adjectives that describe you -- and ideally ones that were used in the job posting -- such as ambitious, driven, or creative. For example, say "I'm a creative, ambitious journalist with five years of experience in reporting and leading a team of reporters. I love my work because it's challenging and I love the news." Or say "I am a responsible, detail-oriented bank manager. I got into banking because I simply love numbers, and math was my favorite subject in school. Now that it's my career, I'm motivated to learn more every day and to become the most competent, reliable bank manager I can be." Following that, add in any brief details about your hobbies as they may pertain to the job or to the employer.
What Not to Include
While employers are not supposed to discriminate against you for your marital status or for having kids, it does happen. As such, there's no need to mention your kids or your marriage when answering this question. The idea is to mostly focus on you as a professional, reminds Green. You should definitely rehearse how you'll answer the question, but don't rehearse so much that the answer sounds canned. Try to adopt a natural tone, and don't over-elaborate. If the interviewer gives you signals that he's disinterested, wrap it up and get ready for the next question in the interview.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.