The best answer to the job interview question ‘Tell me about yourself’

Written by Paul Rivera | Rappler – May 10th, 2016

‘If you answer this poorly, you set yourself up to get grilled by the interviewer. You’ll be a nervous, rambling wreck,’ writes Kalibrr co-founder and CEO Paul Rivera

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. This seemingly simple question can make or break an interview. Illustration by Ernest Fiestan/Rappler

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. This seemingly simple question can make or break an interview. Illustration by Ernest Fiestan/Rappler

An earlier version of this story first appeared on Kalibrr. Visit this page for more on the ups and downs of navigating your career.

Talking about yourself should be easy, right? Who knows you better than you? However, in an interview, we don’t want to know everything about you. We don’t care about your life story – who your parents are, what they do, your religion, and where you live. Its probably the most common mistake I see people making – spending too much time talking about personal information, rather than painting a picture of their professional background and career aspirations.

If you answer this poorly, you set yourself up to get grilled by the interviewer. You’ll be a nervous, rambling wreck. We’ve seen it many times and its entirely avoidable if you’re prepared.

If you are prepared and answer this question well, then you set the tone for the interview and immediately begin the process of selling yourself to the interviewer.

And that’s what you’re doing here – you want to start the interview by essentially saying how awesome you are and why I’m the best candidate for this job.

The best way to answer this question is to make sure you cover this core theme in your answer:

How does your personal and professional background relate to you being an extremely good candidate for the position you’re interviewing for?

Any information that doesn’t make a strong case for you should be an excellent candidate isn’t important here.

A good answer shouldn’t be more than 60-90 seconds and should cover core these core points:

  • Where’d you go to school (and what you studied)
  • A very short summation of your career or background
  • The last job you’ve had, what that company did, key responsibilities and one important impact you made in that organization
  • Why you’re there interviewing for this job

Here’s what I would say if I were interviewing for a call center agent:

Hi, my name is Paul Rivera. I graduated with a Political Economy degree from UC Berkeley and have spent the last 10 years working for and starting internet startups. I’m currently the CEO at Kalibrr. Kalibrr is talent matching platform based in the Philippines with global investors like Y Combinator and Omidyar Network. My key responsibilities there include management of strategy, sales, customer success, marketing, finance and legal. I spearheaded the raising of $2 million in venture capital funding for Kalibrr in 2013, which was a record for a seed round for a Philippine startup. I’ve also directly managed product before creating a product team overseen by our COO. Though I enjoy the work I do at Kalibrr, I see a tremendous opportunity to leverage my skills and experience, especially with excellent communication ability, to be an outstanding call center agent at Accenture and that’s why I’m here interviewing with you right now.

The best thing about this interview question is you almost always will get it so practice it, rehearse it, and memorize it so you start off your interview in control and with momentum. Your answer and how well you tell your story will drive the rest of the interview. In our opinion, the better you start, the better you finish.

What if you have no professional background and just graduated from school?

Not a problem – here are the core points you should cover:

  • Where did you go to school
  • What was your course and how is that going to be useful for you for this job
  • Key coursework, an internship/OJT, or work experience and what they taught you
  • Why this company + this job to start your career?

If Paul was graduating from Jose Rizal University with an HRM degree and was interviewing for a Recruitment Assistant job at Globe, here’s what he would say:

Hi, my name is Paul Rivera and I’m a fresh graduate of Jose Rizal University. I studied Human Resources Management because I really enjoy working with people and I’m fascinated with the role of people in building and operating companies. Without the people, you don’t have a business. While in school, I was an OJT during my fourth year at Jollibee Corp where I worked with their recruitment team and helped coordinate the interview of candidates for cashier roles at Jollibee restaurants. I really understood the role and value that recruiters create and how they help ensure a company always hires the best talent. I saw an opportunity on Kalibrr to be a Recruitment Assistant at Globe and after doing my research, I saw that Globe was one of the best companies in the Philippines and I feel my experience and work ethic will make me a valuable contributor at Globe.

So there you have it – a template for you to answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ question. Write this down on paper and practice it until you have it memorized and can say it without looking like you’ve memorized it. Make sure you customize it for every interview you do – so research the job and the company and really understand what they do and how you could add value to them.

Put on your best Piolo Pascual and nail that interview.

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