Every interview you will ever have will ask the question, “Tell me about yourself.” It seems like such a simple question but how should you answer it, and why do they always ask it?

Why Interviews Ask:

  1. To Break the Ice – This is the main purpose for your “Tell Me About Yourself” answer; they simply want to get to know you a little more. Up till now, you have only been a piece of paper; therefore, interviewers want to know who you are beyond your resume.
  2. To Understand Your Technical Skills – Interviewers would often pick on certain experiences or skills you have mentioned in your “Tell Me About Yourself” as a lead for further expansion. They would sometimes form their interview processes and questions differently based on what you have said in your introduction.
  3. To Determine Your Fit in the Company – How you carry yourself when answering “Tell Me About Yourself” will allow interviewers to determine if your personality is a good fit for the company. They want to see if you have the social skills and confidence to communicate effectively and efficiently to colleagues, clients, customers, or teammates.

How to Answer:

  1. Past: Briefly run through your experiences in terms of both your education as well as work experience. Understand that they do have your resume so you do not need to go into extreme details. Highlight your accomplishments and give concrete, tangible examples. Furthermore, try and tailor your experiences to the job requirements.
  2. Present: Talk about your latest accomplishments or what you are currently doing. Give examples of how your current job/skills apply to the job you are interviewing for.
  3. Future: Talk about your career goals and how the role you are applying for fits into your plans. This will show that you are passionate about your work!
  4. You: Let the interviewers know a little about yourself. For example, talk about some of your hobbies, what you like to do in your spare time, or give them a few fun facts about you that can lead to further conversations. For example, you went on a solo trip somewhere.

What Not to Do:

  1. Do Not Ramble – Your “Tell Me About Yourself” should be between 1:30 – 2:30 minutes. Anything longer than that will bore the interviewers, and you would lose their interest. Keep it sweet and simple. You do not need to tell them your life story or go into great detail about your last project. There is plenty of time for that later on!
  2. Keep Your Experience Examples Within the Past 2 Years – Try and not talk about experiences over two years. It is better to give more up-to-date answers because it shows you have recent accomplishments, and it makes your examples more relevant.
  3. Do Not Complain About Your Previous Employer – You should never say the reason for your application is because you are unsatisfied with your previous employer. You should, instead, talk about your own self-development; for example, you are applying for this position because you want to develop a skill offered which you cannot achieve at your current company.
  4. Do Not be too Humble – Often, people feel the need to be a little modest during interviews. Although modesty is important, being too modest can also hurt your chances of obtaining your dream job. Why? Because you need to sell yourself to the company and your interviewer. You should show off your skills and talents that exhibit the reasons why the respective company should hire you and not someone else.

Example:

My name is John, and I am a third-year Waterloo computer science student. I was born and raised in Vancouver. I went to high school at Churchill Secondary. After graduating, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Waterloo. I am currently the event administrator for the Computer Science Club. Through my leadership and communication skills, I successfully arrange and manage a 300+ people Hackathon. My passion for coding has made me an active participant in Hackathons as well. Just last month, my team and I placed second in the Canadian National University Hackathon by making XYZ. I found that Hackathons really tested my team working and critical thinking abilities. Last summer, I interned as a computer engineer at Amazon, there I was a part of the XYZ team, and I was responsible for completing XYZ tasks. Additionally, I successfully coded a debugging system for the company’s website by doing XYZ. I hope to further develop my skills as a computer engineer and to learn more about the HTML system. In my spare time, I enjoy watching the NBA, playing the guitar, working out, and traveling. Last Christmas, I went on a solo trip to the Netherlands for three weeks. I found the trip to be very self-discovering and eye-opening! It pushed my boundaries in trying new foods and immersing myself in the local culture.

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