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How to Answer the Dreaded Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself

Hallie Crawford
U.S.News & World Report

One of the most hated interview questions is "Tell me about yourself." In fact, it's difficult for almost all job seekers to answer this question. Why is it so hard? Why do hiring managers ask this question in the first place? Can't they get an idea about who you are from your resume?

This article will address those questions along with how you can prepare so you won't be caught off guard at your next job interview. If you're looking for answers to other tough interview questions, check out our guide, here.

Why is talking about yourself so difficult? When the hiring manager says, "Tell me about yourself," it is an open-ended question. This can cause stress because we start to think:

-- Where do I start? From childhood?

-- What do I talk about? My family, my personality or business strengths?

-- How much information should I include?

Thinking of how to cram so much information into a few sentences and how to prioritize what we want to say can make anyone tongue-tied! For others, they may not know how to articulate their strengths or accomplishments in a convincing way.

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Why do hiring managers ask this question? Hiring managers know that the job seekers who have prepared for their interview have done their homework. They assume that your answers have been rehearsed and that you can effectively talk about anything on your resume.

But, the hiring manager wants to see something a little deeper than what is on paper. They want to know how you handle questions that there isn't a clearly defined answer to. This helps them determine how well you are able to think on your feet and adapt to situations that would be thrown at you on the job.

What is the key to answering this dreaded question? Although this question is open-ended and you can go in many directions, to effectively answer this question keep these three things in mind:

-- Don't repeat what is on your resume. The hiring manager has already read your resume, they want to know more.

-- Focus on what is important to the company. You will want to focus on your skills that would be valuable to the position you are interviewing for.

-- Be authentic. The hiring manager will know if you aren't being honest or if you aren't comfortable.

The hiring manager essentially wants to know if you can express who you are. This means who you are in the business world: your experience. Try journaling about all of your business experience and then summarize your experience in a sentence or two.

This is an opportunity to let your personality shine through. While you will want to keep a professional tone, perhaps you have a story that motivated you to pursue your career or how you were able to overcome a challenge. Keep it short and sweet.

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Next, analyze your strengths. These are all of your talents and skills that would make you a valuable employee. But you will want to focus on the strengths that align with what the company is looking for.

To do this:

-- Review the job posting and write down the keywords.

-- Research the company and take note of their mission statement and values.

-- Match up the keywords and values with your strengths.

Now, choose your top two strengths and think about how the company would benefit from them. Write down your thoughts and then sum up each strength in a sentence or two.

It's also important to express why you want to work for the company. Your homework above will help you. Perhaps their mission statement really speaks to you or you believe in their product or services.

To sum up the three components of your answer, you will want to address:

-- Who you are

-- What you have to offer the company

-- Why you want the job

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Once you have answered the question, it's time to turn the tables on the hiring manager. Try asking something like, "Is there anything else you would like to know about me?"

This kind of question provides a few benefits:

-- You have a moment to collect your thoughts.

-- The hiring manager has the chance to express what he is really looking for.

-- You have another opportunity to let your strengths shine through.

Now that you have the key to answering this interview question, it may not be so dreaded after all!

Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker, author and freelance blogger for U.S. News. As a certified coach for over 15 years, Hallie specializes in career direction, job search and work performance coaching. Her coaching company, HallieCrawford.com, has helped professionals worldwide identify, secure and succeed in their dream job. Her team of coaches work with people of all ages, and have helped thousands achieve their career goals. She is also regularly featured as a career expert in the media, including on CNN, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger and Forbes.com. Connect with Hallie on LinkedIn or contact her at http://www.halliecrawford.com/contact-us/.


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