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Mastering the most obvious interview question – “tell me about yourself”

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How to describe yourself in an interview

It’s the universal interview question asked by maximum (almost all) interviewers. If you are a veteran employee, this question must be the most familiar question you have come across in an interview. This ice breaker allows the interviewer to maneuver the interview process and carry on with it. An interviewee should use this question to his/her benefit. Apparently a common and simple question, its response says a lot about you. This multifaceted question can easily become a mind-boggling issue for any interviewee without preparation. This question can technically be the deciding factor, and must be planned and well thought out. Skip Freeman, President and CEO, HTW Group show us how effectively this question can be divided and answered and win over the interviewer.

  • A brief career synopsis is the best way to start your interview.
  • Talk about your accomplishments. This should be at par to your profile and should also emphasize the bottom-line impact for the probable company.
  • Finish it off by highlighting your aim. Talk about the next professional goal you would like to accomplish which should be pertinent to your new profile.

The information you have already mentioned in your CV is not what you want to read out in an interview. The interviewer has in all likelihood read that while screening you for the interview. Make it conversational and spontaneous. Come up with responses that would make your interviewer look forward to talk to you rather than to ‘interview’ you. Most interviews are typically done, and interviewers almost expect a clichéd response to most interview questions. Break the chain and make it an interactive session, within the professional limits. Here are tips that work:

  • keep it original,
  • Keep it honest, and
  • Keep it simple.

During an interview, your responses should indicate what makes you eligible for the position, more than how this job can help you (pay your rent, bills, blah blah blah). Let your interviewer know why he should hire you – factor in your knowledge and expertise in your domain, and discuss if hired how you’ll serve the purpose of the employer. Review your strengths like your analytical bent of mind, friendly nature, multitasking abilities, your traits as a team player, and your aspiration to learn and take on more responsibilities with time. Jot down as many points as hold true in your case, and think of real life instances where you demonstrated this behavior in real life. You should have these answers ready and by heart, well before you decide to attend an interview. The idea is to create a positive impression on the interviewer. With your expertise, experience and your characteristic attributes, leave a lasting pleasant impression that sets you apart from the other interviewees.

While addressing questions like ‘tell me something about yourself’, frame this answer intelligently. You prospective employer is judging you with this question. Generally speaking, there is a set of specific information a candidate is expected to share with his employer while responding to this question. The standard order is to start with your name and place of origin, describe your educational qualification, highlight your career objective and achievements so far. Most conclude by speaking about what they aspire to achieve over the next few years in terms of learning, development and career growth. This monologue is also expected to throw insights into the candidate’s conduct, professional characteristics, personal traits and his overall attributes. Most importantly and especially for few industries, this is the most important opportunity for your employer to judge a candidate’s communication skills – you may be saying the same thing as the other candidates did, but the way you phrase it and how you present your facts can make all the difference.

Including a few significant points in this description can help you enrich this speech.

  • Use three words that best describes you. It should be meticulous, crisp and convincing. For example, if you are an introvert, don’t claim to be otherwise - your interviewer will eventually find out during the course of your interview.
  • Highlight your basic philosophy in life. It brings out the intellectual side in you. However don’t sound judgmental, be upfront and honest.
  • Talk briefly about your nature, how friends and acquaintances perceive you as a person. This is an opportunity to highlight your strengths. Even if it is a weakness, project it as a trait that has pushed you to overcome it, and learn a new skill.
  • Talk about your passion, if any. Passion signifies your devotion. If you nurture a creative or performing art, or are engaged in sports or social service, this is the time to say it, without bragging.
  • Refer to evidences when making claims about achievements. It verifies your statements.
  • Show your excitement for being offered this opportunity. However, do not for once consider the job to be yours. Your over confidence can mar a otherwise successful interview.
  • Draw to a close with the accolades you get from others. It creates an opportunity for feedback from the interviewer.

If you are a fresher, talk about your present engagement, your extracurricular activities, you hobbies and anything that you pursue as a passion. You can subtly relate your learning and passion to your proposed work. An experienced candidate can talk about ongoing projects and what interests him. You may discuss about your past experiences and skills that you made use of while completing your projects. Lastly, come to an end with future. Explain the employer satisfactorily why you have applied for this profile, and how you can add value. Express your desire to build a career in the organization, instead of just looking for a quick opportunity to earn money, start your first job or a stop-gap option. Employers will take the former more seriously.

Practice makes a man perfect. So go over the most probable interview questions and prepare well. Be clear, precise and avoid exaggeration in interviews. It is good to ask questions (if you have any) about your role or the company to your interviewer at the end of the interview (most interviewers will allow you this opportunity), but be sure to conduct a brief research on both before you arrive at the venue. Avoid being passive in an interview session. The employer is looking for your participation. Rehearse your responses, without sounding rehearsed. Spontaneous communication creates a positive impact. Make your answers the yardstick to judge others and end your interview on a happy note!

While preparing for your upcoming interview, you might want to go over a few things you should avoid in your interview that may put off your potential employer.



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