Answering this question should be the easiest thing in the world.
Right??? Because, hey – I grew up with myself for my entire life! That’s at least 20 years of things to talk about.
Also, I’ve answered complex questions through my entire university education, from diagnosing 115 different human organs to evaluating the socio-political implications of inflation on Malaysia’s economy. I studied Computational Mathematics. I designed complex engineering systems to help paddy farmers.
But why does this simple question still make me sweat buckets?
Well, maybe it’s because we’re treating it like an exam question.
And you’re not alone! The biggest reason why we’re even writing this post is that Google Trends tells us that “interview tell me about yourself,” “tell me about yourself answer” and “tell me about yourself sample” are just some of the most popular search terms in Malaysia.
But of course! Job hunting for fresh graduates or not-so-fresh graduates is a stressful process, with any guidance for any step of the way much appreciated – from sending out resumes to handling interviews like a pro.
While we are going to include some suggestions and links on how to answer this question well (in a subsqequent post!), we think there are some things we have to tell ourselves NOT to do when faced with this simple but tricky question. And if we understand these four things well enough, figuring out how to answer becomes a lot easier.
4 Biggest Don’ts When Answering The Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself
1. Don’t Be Shocked :O
Or in other words, don’t react to that question like you’ve never heard it in your life, or like the interviewer is asking you out on a date. Let’s just assume that 99.999% of job interviews you go to are going to be asking you this question – and probably as soon as you sit down.
Even if you’ve somehow met the interviewer before or know them personally, don’t assume they won’t start off with this. Maybe there are other panelists in the room who don’t know you. But more than that, interviewers use this question to give you a chance to make a good first impression. And as we’ve all heard, you’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
But that’s no reason to freak out! In fact, that’s great because it means you’re going to come for your interview well-prepared and ready for it.
So smile, take a deep breath and just answer it the way you planned. Which brings us to our next important Don’t…
2. Don’t Sound Like A Robot. Beep Boop.
Okay, so you’ve planned your answer. You’ve written it down. You’ve practiced in the mirror a thousand times. (All things you should be doing. Maybe not a thousand times, but you get the idea.)
But when you’re sitting across the table from your potential employers, keep reminding yourself a very important fact: THEY. ARE. HUMANS.
Again, you’re not reciting an answer from memory. You’re answering a question from a fellow human. You’re having a conversation – so try not to sound like you’re reading from a script.
We get that this can be difficult. But think about it this way. When they ask you to “tell me about yourself,” the things you say should make you feel both confident and comfortable. And if they don’t, then you should be saying other things – things you do feel confident and comfortable about.
You’ve worked hard to be where you are today, who you are today. The hiring managers, CEOs and bosses of this world on the other side of the interviewing table did too. This question isn’t meant to test you for a right/wrong answer. They simply want to know who you are – make sure they don’t think you’re a robot.
3. Don’t Just List Things (Ironic, Because This Article Is Kinda Like A List…)
10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Just Be Listing Things:
- It’s BORING
- Put yourself in their (shiny) shoes – someone you don’t know anything about comes up to you and starts listing their achievements and you’re just like um… okay…
- Seriously, it’s boring
- You’re probably saying stuff that’s already on your resume
- Which you sent to them
- And that they can read for themselves
- So when you list, you’re kinda implying they can’t read, in a way
- Not the best first impression you can give
- It’ll make you sound robotic (ie. B O R I N G)
- What’s really on all of their minds when you list is: so what?
That’s why we said don’t just list things. Sure, you can mention some of your achievements. But you have to explain what this shows about yourself, and why you’re a worthy candidate for the job. It’s not just about material benefits for the company, but often it’s also about how your values fit in with the mission, vision and culture at the company.
For example, if you’re applying to a position at Skolafund, simply listing all of your excellent grades and club involvement probably won’t convince our founders to hire you. But if you describe how your university life shows your strong belief in the value of a higher education, and how your passion and skills can fit into the company, then we know that we’re speaking to someone on the same page.
And definitely don’t mention all your achievements. It’s only the first question – leave some things for the rest of the interview!
4. Don’t Forget Why You’re Here
Here, as in the job interview. (Not this blog – hopefully you’re here just cos you like us.)
You’re here to get a job. You’re not here to be judged on your character – but you’re also not here to make a new best friend.
So just do your best! Give it your all. If you’ve prepared well and spoke honestly and sincerely, then we’ll get up and go again and again.
Tell them about yourself – and if they don’t think you’re The One, someone else will.
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