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How to answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question

Sometimes—even knowing that you should avoid addressing personal information and that your response to “Tell me about yourself” or similar open-ended questions need to be carefully planned—it can be hard to get started. To keep you on track, here are a few questions to ask as you brainstorm ways to respond and structure your answer:

  • What qualities make you a great fit for this position?
    Think of what makes you stand out as a job applicant for this role. Perhaps it’s your years of experience or some highly desired specialization, training or technical skills. Review the job description closely and note ways that you exceed the requirements.
  • Why are you interested in the role?
    Brainstorm why this position excites you, how it fits into your larger career goals and why you feel it’s the best next step.
  • Why are you interested in the company or the industry?
    After you’ve spent time researching the company and the industry, you should have a better sense of the mission, goals and trends impacting the industry. Do these align with the professional goals that you’ve set for yourself? What do you like and respect about the company as a whole? What excites you about the future of the industry? As you start building your story, tie together similarities among your professional goals, the future vision of the company and industry trends you feel are especially important.
  • What are the positive traits or characteristics you possess that will serve you well in this role?
    For example, have friends or colleagues described you as especially organized? Curious? Entrepreneurial? Generous? Think about how you’ve long thought of yourself or how others have seen you. Then, think of recent examples from your life when you embodied that characteristic.

Sometimes seeing an example can be helpful, though each person’s “Tell me about yourself” answer will be different. Below is a short script showing how this question can highlight someone’s strengths supported by successful results in just under two minutes:

“I began my career in retail management, but a few years ago, I was drawn to the healthcare space. I’ve always been skilled at bringing people together and working towards common goals. My experience successfully leading teams and managing stores led me to consider administration, and I’ve been building a career as a driven health administrator for the last four years.”

“In my current role at XYZ Medical Center, the efficiency of the office has been a personal focus—especially as it relates to patient outcomes. I set and oversee goals related to department budget and patient volume. Last year, I worked with our IT department to implement a communication system for scheduling procedures and protocols to ensure that all departments were adequately staffed at all times. With our new online scheduling portal, we increased communication efficiency by 20%. To stay informed about their ongoing concerns, I hold regular meetings with physicians, nurses and other healthcare staff. In my role, I also manage marketing and advertising efforts on behalf of the Center. I’ve been really enjoying that part of my work and I’m especially interested in bringing the experience I’ve gained as well as my commitment to efficiency to the team at ABC Health. Outside of the office, I’m an avid reader and I love to hike. On weekends, you might find me at the local bookstore or exploring hiking trails in the area.”

Fundamentally, “Tell me about yourself” really boils down to “What do you want the interviewer to remember about you?” Answering this opening question effectively gives you the power to make a good first impression and structure the rest of the interview to your benefit.

 
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