I was interviewing people the past few weeks and the most uncomfortable part – for me and them – was the dreaded opening question. Oh, I tried to vary it up, but it was basically the same question most ask… “Tell me about yourself.” As a side note, my colleague does a better job with this and positions it as “Tell me something about you I wouldn’t learn on your resume.
The question is indeed boring and vague, but it is designed to start a conversation between two people who don’t know each other. So maybe it wasn’t my most inspired moment, but I asked it. You even hear (or ask) the same question in networking events so I only felt half bad for asking it. While I listened to what was said by candidates, it did lead me to think about the different ways to answer the question. In essence, I cared less about what was said than how it came across. I wanted to hear passion, enthusiasm and maybe even a little self-awareness. I also wanted to hear confidence – it’s a basic question so I wanted to hear an answer without a lot of fumbling around.
Below are a few “Tell me about yourself” answers that have really resonated with me as powerful and have helped the candidate move on to the next stage of the interview process:
Grab attention immediately with… “I can summarize who I am in three words.” Then make sure your three words are impactful and capture who you are.
For the more initiated you may try “The quotation I live my life by is…” This shows self-awareness and drive. Another variation on a quote could be “My personal philosophy is…” which shows you are a thinker.
One that I like as it shows an ability to work and communicate with others is “People who know me best say that I’m…” Another way or presenting yourself in a testimonial-like light could be “The thing I hear most from people is…”
Back to wanting someone excited about life and their profession – nothing says that like starting this answer with “My passion is…”
One that I have heard but never had the guts to try myself shows you have had an eye towards what this job could offer you for a long time “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…”
These are all just ideas – the important thing to remember is the next time you are interviewing for an HR or payroll position be ready for this question as it is inevitably coming. Try to stand out and use it to set a positive tone for the rest of the interview!