Everything’s prepared: the clothes have been chosen, washed, and pressed, you have memorized the route to the venue, and you’ve also taken a fresh batch of printouts of your resume because the older ones did not look impressive enough. You are reasonably confident when you are called to enter the big room. Let us assume that you are greeted warmly, before being asked the question you knew you were going to face the moment you received an email inviting you to this job interview.
Q: “Tell us something more about yourself.”
A: “Uh, I am Adam. I have two pet dogs and I like gardening.”
Something about that answer just did not sound quite in place, yet you had practiced answering this more than fifty times into the mirror. So what exactly went wrong, and what goes wrong every time someone tries to answer this question that is common to job interviews worldwide? It might not be phrased this way all the time, but any interviewee is bound to come up against variations of this question.
- Introduce yourself
- What’s the one thing that differentiates you from other interviewees?
- Describe yourself in one word
Before discussing how to correctly respond to this tricky question, we should try to understand what the interviewer really wants to know when he/she asks this question. Chances are, you are not the first person being interviewed for the position; at least five others will be grilled before a decision is made. It makes sense for the recruiters to know key points about you – by which they can measure how good a fit you’ll be for the vacant position. In short, they are looking for honesty and brevity. If these can be packaged interestingly, half your job is done and your interview is off to a great start.
There are quite a few things that your answer should never be. Don’t recite your resume by heart, because the interviewer has already gone through it; they are looking for information beyond what has already been provided. Make sure you do not sound like you are talking all about your greatest achievements either (because, frankly, would you like listening to a braggart?) If there is one professional achievement you feel must be mentioned, go ahead. But as with everything else in life, balance is key here.
Appear super-confident (even if that’s not how you feel!)
This one goes without saying. Fumbling does not make a good first impression, so it’s very important to appear calm, collected, and in complete charge of the situation. If ‘tell me more about yourself’ puts you out of your comfort zone, then recovering from that initial setback can be difficult. One major faux pas is beginning with ‘My name is…’ Mentioning your name serves no purpose at all. You convey a sense of trying-to-buy-time, and that reflects badly on you.
Trust your instincts.
If you really wish to share your passion for collecting butterflies with the suits on the other side of the desk, go ahead. As long as you are not blurting it out of context, or hesitating, it is fine to speak about any special hobbies or pastimes you may have. You can also begin with snippets of info like these, and then speak about more serious aspects of your character. Mentioning what your likes and dislikes are is an acceptable way of responding to the question. However, it is imperative to not get carried away and end up reciting a small Ode to World Peace. Keep it short, sweet, and strictly about yourself.
Sell your professional skills.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it by all means. It’s a mistake to look like you are all play and no work, but it’s also a mistake (and a bigger one) to pass over your skills in certain professional areas to focus on your innermost thoughts. We have only one target here: looking like a well-qualified, suitable candidate. To get the wheels moving in your favour, it’s always a good idea to mention your experience in the relevant area and your interest in it.
Anything you say can and will be used against you
Think before you speak
This is not a speech, and you’re expected to give a complete answer in about a minute. Speak about aspects of yourself you find most interesting and substantial, and interviewers will take your cue and ask you about them. Answer in short, direct, simple sentences. Do not empty a bucket of facts on your interviewers. Topics like politics (even if it is YOUR view) and religion are to be avoided, as are opinionated comments and/or deeply personal experiences. Sharing an intriguing or relevant story from your past is fine, as long as your run it through a mental censor board first.
Always be professional
The shock value of certain answers cannot be denied. Answering “Where do you see yourself in five years?” with “I’ll be your boss by then” is not only arrogant; it is downright unprofessional. Granted, we all have heard of miracle interviews where some similar show of defiance earned the braveheart a win, but we should always keep in mind that our interviewers, by chance, might not be as flexible as that.
Above all, make it fun.
Make it fun – for them and for yourself. A witty, honest answer always counts. Even if humour is not your forte, be as straightforward and confident as possible. After all, you’re an educated, well-spoken, skilled young person – it should be fun to talk about yourself to a group of senior professionals and try to understand their reactions.
Is it really this simple? Don’t circumstances nearly always complicate interviews? What if you’re faced with this question coming from a grumpy interviewer? Sure enough, some things are always going to be beyond our control.
The best way to deal with the unexpected is to be extra prepared. Check out Coding Ninjas Interview Preparation Course, and give yourself that extra edge!