How to Effectively Answer this Question in an Interview

Most of us go into job interviews armed to the teeth with relevant information about our career accomplishments and vast experience. We’re prepared to share impressive data, “wow” the hiring manager with our results-driven approach, and give the big sell about how we can add incalculable value to the company at hand. Why is it, then, that a seemingly innocuous question – So, tell me about yourself – can often be the deal breaker in an interview?

Technically speaking, it’s not even a question, but more of an open-ended statement lulling you – the interviewee – into a potential interview crevasse. Yet, in virtually every interview situation you will be asked to tell them about yourself. In my experience in executive recruitment, I have seen this question become a landmine for potential candidates. It is so broad, candidates often don’t really understand what the interviewer is asking. This often leads to candidates wandering way off topic in an attempt to cover every conceivable answer.

Forbes.com reiterates the point. “Hiring managers can’t ask you certain questions legally but if you go off on a tangent when answering, you may tell them some things about you that are better left unsaid.”

Of course every interviewer would like to get a glimpse into your personality, but this is not the time to share your life story. It’s fine to say something like, “In my free time, I like to go to the theater,” but stop short of sharing information that might be considered too personal. Instead, let your personality shine through only as it relates to your ability to perform the role. For example, you might share that you enjoy running because it allows you time to recharge and refocus on work and life priorities.

As you prepare to impress at your next interview, spend some time focusing on how you will answer this all-too common question. Because while a strong resume and solid experience are certainly crucial to landing a job, when the CEO says, “So, tell me about yourself…,” the answer you give may be the one he or she remembers most.

How have you answered this question in previous interviews? I look forward to hearing your feedback.