5 Tips for Tackling the Most Common Interview Question

Tell me about yourself.

So many interviews begin with these words. Whether you’re applying to graduate school or trying to land a job, you’re likely to face this question. But what do employers and admissions committees really want to know about you? Here are five tips for tackling one of the most common interview questions.

  1. Don’t get too personal. “Tell me about yourself” sounds like an invitation to talk about your personal life. But an interview is not the time or place to over-share. The employer doesn’t need to know about your hobbies, your favorite foods or the awesome band you saw live this summer. Everything you share should be related to the position. Discuss your education, work experience, volunteer work and internships, and current career goals.
  1. Keep it relevant. What does the interviewer really want to know about you? Think about the requirements of the position and the skills and qualities that are most important for this program or job. If you were in the interviewer’s chair, what would you need to know about a candidate to make your decision? You only have a few minutes to answer each question, so you want to prioritize the most important facts about yourself. Whatever you share, show how it relates to the current position.
  1. Tell a story. You know you’ll be discussing your educational and professional experiences, and keeping it all relevant to the current position. How do you organize all of that? An easy way is to tell a story. Start at the beginning, with your first related experience, and move forward to the present time. This makes it easy for you to keep track of the content and easy for the interviewer to follow along. It also sets up a nice sense of momentum, suggesting your past experiences have brought you here, culminating in this new position.
  1. Highlight your strengths. This question is an open-ended opportunity for you to convince the employer that you are an excellent candidate. Play to your strengths! You have complete control over what you share about yourself. Choose the experiences and attributes that are most favorable. Everything you say should be truthful, but beyond that, there’s no limit to how you present yourself. So make yourself sound really good. It’s okay to brag in a job interview—in fact, it’s necessary.
  1. Make the connection. Finally, make connections between your qualifications and the position. Be sure to explain why your training and experiences make you the right pick for this program or job. For example, what did you learn in your education that will help you succeed here? What experiences in past jobs have prepared you well for this position? If you feel like you’re stating the obvious, you’re probably on the right track. Really spell out the connections between what’s required in the position and what you bring to the table.

Still not sure what to do when somebody says, “Tell me about yourself”? Call Career Services and schedule a mock interview today!

Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator
UNM Career Services