If you have ever been to a job interview, you are more likely than not to have been asked this question “tell me about yourself”. However easy it might seem, loads of interviewees tend to answer this question wrong without even realising it.
In most cases interviewees take the question quite literally and share a few general details about their lives, such as marital status and children, their education, their hometown or home country and even their hobbies.
This is something you should avoid at all costs. First of all, the interviewer cannot directly ask you about such personal information to avoid certain groups of people being discriminated against – such as women with small children – but it does not mean the interviewer will definitely not be, even unconsciously, be biased or at least doubtful based on the information you shared with them willingly.
Giving honest personal information may appear a harmless thing to do in your eyes but depending on how it is taken by the interviewer or hiring manager, it may cast certain odds in your quest to landing your dream job.
The other reason why is because that is simply a misinterpretation of the question. Deniz explains that here.
What the interviewer is asking you is to walk them through your resume and explain your experience and qualification a bit more in depth.
Do not assume that the interviewer is familiar with your resume down to the last detail. They have probably ran through it before the interview, but it is always good to remind them as well as putting it in context.
Use the opportunity to make your resume even more convincing.
The fact that you are at the interview only means that you have passed the minimum requirements, but with this question you have the chance to demonstrate to the interviewer how exactly you are the best possible choice.
This is of course what the whole interview is about, but when you are asked to go through your resume again, you have actual evidence written down to back up what you are saying, which is why this question is probably the most important one out of all questions, even though it is very easy to misinterpret it as small talk.
Be sure, however, that you remember everything that you have put in your resume correctly and confidently, because this question is partly used to determine whether the candidate included false or exaggerated elements.
As with most questions, it is good to prepare in advance. Sit down with your resume and take a good look at it.
Decide which experiences are relevant to this specific interview, maybe because they are a similar position or a similar company or because you believe it had helped you develop some skills that will serve you really well in your desired position.
After choosing the relevant points, think through a few words about each one of them, explain your role briefly, tell them how long you have worked there and show and example of what you have learned in the position or why it was useful for your development as an employee. You should aim at your presentation to be clear and consistent and to show a learning curve or a pretty much clear and steady career path if that is possible. If you do it right, this question can give you the opportunity to present your previous experience in a way that convinces the interviewer that hiring you for the position is naturally the next step in your career.
Unfortunately you can still make a few mistakes, even if you are aware that you should focus on work experience.
Especially in today`s not so steady job market it is fairly common that someone would have a few different career attempts and have experience in majorly different fields. In this situation the general rule is to focus only on past positions that are relevant to the one you are interviewing for. Once you have built up the presentation of these relevant jobs consistently, do not worry to skip the ones on your resume that are irrelevant.
Make sure to have a few thoughts on them in case the interviewer specifically asks, but that is not very likely.
Under certain circumstances, for example if you are at the point of a career change or for some reason you feel like a previous employment in a different field is very important to mention because you acquired skills that would make you even more suitable for your desired position. You should really strongly consider whether said experience is actually relevant or you merely feel like you would make a better impression by listing more jobs. An irrelevant experience breaks the flow of the explanation of your resume, it makes it a bit confusing and a lot less convincing.
Filter by time as well, if you have been working for a long time by now, focus on the past 7-8 years, jobs older than that are not interesting in this situation. Do not talk about student jobs you have done during high school or university unless you are a graduate with no other experience. That is a similar situation to someone who is about to change careers and in both cases you are going to need serious consideration.
Think about every single one of the jobs you have had. In what way are they similar to the position you are applying for at the moment?
What have you learned from those jobs?
Have you gained any new skills, and if so, what are they?
How are these new skills relevant to the position you are applying for?
How did your previous employment inspire you to try yourself in a position like this?
After you have answered all these questions, build up your answer to form a narrative as much as you can, the same way as if you had a clear previous career path. Try and aim for naming specific skills you have gained instead of more abstract experiences such as `I have learned the value of money by doing heavy manual labour` but stay truthful and do not try to make up details if you do not have much to say.