Each interview has its unique set of anxieties and uncertainties, but no matter how seemingly mysterious and arbitrary the rest of the interview questions may seem, there is one request you always know is coming: tell me about yourself.
It’s unfortunate, it’s tedious, and it’s not fun, but it is there lurking behind the door of every hiring manager and recruiter you may ever meet. But, like they say, forewarned is forearmed and you need to be ready for it. But before diving in and crafting a knowing answer, it’s helpful to break the question down to find just what precisely the interviewer is looking for in an answer.
In this instance, what you say may not matter as much as how you say it. Interviewers typically focus less on your prepared response and more on your delivery. So, while describing yourself in a flattering way is still important, it is at least equally crucial to come off as a confident and passionate person. This confidence is directly related to the next consideration: how quickly your message is delivered. Pausing and stumbling through your answer can reflect negatively on your confidence level and behavior under pressure. Having some stock phrases already memorized for the occasion can help alleviate the stress and nervous apprehension that can result in the conveyance of a more negative image.
Perhaps the most effective tact is to keep your answer concise while also demonstrating a level of creativity and self-awareness. Consider the following approaches:
- “Here is a three-word summary of who I am…” This approach not only exemplifies your creativity in selecting the three words most accurately describing your personality and work ethic, but immediately prepares the interviewer to receive three powerful descriptive and keeps your answer brief.
- “I live my life based on this philosophy…” Companies look for individuals who enhance the corporate image not just during office hours but all the time. When you demonstrate a strong, positive philosophy that permeates your life, it immediately grabs the interviewer’s attention and succinctly defines precisely how you live and work.
- “Allow me to show you instead of telling you…” Pick an object that uniquely represents who you are and present it in lieu of a wordy description. Use the object as the centerpiece of your answer. Not only is this approach attention grabbing and unexpected but also memorable.
- “These are my passions. This is who I am.” While what you do is obviously important to any potential employer, they also care a lot about who you are. Our passions define us in ways that our work cannot always express. Not only does this answer reveal who you are but also uncovers your enthusiasm which greatly impacts your presentation and image.
These openers create singular opportunities to explain yourself in interesting and thought-provoking ways. Being clever or unorthodox in an interview situation may seem risky or even frightening, but this introspective question is about being brief, answering quickly, and expressing your creativity. The unconventional nature of such responses are why they work; they break the same old boring patterns that reduce you to a faceless non-entity in the eyes of the interviewer.