One of the questions you can count on at some point in an interview is being asked to tell the interviewer about yourself.

I ask this question every time I start a conversation with someone who I am supporting on a job search.

Over the years, I have heard some excellent responses.

However, I have also sat through some excruciatingly painful responses.

A Little Experiment

I decided to try an experiment to better understand what the differences were between responses that I really liked and the ones I didn’t.

They covered a lot of ground.

One answer was so scripted I questioned if I was talking to a human or a robot.

In another, I learned tons about their personal life but had no idea if they actually worked at the companies listed on their resume.

One answered the question in under 10 seconds.

On the flip side, another (no joke) took 26 minutes of our 30-minute scheduled call!

A Throwaway question?

I think some people think of this question as a throwaway-simply the icebreaker before the important stuff.

This could not be further from the truth.

This question is a make-or-break question.

If you answer this question poorly, you often find an interview cut short before you have had a chance to show how you would be a great match for the role and company.

Done well and you have gotten the interviewer in your corner rooting for you to get the job.

The Formula

This experiment led me to creating a simple formula on how to respond to this very, very important question.

Big Picture + Key Accomplishments + The Close = Successful Interview Response

Big Picture: Start by giving a brief overview of your career. You can include years of experience and work in some unusual transition you went through to get into tech, the highlights of your years and a few of your core competencies.

Big Accomplishments: This is where some people struggle. They aren’t sure what to talk about here, or what they do say is not relevant to the role.

BIG HINT: Review the job description. The company spent a good amount of time creating their job description. It is like a treasure map! It tells you what they are looking for in a successful hire.

Take 1 or 2 of their top bullet points and then mention how you have had the opportunity to successfully implement an ERP globally, lead an organization through an acquisition, or developed a mobile app that is in the App Store. Whatever they are trying to accomplish give an example that aligns.

The Close: The best way to end this part of the interview is with a question. One of my favorites is:
“I hope that answered your question. I can go into more detail if you’d like?”.

If you have given them quality info, they will move onto their next question. However, maybe you piqued their interest, and they will ask you to tell them more. If you did not quite give them what they needed, this question gives them the perfect opening to ask.

Example of a Response to Tell Me About Yourself:

Big Picture:  I have 10 years in the Information Technology field. I began my career as a software engineer within the healthcare industry before moving into supply chain 6 years ago. As I progressed in my career, I took on more and more responsibility rising in the ranks from an engineer into a technical lead role. I was a part of global projects, creating some of the most important business systems. I eventually moved into the project lead role 4 years ago. I have been managing budgets up to $25.5 million and teams of 40 engineers, analysts, product managers and QA. I interact regularly with the business stakeholders and make presentations to the board, as well as speak, at industry conferences.

Key Accomplishment: In reading your job description, I saw many alignments with what I have done and what it looks like you are hoping to accomplish. Two years ago, we began the transformation into a new global ERP system that required significant change management, executive communication and leadership. As this was happening, we also made two significant acquisitions. I was the global program leader for this initiative, overseeing 10 workstreams. I interacted regularly with Japan, Germany, the UK and Brazil along with the US and Canada. I am happy to say that we went live 6 months ago with great success. I actually received the Golden Star award which is presented by the CEO at the annual meeting, and only 3 people receive it every year.

I’m looking forward to taking on similar and greater challenges in order to have a positive impact on the strategic growth of an organization, be a leader to my team and make a difference every day.

The Close: I hope that answered your question. I can go into more detail if you would like?

There is lots of great information about who this person is. By mentioning the job description, they showed that they are prepared and aware of what the company is looking for, and they highlighted their communication skills by being organized and concise without under- or over-answering.

Kick off a great interview with a great response to a question you already know you are going to be asked!

You will have them saying, “Tell me more”.

One of the things we could tackle in a Career Strategy Session is how you would best answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” question. Sign Me Up!

How to Answer the Interview Q: “Tell me about yourself?”