Typically, at the start of almost every interview, there is a question from the interviewer requesting that you ‘tell me a little about yourself? It may be stated in different ways, but at its core, it’s your opportunity to highlight your best traits and accomplishments with the interviewer. It allows you a small amount of time to prep the interviewer for what to expect out of you for the duration of the time you’ll be spending with them. I am often amazed at how often candidates waste this opportunity to sell themselves and highlight their main skills. Here are a few pointers to help you knock this question out of the ball park.
The “Tell me a little about yourself” question in itself is open-ended, which is why so many candidates often blow the answer. What you say to answer this question is just as important as how you say it. Let’s talk a little bit about the “what.” This mainly deals with the content of the information that you are sharing. I have had candidates provide a wide spectrum of answers to the simple question of “Tell me a little about yourself and work history.” To be clear, this question is an invitation to provide a professional self-portrait of your career in your own words. Don’t waste the opportunity! I have had individuals answer the question as if they were completing a dating profile and completely omit any relevant information about their professional expertise. Alternatively I’ve had candidates that spend 15 minutes listing (almost verbatim) each job they listed on their résumé/cv along with the bulleted tasks as if I could not read it myself.
That said, how do you answer this question the right way? The answer is - Get to the P.O.I.N.T.
A key trick in answering this question is to share five things about yourself, that provide relevant information to the interviewee in a summarized and succinct manner. I call this getting to the point. An easy way to remember this is through the letters in the word P.O.I.N.T.
The P stands for Past, O for Overview, I for Interest, N for Now, and T for Takeaway. You can apply the exact same approach when answering the standard “Tell me a little about yourself” question. You simply need to get to the P.O.I.N.T. using the tips below to formulate your response.
Using this straightforward approach to answering this question will help get your interview off to a great start. I encourage candidates to draft your P.O.I.N.T. and practice aloud. Write an answer/comment for each letter and don’t worry about how long or short some of your answers may be. You may have more details to share in the “Interest” section than you do in the “Now” and that’s OK. What’s important is that you write it all down and then collapse it into a cohesive dialogue. Next, you’ll want to read your answer aloud and see how it sounds. Commit the general topic areas that you would plan to reference to memory and then answer the “tell me about yourself” practicing with using each letter in getting to the P.O.I.N.T. The more you practice answering this question in different ways, the more relaxed you will be when it is inevitably asked during your interview. Just remember, get to the P.O.I.N.T.
Courtney is a successful blogger and executive leader. She is a multi-industry Human Capital executive with extensive global and regional experience having served in various roles within large and small organizations. She has successfully driven enterprise-wide initiatives and is continuing to learn and grow with each new opportunity. Her blog: Goals, Gaps, and Growth shares some tips and tricks she's learned along the way.