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How to Master the Tough Job Interview Question ‘Tell me about yourself’ NLU's Career Development Department Offers Job-Seeking Advice

By Consiglia M. Intile, M.A., LPC, NCC, NLU’s Assistant Director of Career Services

The question “Tell me about yourself,” is one of the most important questions a candidate will answer in any job interview, because it is often used as the first question. Since it is the first action question, much weight is placed upon it because it will set the tone for how the rest of the interview will go. Many candidates become nervous and unsure on how to go about answering this tough question because they want to make a first great impression. To alleviate some of those nerves and gain a clear strategy on how to WOW the employer at your next interview, follow these tips.

1). Try to remain calm and positive

The night before the interview and even the morning of the interview, it is very effective to practice calming techniques to relax your mind. For example, candidates can practice deep breathing techniques to relax the body and alleviate some of the nerves they feel right before the interview.

Positive self-talk is another strategy that works best before the interview. Telling yourself that you will do great increases your confidence to impress the employer during the interview. Another tactic that is known to work is actually envisioning that the interview went very well. Having this on your mind will also boost your confidence, alleviate your nerves and allow room for clearer thinking.

2). Avoid revealing any personal information

The “Tell me about yourself” question is an open-ended question which can lead a candidate to talk about anything that comes to mind. It gives candidates the impression that they have to give their life story to the employer, but you want to make sure to leave any information about family, marital status, where you reside, how many children you have, or hobbies out of the question. Providing any personal information during the interview can be used against you and you may come off looking unprofessional.

3). Talk about your “Professional Self”

When answering this tough question, you want to share with the employer the professional qualities/qualifications you have that would make you an excellent candidate for this role.

Step 1: Discuss personality traits you have that the employers are seeking in their candidates. These can be Motivated, Detail-oriented, and Empathetic. Tip: Look at the job posting to see what qualities they are looking for and mention any that you have to the employer.

Step 2: Discuss your educational background. Usually employers are interested in learning where you went to school and what you majored in. You can discuss any degree you have, whether it’s an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. You also want to talk about any accomplishments you achieved while you were enrolled in either program. For example: Did you receive an honors award? Did you graduate with a high GPA? Were you involved in school? Telling an employer these things is not necessarily bragging, but showing them you can produce great results while maintaining a full or part-time career. 

Step 3: Give the employer insight on your current position. You can state your job title, your responsibilities, and any accomplishments you achieved during your employment. If you are not currently working, you can provide information on the last position you held, and accomplishments you achieved during that position. Along with that, you can also talk about any volunteer opportunities that you are involved in or have done in the past.

Step 4: You want to end your response with what are you are looking to do next or what your next goal is. Tailor this wrap-up to the position you are interviewing for. An employer can sense how serious a candidate is about a certain position if their answers revolved around that specific position, instead of discussing other positions they would like to pursue in the future.

4). Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like the saying “practice makes perfect,” you want to practice what you are going to say to the employer. The best method for this is to practice in front of a mirror or in front of a friend so you can get the experience of someone in the room with you. Remember you don’t want to sound scripted or robotic, but you want to know what you want to cover in your response so that you will feel comfortable, and most importantly you will project who you are and come off as genuine to the employer during your response.

Learn how NLU’s Career Development Department can help you find a career position

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