Whether the context is a meeting with your superiors, an informational interview, or a formal in-house interview, everyone is likely to get some variation of the question, “Tell me about yourself” during their job search. This is a similar concept to the elevator pitch, where you need to be able to introduce yourself in 30-60 seconds. Although it seems simple, this is actually a difficult thing to master, because it requires careful consideration on what information to include and what to leave out. Here are some tips on how to prepare a great response.
1. Explain Your Transitions
What employers are really asking when they say, “tell me about yourself” is, “what’s your relevant background and how did you get here?” Therefore, it’s important to give an overview of your path. You don’t need to go into detail about each role you’ve had, but give a short summary of each role. You also want to make it clear why you progressed from one role or company to the next. This helps them understand how you make major decisions; it also gives them insight into your motivations and priorities.
Keeping your explanation focused on what you wanted to add rather than what you were trying to escape keeps your tone positive and doesn’t disparage your former employer.
2. Weave a Common Thread Throughout
When you think about what to say about each role, make sure you know which common threads you want to highlight. This is especially important if you are making a career transition, because you need to make it very clear that you have applicable skills and interests, even if your former duties weren’t exactly those required in the new position.
There’s an old saying my father used to love, “If I had more time, I’d write you a shorter letter.” That concept absolutely applies here. I suggest you practice what you are going to say and time yourself to ensure it doesn’t exceed one minute.