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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Tell me about yourself – everything you need to know

Updated: Nov 16, 2020




Get ready with this interview favorite

“Tell me about yourself” is often the first question-prompt you will hear when interviewing.

Let’s get ahead of the curve and come up with a game plan.

1. Anticipate the “tell me about yourself” question.

Expect that you will be asked the TMAY question, when interviewing, networking and information gathering. This allows you to begin from a position of strength, confidence, and predictability. If they don’t ask the TMAY question, you can still naturally weave in parts of your response to the conversation. Win-win.

Whether you like/dislike this question, the good news is you know it’s coming. This means you can draft your response ahead of time and prepare. Finally, one thing we can control!

2. Pretend you are a guest on a talk show.

Interviews are so nerve-wracking, I like to imagine I’m on a talk show, instead. That sounds more fun, to me. If you were an up-and-coming star, athlete, musician, scientist, novelist, etc. and you were invited as the special guest on a talk show, the host would ask you to “tell me about yourself” for the audience’s benefit. This would be your chance to give a brief, personable introduction about yourself and the relevance for your talk show visit.

Similarly, TMAY in a job interview is a chance to build rapport and to briefly share a few key points about your background, skills and experience that are relevant to the potential job. This question is meant to be a snapshot to kick off a broader conversation. Keep your answer short, engaging and connected to the role at hand.

3. Plan your answer.

An interview is typically around 30-45 minutes. Use your time strategically and keep your TMAY answer informative, affable and concise. It’s easy to ramble when we’re nervous. Writing out your TMAY response, and practicing, prevents this common misstep.

Here is one way to design your answer:

1) Give a quick, one-line snapshot about yourself.

2) Share one or two sentences highlighting your relevant experience and skills for this particular position.

3) Wrap it up and turn the conversation back to them.

Here is an example, so you can see how it fits together:

Interviewer: “I’ve got your resume right here. Why don’t we begin, by you telling me about yourself, and then I will provide information and details about the role.”

Your response:

“Sure! I'd be glad to. [Pause and take a deep breath to collect your thoughts]

I recently graduated from UC Davis, I have sustainability experience from previous internships and I’m an avid cycler.

I was excited to see this position because I have done significant sustainability work in my past internships, both at a recycling nonprofit and also as part of the corporate social responsibility team at a tech startup. I really enjoyed these experiences, collaborating on strategy, engaging employees and consumers, and learning how to implement sustainable business practices."

This coordinator opportunity combines a lot of my skills and my passion for the environment, especially protecting those bike trails, and I'm excited to learn more about the position from you today."

[Friendly smile]

Stop talking.

4. Allow the other person to rejoin the conversation.

After you finish your response, it’s important to stop talking. This is a natural pause. It gives the interviewer a few seconds to digest what you have just shared and allows them to rejoin the conversation.

Remember, it's TMAY not TMI. Resist the temptation to keep talking and potentially overshare. Many candidates are uncomfortable with the momentary silence that follows their TMAY response and immediately start talking again or elaborate further, using up valuable time during the interview. Some mistakenly assume that the pause means something negative or that they’ve ‘messed up’. Use your championship mindset: take a breath and don’t give into this false narrative.

More often than not, you did an outstanding job and the interviewer is processing your great answer or pleasantly surprised to hear someone who has clearly prepared – or, both.

5. Practice.

Great conditioning = great game days. So, you already know that practicing will make you feel more comfortable about interviewing, and especially the TMAY prompt. Doing run-through’s also helps you to stay on time. Aim for your TMAY response to be 45-seconds or so, and definitely less than a minute, max.

To make practicing easier, set aside a few minutes each day: use a timer, record yourself and evaluate how you’re coming across. A mentor or coach can also provide feedback, especially if you are new to interviewing or have not done it in a while.

Just as if you were appearing on a talk show, you wouldn’t go in cold. Honor yourself and your goals by making the interview experience the best it can possibly be.

An interview is a conversation

An interview is conversation with a shared goal: they want to hire someone great and you want to work at a fantastic organization. Both parties want to learn about the other.

Everyone gets nervous in interviews. Preparation and practice helps, although the goal is not to appear rehearsed, scripted or that you memorized your answers. In fact, good preparation will make you more relaxed, at ease, and better able to incorporate your main points in a conversational way.

You can do it

There is an awesome job out there waiting for you. “Tell me about yourself” is a first step in letting a potential employer see how great you are. Expect this question, plan for it, and let your light shine through.



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