A very classic interview question ever. You will definitely get this a number of times if you are going to have interview for any discipline. Bit it in tech, business, health, retail you name it.
We will be diving into this infamous interview question from the tech angle though.
Some interesting facts to start with..
Thin slicing – There is a good article on this topic here. In a nutshell, it is the time it took for anyone to start judging of interaction with you. According to the psychologists it took about 3 (three) second to determine if business can be done with anyone or not.
The Seven Cs – In communication, for a good one, there are seven characters to be embedded: clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous. Read more here.
We are going to get back to the above points shortly. Just keep them at the back of your head while reading further.
What is the use of “Tell Me About Yourself”?
This interview question has a couple of usages depending on whom you are giving interview with. As we mentioned earlier, we will be focusing more on the technical interviews. But even in technical interview, you may interact with both technical and non-technical interviewers.
Interview happens to be a bit stressful – lets face it. As you make more and more interviews, it might get less and less stressful as far the intensity is concerned. Otherwise there will be a bit of it here and there.
So, this is a good start for the technical interview to give you a ventilation from your stress. When you are asked about yourself, you feel more confident and at ease than the other questions. Also it is the first question to be asked and hence will be used as the icebreaker in most of the cases.
Non Technical Interviewer – When it comes to the non-technical one, this could be probably one of the the main question they would like get as much as they can from you. Like the Human Resource, they want to know what kind of personality you have, what you have been doing in the past and in general, if there is any indication of your behavior from what you are going to unfold.
So, if it is, specially, non-technical interviewer giving you this question, you want to make sure to give them what they are looking for. We will dive more into that shortly.
The bottom line is, depending on who is asking this question, you want to handle it accordingly – keep reading.
How should I respond to this question?
The response for this one shall be focusing on a couple of points. But before that, try to think why you are interviewing. Or the other questions is, why does the interviewer taking her time and asking you this and further questions?
The answer is straightforward. The interviewer wants to hire qualified candidate to fill the position. The next question is, what interests the interviewer to hear from the prospective candidate? Would that be about your childhood? Where you come from? If you are married with kids or not? What you hobbies are? Or What you can tell about your skill/experience in relation to the position? Now you got it.
So the response for this shall be around the areas of:
- Your relevant skill
- Your recent role
- Tools, methodologies you have acquired relevant to the job you are interviewing
- Interactions with your team in your last company
And things that are around this area. In general the rule of thumb is to keep it relevant to the job you are applying. And, as suggestion, stay away from your personal life on the introduction – like name, nationality, background and the like. For that matter, the more you are talking about yourself, you might be putting the interview in an awkward situation as that can bias the decision.
Also keep in mind that, your basic information, like your name and experience, are already listed big and bold on your resume – so the interviewer doesn’t have to hear your name again.
Depending on the situation, there could be a time that you can tell about your family background if you find it relevant like telling if you have your own family, what kind of hobbies you have and the as a part of very minor percentage of your response.
How long should it take?
At the beginning we have mentioned thin slicing. A part of it comes here. Depending on who is asking you, it can be a minimum of 1.5 to 2 minutes to 3 to 3.5 minutes. Usually for the technical ones, where they are giving you a free brownie, it shall not be beyond 2 minutes. The more you talking about “yourself” for long, then others will start yawning and the rest will be watching the watch.
Make sure you can grab their attention with in the first 10 (ten) seconds – as they say hook them. The rest could an artful description of what you have mentioned during the first few seconds. Those first impressions do matter on how the subsequent questions will be rolling. This question shall not take more than 3.5 minutes in most cases.
Remember, the interviewer will definitely ask if s/he thinks there is something missing or something they want to hear more than you giving them everything whether they need it or not.
Keep it positive.
Sometimes it is tempting to talk about the previous or current company to justify our move for new job. But the negative talk, in whatever percentage, will backfire. Specially when it is at the beginning. If you have to talk about the previous or current company, it is much easier and natural to talk the positive aspect of it.
This will have a further shining effect on who has to listen for you. In general it is no-brainer. If you hear someone talking bad, whether you notice it or not, you will start to cringe and feel bad.
Clear and Courteous.
Take a look at the the seven C’s we mentioned earlier. Those are important to be kept through out your interview. You need those for an outstanding communication. But they weight even more at the beginning.
The interviewer has given you the chance to prove yourself. And this “Tell me about yourself” is the very first question. If your communication got short, not understandable and fuzzy it might alter the the upcoming anticipation.
of course, you can always make it better and it is not the end of the world by any measure. But, having that curve out nicely will invite the interviewer for more engagement without hesitance.
Interview is more of an art. The above points shall be a guide to you on how to approach it. It could go well without this route as well. But the most common scenario is added in there and it is better to follow it.
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