In the Boardroom

4 Reasons to think hard about "Tell Me About Yourself"

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Used with permission - photo courtesy of Luigi Morante

You’ve arrived at the company where your interview will take place. You’re sitting across the table from your interview and you’re lobbed a question that is frequently used to open the discussion: So, tell me about yourself. Simple. Innocent. Filler. Right?

In reality, this question is perhaps one of the most important ones for which to have a well-thought out, pre-planned answer. With hiring decisions sometimes made in the first 90 seconds of an interview, this question can be a make or break opportunity.

We recommend tackling this question using the following strategy:

1. Keep your answer short and concise

Think more like Tell me about yourself in under two minutes. A short, concise answer gets the discussion started quickly, shows you can synthesize complex points into a simple answer, and ensure you don’t lose the interviewer’s attention on the first question.

2. Develop an opening statement that speaks to the skills relevant to the job for which you’re interviewing.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a sales job and your background is in sales and finance, maybe open your answer with something like:

My background includes a lot sales and business development experience. In my first role, I focused on developing sales strategy for a $2MM line of business and then moved into direct sales experience in my second role where I exceeded sales targets for 10 of 12 quarters.

3. Focus on high-level items

Getting too deep into the weeds on this question can be a dealbreaker. So, rather than highlighting every accomplishment, think of your two or three most significant ones and focus on expanding briefly on those. Remember, you’ll always have the rest of the interview to get into the nuts and bolts of specific projects and accomplishments. This opening should be used to make the case that you belong in the consideration set.

4. Wrap up your answer by touching on how why your experience brings you to the interview today.

You’ll want to be sure that you provide clear closure to this answer in a way that helps to create the tone for a conversation. One way to do this is by wrapping up your answer by saying something simple like: “Given my background and the description of this particular role, I’m looking forward to talking to you today.”

Keeping your answer to this opening question short and sweet is the ideal way to answer the anything-but-innocent Tell me about yourself. Good luck!