Tell Me About Yourself – A Good Answer To This Interview Question

Shama Hyder:

So, “Tell me about yourself.” The best way to answer this is to actually open with something personal and a funny anecdote. Now, here’s what you don’t want to do. You’re not going off some long story. They’re not asking you this to say, “How many kids do you have? How many pets do you have? What state do you live in?” No, no, no. This isn’t about your life story.

Shama Hyder:

Hey guys, it’s Shama Hyder, and I wanted to address a question that, at some point in your life, I promise you will have to answer if you are ever interviewing for a job, or really any type of position, even board positions, so forth, and it’s this question, okay? It’s, “So tell me about yourself.” And before I tell you exactly the formula, the perfect way to answer this question, that will impress any employer and put you heads and tails ahead of the pack, I want to tell you why employers ask this question. And I’m sharing this perspective with you from an employer’s perspective, right? So as CEO of Zen Media, I do tons of interviews, I interview people all the time. I really like interviewing still because I feel like people who are entering our company, that culture is important. So until we hit our thousandth employee, I’m going to do my best to interview people. And so here’s the honest truth of why I start interviews often with, “So tell me about yourself.” And here it is, okay?

Shama Hyder:

It’s an easy question for the interviewer. That’s the only reason most interviewers are asking it. It’s an easy way to start a conversation, right? You don’t jump in and say, “So tell me about your salary expectations,” or, “Tell me, why did you apply for this position?” People, as human beings, and in an interview, right, we are still human beings, they’re trying to set up that camaraderie. You’re trying to set up a relationship, the cadence for this interview. What direction is this interview really going to go in? And believe it or not, the interviewee has a lot more power than the interviewer, okay? So when I’m sitting there and I ask this question, it’s because I’m trying to open a conversation. I’m trying to see what is … I am trying to get a sense of someone’s personality and I’m trying to see how will they answer this in the best way possible. And now I’m going to give you the formula. And if you ever interview with me and you answer this way, I’ll know you watched it, but I promise you, this will impress interviewers, all right?

Shama Hyder:

So when someone asks you, “So tell me about yourself,” the best way to answer this is to actually open with something personal and a funny anecdote. Now here’s what you don’t want to do. You’re not going off some long story. They’re not asking you this to say, “How many kids do you have? How many pets do you have? What state do you live in?” No, no, no. This isn’t about your life story, but it is an icebreaker. And it’s important to acknowledge this and put the interviewer in a comfortable position too, right? So as an interviewee, if you can make the interviewer comfortable, if you can get them relax and say, “Okay, this is going to be an easy flowing conversation,” you have the upper hand.

Shama Hyder:

So what you want to do is start with a quick little personal anecdote, something that they can think of when they think of you. Remember they’re interviewing maybe hundreds, thousands of people. So if you say something funny or something that differentiates you, like maybe, “Well, I could tell you about how I spent my morning chasing my three-month-old puppy around,” right? Or, “Well, I could tell you about the time I helped my high school team win the championship,” right? At Roller derby or whatever it is. Something quirky, something fun, something that shows your personality a little bit. “Well, I could tell you about the book I am binge reading right now. Well, I could tell you about my favorite podcast.”

Shama Hyder:

But, and this is where you pivot. So you open it up and in a way that’s personal, that’s fun, that’s fresh, right? Piques their interest, “Well, what’s this about?” You create an intrigue. So you say, “Well, I could tell you about this,” something personal, positive, fun, and then you say, “But, let me answer this in a professional context.” This shows that you’re acknowledging that the question they’re really asking, that you really here to talk about a professional context, right? They’re not looking for your life story. So yes, you’re an interesting person, you do fun things and you’re answering their question in a way that you know really speaks to the heart of something.

Shama Hyder:

Now, when you’ve pivoted to that, keep these three P’s in mind, past, present and future. So you want to start from the beginning, if you will. Now given, beginning being whatever’s within the context of this position. So if you’re a 20 year career veteran, don’t go all the way to the start maybe, but start where it’s relevant. So you could say, “Well, in my previous position, I was working at an agency and my first year there I helped close $2 million in business. And then I was working with a client I loved, they recruited me to come work for them in-house. I absolutely loved it. I helped sell and close our biggest client to date. The company’s been around for 25 years, and I helped land a really exciting client working with my team. And I’ve had a great time and now I’m looking to expand into more marketing. I’ve got a great sales breakdown and really excited about this opportunity. And when I read your job description, or whatever it is, it really intrigued me that you’re offering this opportunity.”

Shama Hyder:

And again, guys, I’m giving you broad framework, right? Speak to the ad, speak to the job description. So as you pivot, remember, you’re talking past, where you started, your achievement, your present, where you are now, and then you’re pivoting it to the future, right? Which ideally links it back to them. So, “What I’m really excited about is that this position, it seems like, would allow me the opportunity to explore the marketing side of things, which I haven’t. I’ve done more the sales side of things,” or whatever it is. So you answer it in a full circle way.

Shama Hyder:

What this does is it also gives the interviewer now … So think about this like throwing a ball back and forth, right? They’ve thrown you a ball, you’ve caught it, you’ve answered it, and you’re throwing it back. You want to keep that conversation going naturally. So now you’re bringing it back to their job ad, their position, which allows them to say, “Oh, I’m so glad you said that. Yes, that’s right. This position is very much geared towards marketing,” right? And then you move on. So this is such a great question. And you’ll hear it so many times in life. It’s always this, “What?” “Tell me about yourself.” And it can feel it so daunting.

Shama Hyder:

What you don’t want to do there is one, not be prepared. So have your answer. You don’t have to rehearse it a million times, but know the general context of what you’re going to share, right? Don’t sit there and um and ah about it. Don’t say, “Um, well, I could tell you about … Boy, what do you want to know,” right? Or, “Well, I was born in Michigan and then I moved to California,” right? What you really want to focus in on is what they’re asking, which, really it’s very simple. One, they’re giving you a soft ball. It’s an easy, easy way to open a conversation. Do you have personality? What kind of person are you? When you share that, when you open with that intriguing, something fun, something curious, something quirky, is totally fine.

Shama Hyder:

Now don’t go too offbeat, right? You don’t want to go way off color here. But something within the realms of PG, PG 13 is totally fine, and it just creates that connection with the interviewer. It may be something that really speaks to who you are as a person, but you don’t stay there. Just share that little bit and then you acknowledge that really what they’re looking for is the professional context. So here it is. Here’s where you started the journey, here’s where you are right now, and bring it back again to them, here’s where you are looking forward, thinking future. Here’s why this stuff is so key guys.

Shama Hyder:

Interviewers, and I will tell you I’m guilty of this, we make up our mind very quickly. I can have a very quick sense of what someone’s like and they’re not always the right impressions, I’m not saying it’s always right, but you do feel, people do rely a lot on gut instinct and saying, “Do I click with this person? Does this person feel like they would be a good culture fit?” And then everything else in that interview that follows, they’re either validating how they felt or you’re really creating that friction where they were like, “Man, I thought this, but now it’s going in a different direction.”

Shama Hyder:

What you want to do is set the tone really positive and keep it positive, where they feel like, “Hey, this is a cool candidate. I’m enjoying this conversation.” And then they see more and more that makes them feel more positive about you. So this is really important, tell me about yourself. And by the way, quick fun tip, when you follow-up, and please, please, please, tell me you follow-up, you always send a thank you, all right? Regardless of whether you had a great interview, terrible interview, always, always, always send a thank you note. Can be an email, just send a thank you thanking someone for their time. It matters. It makes you stand out.

Shama Hyder:

And in that thank you note, you can definitely reference whatever it was that you mentioned, that quirky thing, “Hey, interviewer X, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciated learning more about the opportunity. I know you probably talked to a million people, right? I was the one with the puppies.” Whatever it is, something that gets that interviewer to say, “Oh, okay. I remember that. That was fun. That was quirky.” What you’re really trying to do here is be memorable. And what I really want you to do is nab that job. And I promise if you do this, you will be head and shoulders above the other guys. Hope it was helpful.

Shama Hyder:

Hi there, this is Shama Hyder again. Thank you so much for watching my videos. I super appreciate it. Please share it if you find this information valuable. Do comment. I love hearing from you. And be sure to subscribe, that way you don’t miss a single thing.