How to really tell about yourself: The interview "rabbit hole" question

3 Tips to Make a Lasting Impression in the Workplace

Wednesday, October 17th - Anemmeabasi B . 

There are certain interview questions that you can always expect to be asked, no matter the job you are applying for. One of these questions is the standard “tell us about yourself” question. This is a question that most people fumble with and often miss to answer correctly. A common misinterpretation of this question includes vaguely going into personal life history, which is not what the interviewer is looking for. What the interviewer(s) are looking for is how you would be the best fit for the company. What makes you the ideal candidate for this position? Why should they hire you?


The number one thing you should not do when answering this question is recite your personal life history. They do not need to know what role you played in your 3rd grade ballet recital, they are more interested in how your work history is the best fit for the company. Another thing you should not do is go through your resume as though it is an ongoing list. The interviewers(s) already have this with them and know what is on your resume. That is why you got your interview in the first place!


When asked to talk about yourself, you should really tell them about your work self, not your personal self. For example, you could share your experience working with a difficult team and how you demonstrated your skills to complete a project. Or you can share how you tackled a complex task, which shows how well you can adapt in different work environments. When answering this question, one thing to always remember is to give them a work history. Tell them “When I was at this position at company XYZ, I did this, and I strengthened this skill and so on”. Do not just recite what is on your resume. Expand and explain on your skills and experiences to let the interviewer(s) know what competencies you have gained and how you are most suitable for the position.


Choosing to answer with personal information may actually work against you as a candidate, since everyone has their own personal bias. This question is understandably ambiguous, but you can use this to your advantage. This is the interviewer giving you a chance to connect with them beyond the words on your resume. You want to show the interviewer the kind of person you are in a work environment and that you are someone that would be a strong addition to the team.


According to Monster Job Search website, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for this question is to script your answer. Invest some time prior to the interview to walk yourself through what you would say if they were to ask you this question as the chances are they will. Filter through your highlights at each previous job, volunteer or experiential experience, and expand on your skills, tasks, and outcomes in relation to the company. A tip to follow is the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result and Relevancy, when scripting your answer. 


You can also consider how your current job relates to the job you are applying for and pull from those positions to show that not only can you incorporate different work environments, but you can utilize skills and experiences from past work positions and bring those to the current position. A quote from Indeed wraps all these ideas up nicely, “the tell me about yourself question really boils down to what do you want the interviewer to remember about you”. Have these skills and experiences in the back of your mind when preparing for your interview and good luck with your future career endeavours!