Tell Me About Yourself

The need to tell people about yourself may present itself during an informal conversation with a colleague, on the Little League field with a neighbor, on the phone with a past acquaintance, or in a face-to-face meeting for a job opportunity. "Tell me about yourself" is a favorite question that has befuddled many an unsuspecting candidate.

Responses can range from strong to weak to irrelevant to fatal. Having a good response, grounded in your own philosophy, is as important as having a good serve in tennis. There are several different types of responses. Two that are very effective are the Specific Approach and the Overview Approach.

The Specific Approach allows you to identify specific, relevant aspects of your background, while the second is more of a summary of your background.

The Overview (or general) response is usually used to keep you out of trouble when you are not certain of what the interviewer wants. Your Overview response should be followed by a question that is intended to evoke a narrower question from the interviewer. That is, it forces him or her to ask a more specific question.

Example: Interviewer: Tell me a little about your business start up experience. Candidate: (Overview response) My experience covers the full breadth of starting up a business from developing a business plan to obtaining seed capital to acquiring plant and equipment to hiring staff. (Here's the follow up question) Is there some aspect of that experience, in particular, that you would like to discuss?

In either case, you should keep your answer between one and two minutes and conclude with "... Mr./Ms. Smith, I have been successful over the last several years, and I can be as successful with your organization because I am a person who is . . ." continue with four or five phrases that can be associated with successfully completed tasks, positive attributes, and personal characteristics - words and phrases that can trigger interest and have immediate impact. Here are a few more: "Ability to identify alternatives"; "Results oriented"; "Decisive"; "Both large and small company experience"; "Cut through non-essential information"; "Put through major changes"; "Good long-range planner".

If we agree that knowing yourself is important, how you address the job market and convey this to others is of paramount importance.

Rob Taub, CCM, is a Senior Consulting Manager for R.L. Stevens & Associates (, a career marketing firm and organization celebrating over 24 years of providing strategic marketing solutions for its clients' career transitioning needs.

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