“Tell me about yourself.” The statement seems simple and easy enough but it can be one of the most stressful conversation starters. Is the person just being polite or is there a deeper motive? It can be a landmine that we second guess our response to afterward. With some thought and preparation, you can navigate this very successfully. 

Know your audience

It’s important to be aware of your audience as you answer this question because how you approach the question should vary significantly depending on who the person is. You can’t navigate this question with a one-size-fits-all canned answer.  

Social settings, significant other’s family, peers outside your company

  • In this environment, it’s okay to get personal just be sure not to be too personal. Keep it short, personal and positive. The person is likely asking the question for small talk and is not there to be overly judgemental. 

Interviews, potential hiring managers

  • These are veiled as a conversation starter, but these are often asked to see what they can get out of you. It’s also a way for them to get you to spill about things they can’t legally ask you in an interview. 
  • Craft your response differently for each person that asks you the question. You may have three or more interviews as part of the process to get the job and have every one of them start with a variation of you telling them about yourself. Your conversation with the first person should be about what you do. The last with a C-suite leader should focus on the impact to bigger picture goals. 

Template

Use this simple template in building out your response.

  • Present: What you do or what your role is and perhaps something that you’ve done recently that you are proud of. This is not the place to start listing out all of your greatest accomplishments. 
  • Past: Quickly tell about your journey on how you got there. 
  • Future: What are you excited about doing next and if it’s an interview, why you think they would be a great fit. 

Examples

Meeting your significant other’s family
        I just started at Stord a couple of months ago and have been loving it. We make it easy for companies to know exactly what they have where in a live setting. Before that, I graduated from Georgia Tech where I met Sara and we both are adventurous so we are excited to start exploring the city more this year. 

First interview for a sales job
        I’m currently at Salesloft as a sales rep. We just finished out the quarter and I was the top salesperson for the third time in a row. Before that, I worked in training at Mailchimp and really enjoyed investing in others there. I’m looking to continue to grow my career where I can combine my love of people and sales. I love the culture here at Leasequery and the sales trainer role looks like a perfect fit for my passion and experience. 

Last interview for a sales job
        I’m currently at Salesloft as a sales rep. I just won top salesman for the third quarter in a row and I’ve been enjoying helping set budgets and mentoring new Lofters this last year. Before that, I worked in training at Mailchimp and loved creating material that helped our people meet our business goals. From my time with Scott and Lakisha I think Leasequeary is a great match where I can serve long term and making lasting impact in the organization.   

Bad example for an interview
        So I just graduated from college and got married this summer! I interned in the marketing department at Mailchimp during my senior year. I’m a fun and personable guy and I work hard.  My wife and I go the beaches in Florida pretty often and we are hoping to end up there one day. 

More quick tips.

  • Practice on others that are close to you. 
  • Write it out. It sometimes helps in formulating your thoughts as you create your roadmap. 
  • …but don’t memorize. You want to come off as natural and authentic. Give yourself the flexibility to change or add something as the natural conversation goes on. 
  • Keep it positive. Don’t drag personal or professional negative experiences into the conversation. Remember that this is playing into the person’s first impression of you. 
  • Stay focused and keep it short and sweet. 

Get a good mental gameplan beforehand so you can navigate this space well and leave a lasting positive impression on the other person.

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH