Interview Question: Tell me about yourself

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Oct 02

It isn’t used as much, but the dreaded “tell me about yourself” interview question is still out there. The question is designed to give you an open-ended question (one with no “right” answer) so as to determine how you will do on the job.

In my opinion, it’s a cheap question designed to ask something the hiring manager isn’t willing to ask. But it is an interview, so we deal.

What is your mantra?

The first part of answering this question is knowing your “mantra.” Your mantra is the short sentence about what you bring to a job.

For example, I have two mantras. The first is “Rubber Meets Cloud.” I’m the person that looks at theory and knows how to implement it. The second mantra is “I take chaos, use creativity, and create structure.” This is taking a fluid situation, understanding it and then using creativity to find the best solution to the issue.

Once you can describe your mantra, you are in a position to answer this question.

How does your mantra fit the job description?

Without much to go on, the best information about the job is in the usually poor job description. But, it’s what we’ve got to work with, so that’s what we use.

What you want to do next is figure out how your mantra fits with the job description in the best fit possible. Is this a situation where you have a new process, don’t know how it will work and want someone to deal with ambiguity? I’ll take the chaos, use creativity and create some structure.

Is this a new strategy? What I do is take strategy and turn it into action steps that result in an excellent implementation. Yes, rubber meets cloud.

So take your mantra — your central value you bring to a job — and apply it to the job description.

Show your mantra delivers results

The final step is to show that what you do delivers results, especially in relation to the job description. It is important to tie all of this to results — because the hiring manager wants to hear results even though the question is simply to tell you about yourself. Right.

“What I bring to a job is what I call the “rubber meeting the cloud.” I take the theoretical — like the new strategy that is described in the job description — and break that strategy down into action steps that each of us can do to get the strategy done. When I did this for a new direction in running the operations of a division of a Fortune 100 company, I was able to implement the software, processes, and business methods of the strategy on time and on budget. That’s how I help companies reach their goals.”

It’s not talking about my family, my wife, my hobbies, my management philosophies or what I think about office politics. Instead, it is a mantra married to a job description that describes the results I can bring to a company.

In the corporate world, that’s “tell me about yourself.”

What’s your answer to “tell me about yourself?”

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.