We know ourselves better than anyone else in the world, yet when a hiring manager says, “Tell me about yourself,” many of us freeze. We get foggy and have a hard time stringing together a few sentences about who we are in a succinct manner. Shouldn’t it be obvious who I am? You read my resume! goes through our heads. Unfortunately, no, the interviewer has no idea who you are. So here’s what to focus on.
Focus on your professional background and a few key decisions you made that got you to the interview, and tie it to the role you’re applying for. Leave out your hobbies and favorite ice cream flavors unless it came be made explicitly relevant to the role you’re applying for. The purpose of the question is to understand what someone has done that makes them a fit for the position AND a fit for the company.
Tell a story that is relevant to the career path you’re on and what you like about it. It’s appropriate to touch on a family connection to an industry, but don’t share too many personal details too early. E.g. Grandma teach you how to bake as a child leading to a culinary career is good; my children have a rare illness so I pivoted to Biology is getting into personal matters that shouldn’t be shared.
Use the time to brag about something specific you accomplished. Use your highlight reel. E.g. I improved X metric by Y amount by changing Z. Or, I won X award for being the best at Y. The more specific, the better. Hiring managers can detect what’s fluff and what’s not, so details matter.
The opportunity to tell the hiring team about yourself is an opportunity to impress them. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your communication and story telling, to share what you are proud of, and build rapport with someone you may share an office with.