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One of the most commonly asked questions that job applicants receive in an interview is “Tell me about yourself.” Many applicants hate this question because it’s so vague and because they’re unsure of how to respond. However, when you understand what interviewers are really looking for and the right approach to take, you can actually use this question as an opportunity to demonstrate what you bring to the table.

What Interviews Don’t Want to Know

Due to the fact that you’ve got a narrow window to explain who you are and what you’re all about, you need to focus on discussing the topics that an interviewer is most interested in. Some things they don’t typically want to know include:

  • Your life history
  • Where you grew up
  • Irrelevant jobs you had 15+ years ago
  • Irrelevant interests (e.g., badminton, bingo, salsa dancing)

Basically, you don’t want to bore an interviewer and waste their time rambling on with long-winded information that in no way ties into the job you’re applying for. This is likely to make a weak first impression, and you may knock yourself out of the talent pool.

What Interviewers Want to Know

The best way to answer, “Tell me about yourself” is to put yourself in an interviewer’s shoes and identify relevant topics that they would be interested in. You should think of it as a way to sell yourself and emphasize the qualifications and skills that make you great for the job. If you were applying for a manufacturing position, you might say something like “I have significant experience in manufacturing and have spent the last seven years performing multiple tasks including testing product quality, troubleshooting problems, assembling products, etc.”

Another area to touch on is your specific qualifications and accomplishments. Again, these need to be relevant and grab the attention of the interviewer. In the case of a manufacturing position, you might mention that you won several performance awards at your last job and that you received a promotion.

It’s also a good idea to explain exactly why you’re applying for the position at hand. For example, you might say that you enjoyed your last job, but you’re looking for a bigger challenge and you’re excited about what the position has to offer.

The bottom line is that you should avoid any extraneous information that has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for. Instead, cover topics that give tangible proof you’d make a suitable candidate and help you stand out from other applicants. The key is to show that you’re skilled, competent, qualified and enthusiastic without being overly arrogant about it.

By preparing yourself ahead of time, you can answer this often-dreaded question with great poise and impress your interviewer. For more career advice, check out our job search tips for more helpful information.

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