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It is the dreaded question of many job seekers. Inevitably the recruiter and the hiring manager, and most likely every single person you interview with, is going to ask you… “Tell me a little more about yourself.” Usually it happens at the very beginning of the interview; an ice-breaker per se. How you answer this seemingly innocuous question will set the tone for the rest of the interview.

Most of you are answering it incorrectly.

So Really… Tell Me a Little Bit More about Yourself

The natural reaction, after a moment of “oh crap – how do I answer this,” is to talk about things outside of work. I like to ski; I have kids; I went to school at… and so on. {Buzzer Sound} Incorrect my friends.

Even though this isn’t a behavioral interview question, you are still in an interview.

Take every opportunity during the interview to stress your competence in the role. Your focus should always remain on furthering this goal of standing out, showing the interviewee your awesomeness, and being professional.

No one cares that you like to ski, that you have kids, or that you went to school someone you think is cool. I know, that’s harsh – but it’s the truth during an interview.

We want to know what you bring to the table. And this is your opportunity to share with us some insights and information with free-range! No silly parameters around this question, no expected response.

So grab it and highlight exactly the points you want to get across.

For example:

“Absolutely. I launched several HR Communications departments at various Fortune 500 companies – soup-to nuts; I have worked in just about every aspect of Human Resources; and I am passionate about building relationships and partnerships with my clients.”

Of course you can add some color and personal touches, but in the above example, you see that I firmly set the agenda of the interview. I am coming out of the door with my strongest deliverables and milestones. These are the things I want to be known for during an interview setting and they will also make me memorable and stand-out from the other applicants.

Contrast this what you’re currently doing, and the impact is so much greater. Instead of telling me things that happen OUTSIDE of the work environment, you are able to show me what your strengths are – and get the interview moving forward without any awkward pauses or silences.

If this approach seems a bit too concise for you and you’d rather bridge what you’re currently doing with my advice, be sure to stay far, far away from these topics (I promise):

  • Your kids and family: I wish I could lie and tell you that everyone cares, but unfortunately more times than not, the interviewee will start thinking about the potential time out that you’ll be taking due to your kids, etc. (Harsh, I know).
  • Saying you like to travel a lot: The first thought is, “how much time is this candidate going to ask off for vacation if he/she is hired?”
  • Extreme adventure sports: Use this one sparingly and depending upon your audience. It could be a connection point, but it could also be a warning flag of potentially high benefits costs.
  • Your relationship status: Just don’t say anything – it is illegal for the interviewee to ask about this, so don’t talk about it.
  • Religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and so on: There is a reason these are protected classes – there are still people out there with prejudices. Don’t open that door.