What is the best way to describe yourself in an interview? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
If you are asked this question at the beginning of an interview ("tell me about yourself" or "walk me through your resume") you should give a 1-3 minute response that flows like a story. This isn't just any story - it should be the story of what you've done, why you've done it, and how your experiences, strengths, and skills have prepared you for the exact job you're interviewing for. I've asked this question hundreds, if not thousands, of times while I worked in recruiting and HR and this answer often sets the stage for the rest of the interview.
Here are a few additional tips:
- Keep it brief. Keep your answer to 3 minutes or less. You don't want to take over the interview so that the person on the other end doesn't have time to ask you the things they want to talk about. Also, unless your story is super interesting and full of twist and turns, it can get a little boring (and not relevant).
- Connect the dots. Make sure the way that you describe your different experiences build on each other in some way. "I did X because of Y and then based on what I learned there, I knew I wanted to do Z, so..." Even if in reality your different career moves were a little random, you don't want it to come across that way.
- Tailor your story to the job. You probably have lots of different elements of your background and experiences that you could share, but that doesn't mean you have to cover them all. You don't want to dump a laundry list of random tasks and responsibilities on your interviewer. Instead, leverage the job description for the role you're interviewing for, and share the aspects of your background that are most relevant for the role.
Below is an example of what this might look like for a college-aged student looking for their first job.
- Proactively address concerns. There are certain things that can be perceived as negative and may not be. If you have large gaps in between jobs or had a particularly short stint at a company, go ahead and address that up front.
- Wrap it up by bringing the conversation into the present moment. End your story in the present moment by explaining exactly why you are looking for a new challenge and why the job you applied for appealed to you. You might say something like, "This is why I started looking for jobs in the [insert] field and when I came across this role, I was really interested in the fact that it would allow me to [X, Y, and Z]." You may have other times in the interview to prove you were thoughtful in applying, but why not share it upfront? It's a great way to end your answer without awkwardly stumbling and saying, "...aaand, yea, that's pretty much it!"
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