How to answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

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Alexandra Nobida/Staff

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With recruitment season comes an onslaught of applications and interviews. Everyone’s trying to stand out from the crowd and put their very best foot forward, and if you’ve been thinking of how to answer common interview questions, you’re on the right track — it’s best to be prepared. One question that’s especially confusing is “Tell me about yourself?” Do they want to know what our hobbies are, or does the question warrant a serious overview of our experiences? If you’re confused, here are five effective ways to respond:

1. Memorize your resume and recite it.

Your goal in the interview is to highlight your skills and experiences and share why you’re a good fit, but that’s also what your resume was meant for. Since they’re asking, they clearly haven’t looked at it closely enough, so this is your last chance to force them to pay attention to every bullet point.

While you reel off all your concise sentences and carefully inserted numbers, make sure you maintain strong eye contact and talk fast so that you aren’t stopped.

2. Tell them what “yourself” means.

This isn’t an incorrect answer and will show your interviewer that you pay attention to detail and have a firm grasp on grammar. Explore the word as much as you can, and share fun examples to display how well you can apply theory to real-world problems. Is it better used reflexively in a sentence such as “If you annoy your interviewer, you might sabotage yourself?” or in an absolute construction such as “I don’t think you’ve really been yourself in this interview?” Share what you think. Make sure they know everything about yourself.

If you’re really passionate and determined to get the job, go all-out and throw in a pronoun such as “oneself” and talk about how it’s so different from “yourself.” You will make a lasting impression, we promise.

3. Tell them about your biggest fears.

If they want to know you, they should know all of you. Tell them about your fear of spiders and how you once had to sleep in the living room for three days during midterm season because you spotted a huge spider near your bed. Your resume and cover letter talk about your accomplishments and skills, but it’s so important to show that you’re a real person.

4. Share some personal fun facts.

If you feel like talking about your fears is too far, share some fun facts instead. Are you double-jointed? Are you someone who is lactose-intolerant but still eats ice cream and regrets it later? Have you ever had a crush on your GSI? They need to know.

By being open and honest with your interviewer, you show them how much you value transparent communication and close relationships within a team. If they’re searching for a candidate who knows how to work with different types of people and breed collaboration, this will prove to them that you’re confident and perfect for the job.

5. Narrate a typical day in your life.

If you really want them to know you, the best way to show that you’re a good cultural fit for their workplace is to give them a picture of a typical day. Tell them what time you wake up, how you feel in the morning, what your breakfast of choice is and whether you’re early or late for your 8 a.m. classes.

Get really specific to make sure there’s nothing you miss. This could make or break your interview — if you forget to share that you walk through Sproul Plaza twice a day, how will they ever know how resilient and strong you are?

Contact Mahira Dayal at [email protected].