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How to Handle “Tell Me About Yourself” in a Job Interview

“Tell me about yourself.” It’s a simple phrase that can stump even the most seasoned job candidate. A common interview opener, this deceptively straightforward question has the potential to make or break your first impression.

Many candidates struggle with this open-ended prompt because it’s difficult to gauge how much information to share and to determine which details are most relevant. However, with proper preparation, you can craft a concise, compelling response that showcases your key skills and qualifications.

Here are a few expert tips to help you navigate this critical interview question with poise and confidence. With some practice, you’ll be well-equipped to deliver a polished, memorable answer that sets the tone for a successful interview.

Why is this prompt a common icebreaker?

First, it’s important to understand why interviewers ask you to share details about yourself. It’s an informal icebreaker that eases you into the conversation before answering more targeted questions about the position, your experience, and the company. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy and doesn’t require planning. While informal, the question gives the hiring manager a lens into your confidence level, your ability to distill the most relevant and important information about yourself, and how clearly and effectively you communicate.

Respond in a way that is approachable, sincere, and humble.

It’s essential to strike a balance between professionalism and authenticity. While your primary focus should be highlighting your relevant career experience and accomplishments, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a few personal details that showcase your unique personality.

Start by providing a brief overview of your professional background, emphasizing the key skills and experiences that align with the requirements of the role you’re interviewing for. As you discuss your career trajectory, infuse your narrative with genuine enthusiasm and passion for your work in Accounting and Finance. This is a great time to illustrate how intentional you have been in your career journey and how tirelessly you work toward your goals.

To make your response relatable and engaging, share a brief anecdote that illustrates your values, work ethic, and problem-solving abilities. For example, you might mention a challenging project you successfully navigated or a leadership role that resulted in professional or organizational change or growth.

End with something fun but relevant about yourself. This could be a hobby or interest outside of work that contributes to your overall character and well-roundedness. You may enjoy participating in a sports league, volunteering for a cause you care about, or pursuing a creative outlet like music or art. By sharing these human elements, you’ll help the interviewer see you as a multifaceted individual.

Base your response on well-rounded research.

Be very familiar with the job description and company. Know the key skills and experience required, as well as company culture, values, and goals. Then, tailor your response to those. Include some “selling points” about how you are uniquely suited for the open position, your goals for the future, and why you are passionate about the company. This is your elevator pitch: unique skills + motivations and goals + passion to serve the company.

Avoid irrelevant information.

There are few things to avoid when sharing information about yourself:

  1. Keep details about your family and upbringing minimal.
  2. Never start an interview complaining about why your current/former employer is/was a bad fit.
  3. Don’t recite your resume. The hiring manager already knows the bullet points about your experience.

Instead, think about highlighting one to two current accomplishments (unique skills), one to two past experiences that have shaped your career trajectory (motivation and goals), and one to two aspirations (why you want to serve their company).

Be succinct.

Plan to spend about 30 seconds in each of these three key areas. The average hiring manager will lose interest in your response after 90 seconds. Know what you are going to say and practice saying it so that your response is clear, concise, and compelling — the three Cs of interviewing.

Here’s a strong sample response.

“I was born and raised here in Southern California and think it is the best place on earth.  I chose UCLA (and gratefully they chose me) as I am a massive sports fan and love college football – not to mention they have an amazing Econ program! 

In college, I realized I enjoyed finance and was able to land a position as a financial analyst at ABC Company. This was a great position for me as I was able to get a 360 view of corporate FP&A. I enhanced my Excel and financial modeling skills and had a great team and mentor. But ultimately, when I was ready to advance to the next level, there was not a position for me, so I made a move to DEF company.

In my current role as a Senior Financial Analyst, I support sales and marketing on the budget, forecast, pricing, proposals, expense analysis, and ad-hoc projects. It’s given me an excellent opportunity to understand the inner workings of the consumer products industry, and I am really lucky I get to work side-by-side with amazing sales and marketing leaders. Personally, in my free time, I love to read and run marathons, and I’m a foodie!

At this point, is there anything you would like me to expand upon?

Master Your Response

Mastering your response to “Tell me about yourself” will set you apart from other candidates and make a lasting impression on your interviewer.

Remember to lead with your most relevant career points, demonstrating how your skills and experiences align with the requirements of the role. At the same time, don’t hesitate to inject a bit of your unique personality by sharing a few personal anecdotes or interests that showcase your human side.

The goal is to present yourself as a well-rounded, qualified candidate who would be a valuable asset to the organization. In following these strategies and practicing your response until it feels natural and confident, you’ll be well on your way to acing the interview and landing your dream job in Accounting and Finance.

Are you preparing for a career transition or job interview? Alliance Resource Group can help.

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