Oftentimes, the very first question of an interview is also one of the most difficult and can set the tone for the rest of it – “Tell me about yourself.” Although the question may be phrased differently from employer to employer, most interviews start out with a question requiring a longer answer that explains about your background. With the right preparation, acing this question is a cinch.
First of all, the self-introduction should be relatively concise. Keep it to about one or two minutes maximum. As long as you are mentioning your relevant experience, you should fall within this range. The employer is not looking for your life story, so skip ahead to what is related to the current position. You may mention your education, your internship and work experience, or your personal projects. Talk a little bit about what you did at each position that is related to the current position you are interviewing for. If you do your research and practice ahead of time, this will be much smoother.
The easiest way to figure out what to talk about is to read the job posting first. What requirements do they list? Do they want someone with a certain background? What about education? How does your previous experience fit into these requirements? Do you have any interpersonal skills that are listed? Most importantly, what qualifies you for this position?
Make a list of key points you want to bring up. Yours could include points like: “10 years of experience in the field,” “vast technical knowledge,” or “transferable skills from internship – communication skills and data analysis.” When you practice your speech ahead of time, check them off as you talk about them. This will ensure that you are well-practiced in your response and don’t forget anything important.
Eventually, you may want to time yourself or even record yourself to make sure the answer is strong. Webcams are widely available, inexpensive, and easy to set up for this purpose. If you have a camcorder or digital camera, you can also use that. Watching yourself may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is a crucial step to improving your interview skills. Knowing you are confident in your answers relieves interview anxiety and nervousness, so push through the discomfort and work at it!