Responding to “Tell Me About Yourself” for Recent Grads
This is probably the one of the most frequently asked questions in an interview and having an answer that rolls off your tongue is critical. This is not an “icebreaker”. Interviewers use it to judge how articulate and confident you are and how you will interact with customers and colleagues. Many struggle with this question as it is so open-ended. Answering this question well will get the interview off on the right foot. It provides an opportunity for you to highlight your skills and capabilities, demonstrate self-knowledge, self-confidence, logic and initiative (you have done the research to understand the role and organization). There is a strong likelihood that you will be asked this question and therefore you must prepare for it.
- DO NOT ask what the interviewer would like to know or where he or she would like you to start – demonstrate that you can take control of the situation.
- DO NOT tell your life story, where you were born, siblings etc. – this information is unrelated to the problem the interviewer is trying to solve, namely trying to fill a position, as a result he/she will have almost no interest in it.
- DO NOT recite your resume – the interviewer has already read it.
Develop and use your Personal Value Proposition – a brief and concise statement of your relevant attributes, skills and knowledge, proven abilities and, interests, an example would be:
“I recently completed my B.Sc. at Queens University where I majored in chemistry. I was attracted to the logic of the science. I was involved in several clubs including the Science Club and the Finance Club. I was elected to represent my faculty on student council in my 4th year. Intramural sports was an important part of my university experience and I played hockey and basketball. During my last summer at university I worked in the research lab on a project with Professor Brown. Prior to that, I worked for several summers at McDonald’s and a student painting company.
I have excellent analytic and problem-solving and communications skills and have demonstrated the ability to both lead and contribute to teams.
My long-term career goal is to become a member of the leadership team of a major manufacturing organization. I am seeking an entry level role in a chemical manufacturing firm. I recently competed in an “Iron Man” event and managed to finish.”
Deliver your Personal Value Proposition with energy and enthusiasm. If you are applying for a specific role and have access to the job description focus on the requirements for the role and provide specific examples from your experience. Visit the company website to see if they articulate what they are looking for in employees in their Mission, Vision and Values statements. For example, if one of the requirements for the role is leadership cite an example of a time when you were in a leadership role. You do not need to go into a lot of detail of how you did it – that will come later in the interview.
“I led a team of 6 student painters for a painting company. My task was to ensure that projects were completed on time in a quality manner. My team’s average client satisfaction rating was 4.6 on a scale of 5.”
If you do not have access to the job description or if the company website does not address what they look for in employees, you will have to fall back on what business research has identified that companies are looking for:
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
- Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell and influence others
Add something personal that is not directly related to your academic or work experience to show other dimensions of yourself. If you competed at a high level in sports, founded a not-for-profit, or something of a similar nature that differentiates you from your peers do not hide it.
A strong response will contribute to making that all-important initial impression, set the tone for the interview and highlight the points you want to make.