The ‘Tell us about yourself’ Question

October 18th, 2020

Tell us about yourself?

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Do you have any interests?

However it might be phrased, this question is often one of the hardest for the candidate to answer. In theory, talking about oneself should come naturally. Who knows you better, other than, well, you?

Despite this fact, it can be stressful because rather than talking about the job or the company, you are now being judged solely on you as a person.

Not only is it the hardest, but it’s often the first thing a recruiter will ask.

Why is this an important question to ask a candidate?

The Muse has deemed it as the most common question to be asked during an interview or a  phone screening.

This is because, more often than not, the conversation can start off slightly robotic and full of offbeat small talk. By asking this question, the recruiter is casually transitioning from a welcoming introduction into the formal hiring process.

It’s a comforting start for both the recruiter and the candidate. 

Depending on the style of the interview, parts of the answer could offer leads for the recruiters second question. 

But, this question is primarily asked at the start because it helps the two people in question get to know one another. 

What to look for in a candidate’s answer:

Lily Zhang, a writer at The Muse, offers a simple ‘formula’...

Look for a present, past and future example within their response. What does Lily mean by this?

Present – Talk either about the positives within your current role or a recent accomplishment.

Past – Try to mention previous experiences that might be relevant to the company culture.

Future – Talk about where you want to be in a few years and how this position is a fit.

Of course, as a recruiter you shouldn't expect the candidates to tick off every ingredient mentioned. Telling a story that relates an aspect of the company and/or job should suffice.  

Here’s some great examples from The Muses’ blog post: 

(Slightly shortened.)

I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity.

After switching to a product marketing role and managing the two most successful new product launches last year, I realized I'm excited to take on a new role. I've learned I work best on products that I love and use, and given that I'm a big user of your company’s products I jumped at the chance to apply when I saw the open posting.”