Nail Your Next Interview With This Yale-Approved Advice
“Tell me about yourself.”
There are two times in life when this question frequently comes up: 1.) At the neighborhood BBQ, and 2.) During a job interview. In the first instance, you can rest easy in the knowledge that the person asking is probably only going to tune into half your answer, depending on how many beers they’ve sunk. But beware of the second, because it could make or break your chances of landing a job.
According to experts at Yale University, it’s the one question you’re almost certain to be asked when you apply for your next position. Why? Because it demonstrates how your personality and experience apply to the position you’re going for.
It’s also the kind of question in which you could perhaps envision the answer going in about a million different directions. Thankfully, those same Yale experts have found a formula for the perfect reply.
How to Talk About Yourself
According to the Yale team, the perfect “tell me about yourself” answer consists of an opening, a motivational story, relevant academic work and supporting experiences, and a killer closer about how you’re a good fit for the job.
What would an answer look like? CNBC Make It has a pretty good example but here’s a cheat sheet:
Start with a description of your qualifications and area of study before highlighting aspects of your academic background, experience or research that are relevant to the potential job. Keep this bit short.
Throw to a motivational story that talks about a challenge you faced, how you tackled that challenge, and how that influenced your choice of career.
Then segue from the story into relevant studies, research, fundraising, internships or previous employment that helped further the skills and will now be useful for this job.
Close with what sparked your interest in this job and what you’re hoping to learn by taking on the position.
The Yale team suggests avoiding going into too much depth with your personal history and sticking to information that is important to the position, but it’s also a chance to highlight your strengths and also direct the interview, seeing as the interviewer will usually ask follow-up questions based on your answer.
Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, you need to practice your story. What this means is getting used to what you want to tell, because “what is in your mind is often not what is communicated in the moment.” What that doesn’t mean, though, is writing out every single word and memorizing it. That’s a fool’s errand and a surefire way to put your interviewer to sleep. First impressions are made quickly and you need to come across as personable and confident — just the kind of professional they’re interested in hiring.