"Tell me about yourself"

"Tell me about yourself"

By: Melissa Chungfat | SIAT/CS Surrey Co-op Student Advisor
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“Can you please tell me about yourself?”

It’s that lovely introduction question that many of us have been stumped on during interviews. Whenever I practiced this question both as a Co-op student and as a job hunter after graduation, my answer was at least five minutes long and changed each time I rehearsed it. People can easily get into their life story during an interview if they haven't been coached.

You can be very strategic with this question by talking about what drives you in your field of study and your interests that relate to the job.

Four categories to consider

The answer to this question can be a recap of your resume and you will likely be doing a favour for your interviewer by giving them a concise rundown about yourself.

It's very important to be genuine and don't get caught up in what you think the employer wants to hear by giving generic answers that other people can say. Avoid saying sentences like, “I have excellent communication skills,” or “I’m a team player,” without elaborating on how these qualities specifically set you apart from your competition.

The following are four categories that you can talk about with this question. But remember, change the order of your answer according what is most relevant and interesting based on your experience.

1. Education

Talk about what you're studying and what you love about your field.

2. Volunteer

You can then give a snapshot of some of the volunteer work you have done without necessarily going into too much detail because you want to save some of those detailed stories for other interview questions.

3. Work experience

Any work experience you have is an asset so it’s good to give the interview a preview of some of your work experience and focus on those transferable skills.

4. Personal

You can end by saying something personal about you and your interests. This is another place you can show your personality to set you apart from the other students while being strategic at the same time. Mention anything that you do on your own time that ideally relate to the industry you’re in or your transferable skills like working with people in some way.

Example

Here an example of how a student can answer the question. Pay attention to the transitions between these four categories during the interview. The details are based on true stories.

Let’s say this student is applying for a graphic design position for a non-profit organization:

"I'm a third year Interactive Arts and Technology major concentrating in design. I came into this field because I have been drawing and sketching since I was in high school and I wanted to become better at my craft. In my program, the most related concepts I’ve applied in my volunteer work are design principles, user testing and prototpying.

In the past, I volunteered to design a brochure for an organization that rescues animals in my neighbourhood. I chose this organization because I love animals and it was a great way to use my skills to give back to my community.

As for work, I am a part-time barista at a coffee shop. I really enjoy talking to customers and working with my colleagues in a fast-paced environment. I have developed good relationships with the people who come regularly as well as the people I work with.

In my own time, I like reading blogs from top designers so I can keep up with the industry and improve my own design.”

You don’t have to give full stories when you’re answering this question, but just enough of the most related points to the job.

Practice this question with your Co-op Coordinator, friend or family member a few times until you get comfortable with the question.

We look forward to hearing your story.

Posted on July 20, 2012