It's a question that interviewers love to ask, and candidates hate to hear: "Tell me about yourself". Where do you even begin? What do they want to know?
Yes, this question can be overwhelming. You have had so many incredible life experiences that you've been dying to share. Maybe you can save the story about your spontaneous weekend trip to California for another time, but your interviewer just has to hear about how you sat only a few rows away from Prince William at Wimbledon last summer, right? Well, not exactly. In case you haven't yet realised, answering this question in a job interview is not the same as answering it on, say, a first date. Your interviewer is not interested in your life story; he or she wants to hear about the events and experiences that are relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Your response to this question will set the tone for the rest of the interview, so you can't afford to wing it (even if you did win a prestigious public speaking award in secondary school). In order to ready yourself, prepare something that highlights your experiences, abilities, and goals, and practice it several times leading up to the interview so it sounds natural and conversational.
FOCUS ON EXPERIENCES, ABILITIES, AND GOALS
The best predictor of future success is past experience. Paint a picture for your interviewer that includes any experiences or successes you've had that would make you an asset to the company. Interviewers don't want to hear general and empty statements; they want you to be able to back it up with a proven track record of relevant experience and, more importantly, success.
Secondly, focus on any strengths and abilities you possess that could translate well to the desired role. Mention your keen attention to detail or ability to consistently meet deadlines. If you can pinpoint specific instances of you doing so, your interviewer will be much more likely to take your strengths and abilities seriously.
Lastly, wrap it up by talking about your current situation and what you hope to accomplish in this role. Think about why you are interested in the company and how you plan on contributing to its overarching goals, as well as how it can benefit you in your career. Identifying your own interests and goals is crucial to any interview preparation. Entering an interview without a clear understanding of your own interests will surely jeopardise your chances of getting the job.
Once you've put together your spiel, there is only one thing left to do: practice. Rehearse your script several times before your interview until you feel comfortable and confident in yourself as a candidate. Let the script act as a guideline for you to stay on track, not a transcript that you must memorize verbatim. Remember, interviews are meant to be conversational, so your answers should never sound rehearsed or forced.
If you don't get asked this question during your interview, did you just waste all of your time preparing for nothing? Absolutely not. Not only can you use this information to guide your responses to other interview questions, but you now have a more complete understanding of what you bring to the table. After all, the more passionate you are about your product—you—the better chance you will have at selling it.