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3 Ways to Tell an Interviewer About Yourself

We've published a lot of articles about the job search during my tenure as editor in chief at TheLadders ... But the hands-down winner has been a story by veteran HR pro Lee E. Miller about "How to Answer the 'Tell Me About Yourself' Interview Question."
Why does this article keep readers coming back? My theory: The open-ended nature of this question makes a stressful situation even more intimidating.

Miller does a nice job of clearing some of the fog. The only wrong way to answer this question, he writes, is "What do you want to know?" ... a sure sign you haven't done your homework.

By contrast, there are plenty of right ways to answer, and all of them combine the interests of the interviewer with your most important career achievements.

1. Stay focused on the most important details! "Tell me about yourself" is not an invitation to recount your life story. Forget chronology, and focus on the information that proves you can do the job.

According to Nancy Fox of Fox Coaching Associates, "many candidates, unprepared for the question, skewer themselves by rambling, recapping their life story, delving into ancient work history or personal matters." Fox recommends starting with your most recent employment and matching your qualifications to the interviewer's needs. "In other words, you want to be selling what the buyer is buying."

2. Highlight your greatest accomplishments. Greg Maka, managing director at 24/7 Marketing, told Miller he advises job seekers to "tell a memorable story about your attributes." For example, if you tell an interviewer that people describe you as tenacious, provide a brief story that shows how you have been tenacious in achieving your goals. "Stories are powerful and are what people remember most," he said.

3. Keep it brief! Maureen Anderson, host of "The Career Clinic" radio show, stresses the importance of keeping your answer short: "The employer wants to know a little bit about you to begin with -- not your life story. Just offer up two or three things that are interesting -- and useful. You should take about a minute to answer this question."