The World's Oldest Job Interview Question - and How to Answer It

Feb 29 09:49 2008 Allen Voivod Print This Article

Well, we can't reveal what that question is here! But we can promise it's the very first thing you'll read in the article, which also explains the true purpose of the question, and four solid tips on how to answer it.

"Tell me about yourself."

It really isn't a question. It's an open-ended command. It's an icebreaker for both interviewer and interviewee.

To put it another way,Guest Posting imagine you're single, and imagine yourself at a cocktail party. And as you're mingling, you meet someone attractive, and you say, "Tell me about yourself."

And that person doesn't shut up for the next fifteen minutes. Does that sound like fun for you? Probably not. You're probably looking to catch the host's eye for a conversational escape by minute five, and mentally crossing off a list of lame excuses to walk away by minute ten.

In other words, you've essentially stopped listening and you feel trapped. Do you want your job interviewer to have the same experience with you?

When you rehearse your answer to this question - that is, when you practice or role play with a friend, business coach, or loved one - here are a few tips for creating a great answer:

1. Don't go for the throat.

Your resume got you in the door, and you're going to be in the interviewee's chair for another 30-60 minutes. Relax. Don't try to tell the interviewer why you're the right one for the job in that first answer. No interviewer ever hears the answer to "Tell me about yourself" and says, "Stop the interview! The job is yours!"

2. Keep it high-level.

The executive summary of your resume has the salient points of your career direction concisely packaged. Drawing from that language (though not parroting it) reinforces your personal marketing message, and connects the dots between you and the position you're seeking.

3. Keep it focused.

Don't talk about your early childhood unless it has a direct correlation to why you're in the interviewee chair. And if it does have a direct correlation, get to the point fast.

4. Keep it brief.

You'd be surprised at how slow time moves in an interview. In a conversational tone and style, reading this article aloud would take less than three minutes, and it's about 400 words. Three minutes is forever in an interview, especially at the start.

There's a reason why "Tell me about yourself" is so commonly used, and it's just to get the conversational ball rolling. Keep your answer simple, high-level, focused on no more than 2-3 salient points, conversational, and about half as long as this article.

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 Allen Voivod
Allen Voivod

Allen Voivod is the Chief Blogger for, the leading resume distribution resource for managers, executives, and professionals looking to accelerate their job search results. Get the attention of thousands of hiring agents with the largest and most frequently updated recruiter database on the web, and dive into a wealth of immediately useful career articles and blog posts - all at !

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