What is your biggest failure?

Interview Questions _tell Me About Yourself
During an interview, it's the hiring manager's job to find out as much as she can about a candidate's aptitude in the most expedient way. No matter what kinds of questions the heart of the interview might entail, the most common way to launch the conversation is to address the candidate with an open ended question, something that says “Just start talking…I'll let you know when I'm interested in getting specific.” For most interviews, the first question is essentially the same and is worded in any of the following ways:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me a bit about your background and where you're coming from.
  • What's your story?
  • What brings you here today?

What Is the Interviewer Really Asking?

When she asks you this question, the interviewer is trying to accomplish a few simple things. First, she's encouraging you to feel comfortable in the spotlight. She's showing interest in your career path, and she's giving you an opportunity to express yourself in your own style before the interview narrows down on your specific skills and qualifications.

Second, she's listening to the nuances in your speech and the areas you decide to emphasize. She's gaining a sense of what kind of person you are and what you'd be like to work with. She's also giving you a chance to summarize your background and catch her up on the significant information that couldn't be included in your resume and cover letter. She is likely genuinely interested in your narrative so don’t overlook this question as just an icebreaker.

How Should You Respond to "Tell Me About Yourself" In an Interview?

First, let's discuss what NOT to do:

1. Don't clam up.

Never answer this question by squirming uncomfortably, declaring that you don't like talking about yourself, or asking over and over again for specifics (What do you mean? What do you want to hear about? Etc.). This is awkward, and it shows weak conversational skills, as well as a lack of confidence and self- direction, but you'd be surprised at the number of candidates who respond in this way.

2. Don't say the minimum.

Of course you don't want to blather on and on, but if you simply say, “I grew up in Ohio, I studied computer science in college, I graduated, and now I'm here,” then your interviewer doesn't learn very much about you.

3. Don't worry about boring your interviewer.

She'll stop or redirect you when she chooses. At the same time, stay attuned to social cues and don't ignore subtle signals that suggest it's time to move on

Now for Some Do's:

Here are a few things you MUST cover while answering this tricky question:

1. Treat this question as a valuable opportunity and answer with confidence.

Take a breath, smile, and then tell the interviewer when you first developed an interest in this field, where and how you took your first step up this ladder, and what special areas of interest brought you to this corner of the industry and this specific company.

2. Tell your career story.

The interviewer won't say so directly, but she's asking about your professional life only, not your personal life. If you need to, you can mention how your parents inspired you, or how you met your first industry contact at your friend's wedding. But otherwise, keep the personal talk to a minimum.

3. Share.

Put yourself in her position: If you were the one asking the question, what would you want to know about? Tell her everything you can about your experience with this kind of work, your passion for the field, and the most important lessons you've learned while on the job. Be interesting, be honest, and be forthcoming.

Before your interview takes place, try rehearsing your response to this question with a friend or mentor who can provide helpful feedback. You can also visit Livecareer.com at any time for additional advice.

Need more interview help? Click Here

Interview Q&A Categories

How to Answer the 3 Most Common Interview Questions

How to Answer the 3 Most Common Interview Questions

Follow these tips and boost your chances of getting a second interview--or getting hired straightaway
Job Interview True Stories

Job Interview True Stories

Even the most poised and professional of us make fools of ourselves at job interviews.
Interview Tips

How to Practice for a Job Interview

How to Practice for a Job Interview

If you’ve landed an interview, congratulations! You’re one step closer to getting hired...More

Interview Videos

Prepare for Your Interviews
Learn with our help today!

Prepare for Your Interviews
Interview Tips

3 Tricky Interview Questions You Must Know How to Answer

3 Tricky Interview Questions You Must Know How to Answer

Job interviews are always stressful. You're wearing an uncomfortable suit and shoes that pinch, and you're being grilled by a person who could decide...More

Live Chat Software