During any interview, one of the first questions an interviewer may pose to you is: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” As an opening, this is an opportunity to introduce yourself, but it can be daunting to find what to say to showcase yourself if you have never done it in this setting before. What’s important? What’s professional? First impressions are vital in an interview, as many people will use their first impressions of people to guide their overall perception of them, and this is difficult to change later. Thus, it’s important to be well-prepared to answer this question in any interview, and here are some helpful tips:

First, understand why employers are asking this question

Employers ask this question first to break the ice and make you more comfortable. Through this short summary of yourself, employers want to get a glimpse of your background, skills, experience, and qualifications. These will help capture if you are a right fit for the job from the get-go. Your answer can help set the tone for the interview, and a well-prepared one shows the interviewer that you are comfortable answering open-ended questions and can think quickly on your feet!

What to include in your answer

  • Mention relevant past experiences and successes. The job description and posting will tell you the basics of what this potential job will entail. Share some stories from recent work or volunteer experiences that show you are ready to take on these requirements.
  • Relate your current job to the one you’re applying for. Showcase the responsibilities and skills you have been honing in your current position and show why your current experience makes you qualified for this role. 
  • Focus on strengths and abilities. Reveal the traits that make you a great candidate for the organization and back them up with concrete and specific examples. Research the company and look through the job description and utilize that information to effectively convey why you’re interested and what strengths and abilities you bring to the table that align with the role and company. 
  • Highlight your personality. This is the time to share a little bit about yourself to help to develop a personal rapport with the interviewer! Share your personality and personal interests. You may want to mention hobbies that may not have to do with the career specifically but demonstrate intellectual achievement. Are you learning a new skill? Are you engaged with the community and actively volunteering? These would be great to highlight and show the interviewer the real you while still maintaining a professional tone.

How to format your answer

In the beginning, it can be hard to know where to start. Consider utilizing the Present-Past-Future formula to help get you started. This formula looks like this:

  • Start with the present. Where are you now? What is your current job, passions, and hobbies?
  • Then the past. How did you get to where you are? What does your prior education, work, internship, and volunteer experiences look like?
  • End with the future. What are your goals? How does the position you are applying for align with this?

You may also choose to do a variation of this formula and instead utilize Past-Present-Future. Changing the order in this way allows you to highlight your past experiences a little more than your present job, which would be helpful in the case that your previous positions are a little more relevant to the position than your current job. 

How to prepare for the interview

After figuring out how you want to answer this question, our career counselors recommend that you practice, practice, practice! Practice saying your answers out loud and don’t just write them out. It’s also helpful to practice in front of someone like a career counselor, friend, parent, or co-worker, and while it might be a little awkward in the beginning with stumbles and errors as you begin to practice, you will likely get better. Once you feel confident answering this question out loud, you will feel more confident and prepared when it is time for the interview. 

So, when the time comes for your next interview, put your best foot forward, and be confident! Share your uniqueness and why you are a GREAT fit for the company. You got this!

To prepare for your next interview, be sure to check out the Manoa Career Center’s resources as well! Check out 14 Things You Should Know About the Interview as a pocket workshop. You can also schedule your own mock interview with one of our career counselors by contacting careers@hawaii.edu.

For more information, I have also linked the original articles I read with some extra links below: