“Tell me about yourself.”

By Claire Wasserman

This question can make a lot of us panic. It feels kind of abstract and it can be hard to narrow down our life story. However, it’s not really about your life story. What’s really being asked is, are you the right person for this job? A great framework to use is Present, Past, Future:

  1. Presentthis is about where you currently work and any key qualifications and strengths you have that match the job description.
  2. Pastthis is the meat of your answer. It’s about your education, experiences, and one or two achievements, being as specific as possible and quantifying as best you can. Include things you’ve learned and skills you’ve gained, and how that’s brought positive results in the work you’ve done.
  3. Future – talk about your goals and motivations and why you’re excited about this opportunity, including any ideas you have for the job. You might also want to reference the company’s mission and demonstrate how you exemplify their values.

But it’s not just about what you’ve done, it’s also about who you are.

  • What motivates you?
  • What are you curious about?
  • Have there been certain mentors, old bosses, or even coworkers who have had an impact on you?
  • What have you learned about yourself along the way?
  • How have all these things contributed to the decisions you’ve made in your life and in your career?

This is a way of connecting the dots in your career trajectory: explain the various roles you’ve had, what led you to them, and your general thought process from job to job. It shows your ambition and how you’re growing, and how this potential new job fits into that.


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