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Tell me About Yourself: How to Answer the First Interview Question


People spend a lot of time preparing for an interview. They stress over their outfit. They upgrade their computer equipment if they’re doing a virtual interview. They update their references, pour over the job description, and prepare good, pertinent questions to better engage the interviewer. Once they sit down for the interview, they’re focused, they look professional, and they feel ready.


And yet, it’s the first question that most often trips them up.


The First Interview Question


For most interviewers, the first question is deceptively simple. “Tell me about yourself.” It’s asked as an ice breaker question, of course, but it’s also a great way for the interviewer to gauge a candidate’s ability to communicate and respond to an open-ended, ambiguous question. It also gives the interviewer a sense of what they think is most important about their background. And most importantly, it sets the tone for the rest of the interview.


The Challenge of the First Interview Question


The possible answers to the question “Tell me about yourself,” are so unlimited that it’s difficult to know how to answer. Many people repeat their resume, ramble about their job history, or else they veer off into irrelevant topics, such as their hobbies, pets, or family. It’s easy to see how the first question can throw a job candidate off, especially when you consider the fact that most people are already stressed out and nervous before an interview, to begin with. How do you boil your life, or even your career, down to one paragraph anyway?


So the first question is deceptively simple, so simple, that it screws many people up. But the good news is that it’s also easy to turn that first question into an opportunity. All that’s needed is planning and preparation.


How do you Answer?


The answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself,” will vary from person to person, of course, but in general, the way that the answer is formulated should meet the following criteria.

  • Don’t skimp on the research

Be sure to read about the company and the position you’re interviewing for. Touch on aspects of your background that are relevant.


If you know who you’ll be interviewing with, read their LinkedIn page to get a sense of their background and personality. If you share a common interest with the interviewer, don’t be afraid to mention it. For instance, if the interviewer routinely participates in the Breast Cancer Walk, and that’s something you also do, talk about your experience there.

  • Make sure your answer is relevant to the position and the company

The first question is the perfect opportunity to talk about how your background and experience can fit in with both the company and the job description. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a position as a widget designer talk about your experience purchasing, using, or selling widgets, and your interest in building a better widget.

  • Use the “Elevator Pitch” formula

A classic scenario for a brief introduction is the “elevator pitch”. The elevator pitch is a concept that’s meant to be used when you find yourself in an elevator with anyone you’d like to make a business connection with, such as a manager, department head, or any other decision-maker. The classic elevator pitch is a brief, compelling introduction of a product, service, or idea, but it’s also a great way to introduce yourself.

  • Stay away from personal subjects

When answering the first question in an interview, be sure to stick to your career. There may very well be a good reason to mention your personal life later in the interview, but your answer to that first question should be limited to why you’re the right candidate for the job.


Let Optimum Staffing Solutions Guide You

Optimum Staffing Solutions can help both candidates and employers with the placement of accounting professionals. For the best staffing agencies in Greensboro, NC, as well as for the best staffing agencies in Charlotte, NC, contact Optimum Staffing Solutions.


A Greensboro temp agency, an Atlanta temp agency, as well as a Charlotte temp agency, Optimum, can provide your company with a highly skilled freelancer, contract, temporary, or direct hire professional along with HR Services. Of the temp agencies in Greensboro, NC, Atlanta, GA, and the temp agencies in Charlotte, NC, Optimum offers small to medium-sized businesses a wealth of talent to fill their positions.


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