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Liz Ryan Contributor

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. full bio →

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I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

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Leadership 598,984 views

How To Answer The Question 'Tell Me About Yourself!'

Job-seekers know they’re going to be hit with the Big Three traditional, brainless questions at nearly every job interview. The Big Three questions are:

  1. What’s your greatest weakness?
  2. With so many talented candidates, why should we hire you? and
  3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

These are all stupid questions, but most job-seekers know how to answer them by now. One question that still throws job-seekers for a loop is the question “So, tell me about yourself!”

It isn’t a question, of course – it’s a request or command. In this column, we’re calling it a question.  However we classify “Tell me about yourself!,” you’ve got to have something intelligent to say when you hear it.

Often, it’s the very first question you’ll get as the interview begins.

What do you say when they ask you to talk about yourself? You could start with your childhood, like this:

“I grew up about ten miles from here. My parents had a farm. I studied Mechanical Engineering in college and over the past ten years became a Product Engineer.”

You could talk about where you are now in your career, like this:

“I’m an Online Marketing person, with a focus on ecommerce sites and online merchandising.”

sheepie job seeker

When you’re asked to talk about yourself, you have no idea what the interviewer is looking for. Have they read your resume, or are they asking you to talk about yourself so they don’t have to read your resume? Most job-seekers find “Tell me about yourself” a hard question to answer, if only because you don’t know how much of your story the interviewer wants to hear.

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