How to Introduce Yourself in an Interview
Most interviews bring with them different challenges. However, the one thing that they do share in common is the HR questions.
Questions that ask you about yourself, why you want that job and many more often catch us off guard and puzzle us as to how to answer them tactfully. How can there be a version of answering something about our own selves that match with what the interviewer wants to hear?
But, fret not! There are many ways using which you can nail this round, too! This question just brings with it confusion and most often, comes up in just about every job interview and many job searchers hate it. They hate it because they get frustrated trying to decipher exactly what the interviewer is looking for. However, if you prepare properly, there’s no reason to dread this question.
This question is a goldmine of opportunities. It plays out like an opening for you to set the tone of the job interview and emphasize the points that you most want this potential employer to know about you.
So, this opportunity must be played out tactfully. Answering it by saying everything there is to know about you is the wrong start, and is definitely not what the interviewer is looking for. Therefore, set the tone by telling the interviewer not what you want them to know but what they need to know.
What the interviewer wants
When they are throwing the question, “Tell me about yourself”, at you, what do they want to hear from you? Well, for the interviewer, it’s a clean and simple way to start the interview.
Their ultimate goal for this interview is to find out enough about you to decide if you’re a good fit for the job opening. In several cases, most interviewers are coming in with an open mind wanting to like the fresh new candidate, because the sooner they hire someone, the sooner they can stop interviewing. They are tough, though, because their guards are up—they don’t want to hire the wrong candidate, which will invariably look bad for them later on.
So, they begin with the simplest yet most nerve-wracking question. This is in the hope of getting you to talk, either you will spill the beans on why you are the best or not so good candidate for the job. This is why you must be careful. This question is almost always asked first, perhaps right after some chit chat about traffic and the weather.
Your answer to this question will record the interviewer’s first impression of you and will set the tone for the whole interview. Using this to your advantage, you can now lead with principle and make the interviewer bend to what you want to tell them instead.
What are the mistakes one can make?
While we are trying to make it sound simple, it clearly isn’t. Answering a question about yourself while trying to fulfil the interviewer’s expectations of you is like reading minds. However, you need to be aware of the few things that needn’t be said before trying to build your perfect answer to this question.
One of the most common errors that people make while introducing themselves is narrating everything there is on their resume to the dot, albeit in a neat sentence constructed manner. What this is, isn’t an introduction; it’s merely a recitation and the interviewer is probably sitting there thinking of chai. By the time you’ve even got to the part of your recitation that’s got something to do with the job, the interviewer is not even listening to you.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about your resume at all. Introducing yourself with a brief summary of the important points in your resume is essential. However, you will be asked mainly about your accomplishments and responsibilities in your previous workplace, and previous roles. And what this should be is not a long recitation, but a conversation.
Even if the interviewer specifically asks you to “walk him through your resume,” don’t take the suggestion too literally. You can still lead with your elevator pitch and then weave your way into an overview of your most recent position, leaving plenty of opportunities for the interviewer to jump in.
Try to brag, don’t overdo it:
Another mistake that we often find ourselves making is the fact that we ‘sell’ ourselves a bit too much. Or, we don’t sell ourselves at all. What we need to find here is a perfect balance between the two, where we relay factual statements to the interviewer about our accomplishments even if there is a lot of “I have” or “I am”s in question.
Some people find it difficult and are not comfortable with “selling” themselves. But, always remember this: the competition today for any good job is extremely tough. Don’t rely on the interviewer to see past your humble exterior and figure out how great you are. If you take time to prepare, you can find a way to present yourself to full advantage while staying true to your personality.
This is where the balance has to kick in. What we mean by selling yourself isn’t bragging. You don’t have to use superlatives in this scenario to sell yourself. What you can build is an impression that you will get the job done, and link it to a previous work accomplishment.
Don’t get personal
Your interviewer isn’t your friend, and this is not a get-together or an outing. They certainly don’t care if you like mangoes or oranges, they don’t care what you do in your free time unless they ask, so don’t huddle over your hobbies and personal lives too much.
This is probably because many only have admissions and other school-related interview experience (clubs, programs, etc.). For these types of interviews, there is much more interest in who you are as a person. In job interviews, focus on who you are as a professional unless asked about hobbies or outside pursuits.
How to introduce yourself
There are ways you can look at this. Crunch it down to three steps and you’re good to go.
Firstly, focus on who you are and how you present yourself:
The first thing you say has to be your professional introduction. A brief about your strengths and shares the insight into your personality a bit as well. You certainly can’t nail it on the spot, so a bit of preparation is always good.
Good: “I’m a dynamic product manager with 5 years of experience managing all aspects of the product — from determining customer needs to market research — for X company.”
This is good because it does the job in a brief summary and gives the person’s professional background.
Bad: “Well, I grew up in Ghaziabad. As a child, I originally wanted to be a doctor, then later became interested in engineering. I excelled in the sciences from early on, placing first in my fourth standard science exhibition. Actually what happened there was…”
Nope. Nope with a capital N. Way too much unnecessary information. Cut it out.
Know what to highlight correctly
We always make the assumption that the interviewer has gone through our resume. Well, not always and not thoroughly. After your first brief, highlight more important points from your resume that can make a difference.
Good: “I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a customer service manager for X company, where I have won several performance awards and been promoted twice. I love managing teams and solving customer problems.”
This is good because there’s a clean focus on experience, enthusiasm, and proof of performance.
Bad: “My first job was as an administrative assistant for a small startup in Bangalore. I learned a great deal in that role that served me well. Actually it was an internship. At the time, I wasn’t sure about my career path, so I next took a position with e-commerce. It only lasted for six months, but I sure enjoyed it.”
I’m pretty sure you’ve put the interviewer to sleep. They do not care about your internships unless there’s something to care about. You are starting with the least impressive part of your career and the interviewer is likely to tune out before you get to the good stuff.
End by telling them you want the position and why
Good: “Although I love my current role, I feel I’m now ready for a more challenging assignment and this position really excites me.”
Concise and positive.
Bad: “Because of the company’s financial problems and my manager’s issues, I’m worried about my job’s stability and decided to start looking for new opportunities.”
Don’t be too candid or you risk coming across as negative. This answer also makes it seem like you’re interested in a job, any job — not this job in particular.
Remember: You will have time later to walk through your resume in more detail and fill in any gaps. Don’t try to squeeze in too much information or your interviewer WILL start to tune out.
A good interview is a dialogue, not a monologue. Keep it concise and give your interviewer the chance to dive in and ask questions.
Here is a sample answer:
I have more than five years of experience as a technical project manager at X company. Most recently, I led the development of an award-winning new trading platform. I’m a person who thrives in a fast-paced environment so right now I’m looking for an opportunity to apply my technical experience and my creative problem-solving skills at an innovative software company like this one.