I’ve been doing a lot of mock interviews with students lately and I usually can stump them right in the beginning by asking, “please tell me a little bit about yourself.” If the student is not prepared and has not done any practicing they usually fumble over this question and provide little information that I, as the potential employer, will usually not sell me on hiring the student. So, what can a student do to prepare themself to answer this question so that they can begin strong and not be forced to have to make up for a poor start to the interview?
The tell me a little bit about you question:
The key challenge is how do you sum up your entire life in one minute knowing that the answer to this question may be a big part in determining if you get the internship or not. The purpose of the question is for the interviewer to know a little bit about you and get a peek on your confidence and how you view yourself. The interviewer wants to see first-hand how you communicate and what past experiences have brought you to this point in your personal pursuits of seeking a job in this particular industry. Since this question is so important it’s key that you practice the answer to this question and be able to answer it enthusiastically once confronted with it in the interview. When practiced your answer to the question can set the whole tone of the interview and may bring the employer back to asking more questions about your answer further on in the interview. Remember to be yourself since the interviewer is also assessing you on how well they feel you will fit in in the overall company environment. In other words, you want to remember to smile and appear human because a robotic response may cost you the interview.
So, what should you say? It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Since each candidate has his or her own individual past life experiences, it’s hard to direct any one applicant on how to answer this question. Also, different interviewers look for different things so trying to create a cookie cutter answer will not work. The key to answering this question is to let the interviewer know more about you by being honest and direct. You want to focus on what it is about you that would make you the perfect person for the internship.
Focusing on interests, skills and accomplishments relevant to the job is key to answering this question:
This is the time when you want to communicate your personal attributes and the skills and accomplishments you have achieved so far. You may begin by saying, "I’ve always known that I wanted to go into business, particularly finance, when I won the young entrepreneur award sophomore year in high school. This was a school-wide competition that required each student to pick a local business and work with them on improving their business plan and developing new marketing strategies to help them improve their business."
Saying things like, "I’m a very motivated individual and always enjoy a good challenge", backed up with specific examples, is helping the employer to develop a picture about who you are and what makes you tick. You may also say, "I’m an excellent communicator and my participation in the student government and basket ball team at my college has been a major factor in helping me to develop my interpersonal skills that have led to a high level of success working in a team environment and in being successful in getting the job at hand done. My academic coursework along with my strong math and analytical skills have been enormously helpful in maintaining a high GPA in college as well as my internship experience with Goldman Sachs last year where I was able to complete a major project for the company that contributes to the companies bottom line today."
Keeping answers to interview questions short and to the point:
Last but not least, it’s important to keep your answer short. You have opened the door at the beginning of the interview for the interviewer to ask more questions. The same with any interview question, it’s important not to go on and on until you basically run out of things to say. If the interviewer wants to know more they will ask you and by keeping it short you reduce the risk of providing way more information than the interviewer wants to know.
Feeling confident and assured in the interview:
Once you’ve mastered your answer to this question you are well on your way of doing well in your interview. Be sure to also take some time in honing your non-verbal skills and in preparing answers to other interview questions so that you are feeling confident and assured that you will do well on the interview.