Let me tell you about a man called Marshall, whose dream is to become an environmental lawyer and save the world. However, Marshall was persuaded by a friend to work as a corporate lawyer for a bank to earn a higher income.
The only problem was that this bank is known as an “evil” corporation that treats people terribly and cares nothing about the environment, basically everything that Marshall hates.
So how would Marshall reply to the “Tell me about yourself” question in his job interview?
He can either be honest about his opposition towards the bank’s practices and risk losing the opportunity or blindfold himself and take the job that he knows he won’t enjoy.
To answer this kind of cultural fit question, it is best to reflect upon your personal goals. Because most hiring managers will tailor the rest of the conversation based on what you share initially, don’t try to match your answer with the company’s background.
A rule of thumb is not to share either too much or too little. Here are the three topics that you can mention, plus sample answers to help you land your dream job.
Professional background (that summarises the employment history in your resume)
Since the employer gives you a chance to “sell” yourself, don’t hesitate to emphasise on what you have to offer.
A typical response probably goes like this: “Well, I am currently working as a [job title] at X firm. My responsibilities include [list of job descriptions].”
Here’s why it won’t add much value: the interviewer probably already read your resume and you are basically repeating the same information.
Try talking about your previous jobs as a whole, even if your roles are different. Let your potential employer know the top skills that you have gained throughout the years.
Start off by sharing your career passion (make sure that it aligns with the applying position). As you develop the answer, you can easily relate that to your professional background and how the past experiences will enable you to take on this job. It is ideal to tie your most advanced skills with the actual requirements for the new position.
Let’s not just focus on general facts. Was there a special reason that prompted you to apply for this role?
Remember that “tell me about yourself” is not exactly meant to assess your capability. Its main objective is simply to lay a foundation for the interview session or to give the employer a brief understanding of your background and why you are here (for the interview).
Which means you have the freedom to share anything that represents who you are.
Before applying for a job, you (should) have already asked yourself what makes the position appealing to you. Whether it’s the new responsibilities, the particular industry or the company itself that excites you, bring it up!
You are not the only candidate for the job, so sharing with the interviewer your personal story will definitely make you more memorable.
Specific skills or knowledge that will benefit the company
Even if you are a fresh grad, you can still highlight your capability to be successful at the job. Here’s how:
Step 1: Do a thorough research on the company, not just about their business but also about their accomplishments and challenges.
Step 2: Make sure that you fully understand the position that you are applying for and how its potential influence on the current state of the company.
Now, try to tweak the response to turn it into an actual topic of discussion as the interview goes.
No matter how you approach the question, it all boils down to being true to yourself. So don’t try to impress the potential employer by sharing false information or worse, pretend to be someone you are not.
P/S: Remember Marshall? He let go of his dream and worked for the “evil corporation” only to realise that a huge paycheck doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. Don’t be like Marshall.