It’s a classic early-stage interview query, a seemingly simple prompt meant to get the process going. “Tell me about yourself.” But while it often appears like a softball question, many job seekers struggle with the topic.

It’s so broad and some open-ended that it becomes dangerous. You can say almost anything you want. That fact gets some people into trouble.

However, there are ways to attack the question that turn it to your favor. It gives you an invitation to talk about yourself and set up the topics of discussion that put you in the best light. With a little finesse, “tell me about yourself” becomes a major opportunity to shine.

Describe Your Background

The main goal of the query is to get you to explain your background. You want to deliver a short biography, highlighting your education and work history. Basically, introduce yourself to the interviewers.

The situation gives you a chance to dictate the direction of the conversation. Ideally, your description will lead to follow-up questions, meaning that what you say will influence how the interview will unfold from that point on.

Stay on Track

While you’re outlining your work and education history, don’t let your review get too long. Keep it brief. If you get long-winded, you’re liable to lose their attention.

Remember: they don’t need a full description of every point. Instead, focus on the experiences most relevant to the position at hand. Think about how someone else might describe you in the first couple paragraphs of a Wikipedia entry. Use that as a model to start with.

Brag (At Least a Little)

When the interviewers ask you to talk about yourself, it’s a request to hear you brag. They want to learn about your accomplishments and about what makes you special.

An interview isn’t the time to get shy or humble. Make sure to mention awards you’ve won or achievements that you’re particularly proud of.

Work in Some Personality

The “tell me about yourself” prompt also offers you an opportunity to make a personal connection. Mix in some aspects of your outside-of-work persona. Tell them about your upbringing, talk about your family, mention hobbies that are important to you.

After all, you want them to think of you as a complete person. It will help your chances if you can get the interviewers to like you, as well as respect you.

Explain Your Value

Ultimately, you’re trying to sell yourself. The point of your presentation should be to describe the value you can bring to the company.

Frame your answer around this point. As you decide what aspects of your biography to include, consider things through the lens of the company. Change the question you’re answering to something like, “what about your background makes you a perfect fit for this job?”

Of course, answering that question gets easier the more perfectly matched you are to a position. Teaming with a strong recruiting partner, like SmartTalent, ensures that you have placements that fit both your current skill levels and your long-term career trajectory.

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.