Tell me about yourself

‘Tell me about yourself.’ Oh, that ubiquitous question that one can 200% expect to be asked when giving a job interview, meeting a new professional or even networking! In my October post on preparing for an interview, I had briefly touched upon this very critical question. This time, let us look at it more deeply and understand how we can shape our interactions better.

To be honest, in my initial years, I have often struggled answering this question. Despite the knowledge that it would be asked, I have fumbled my way around and it is only over time that I have worked around developing an answer that satisfies me and most importantly, personifies me.

I am sure many of you at some stage or another have answered this by saying – ‘I am …(name) and I work as…(designation) for…(organisation)…I remember doing this when I was giving my second job interview. My hiring manager smiled and very sweetly reminded me that she was aware of all of this! I didn’t know where to look. It took me back to my school days. I was giving my class X board internal viva and my class teacher had asked me the same question way back then – I had blurted out my name, my mother tongue and a few other obvious facts. It took the all knowingly smile of my hiring manager for me to realise that I had not ‘grown up’ in my response to this question. Here was my very important learning – people are not interested in knowing the obvious. They want to hear what is not written in that resume of yours. 

One of the easiest way to figure out the first question is to introspect and ask of yourself what drives you. What excites you. What are you really passionate about…then see how you can weave that in your narrative of who you are and what you stand for. As you track your career trajectory, connect the dots and see if you have chosen jobs that have somehow fueled your passions and your interests. And of course, you will find that connection. Even if you have sometimes meandered into jobs without those being part of your overall game plan, you will find the connections. Trust me on this one. Note those down. Now carve out your answers.

For instance, if science is your passion, you will notice how you have either chosen organisations that have clear scientific temper or have a career where fact writing is backed by data & evidence (the harbinger for good science!). 

In fact, many entrepreneurs are able to trace down their journey to a desire that has always lurked in their subconscious mind – the craving to create something new and be their own boss.

The more self-aware you are of your likes and dislikes, your passions and your interests, the more aligned will be your career choices, thereby giving you a sense of fulfillment and yes, growth as well.

The next step would be to connect the value-add you bring on the table to the ‘who’ you are story. Jot down your achievements and successes. Very often our mind recalls things that have either not worked or incidents that have left a bitter taste. It is like – you go for an opulent and grand wedding but what you recall immediately is that you had to queue up for an hour for the food!

Start journaling your highs and write down what lessons learnt from failures. Do not trust your memory. The brain, as it is, is cluttered with just about every information. It becomes difficult to sieve through what is really critical. It always helps to make a note of the value you bring on the table and speaking about them. Besides boosting your self-confidence, it is a mirror that reflects the best of you and who wouldn’t want that!

Finally, script your response to that question properly as a full paragraph or two. See if you are comfortable with it and check that it really reflects who you are. Voila! You are ready to conquer the world.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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