Tell Me About Yourself: Making A Good First Impression in a Job Interview


Trying to prepare for an important job interview?

You’re full of adrenaline—the nervous excitement and anxiety that builds in the hours leading up to a job interview. To feel in control, you google “most common job interview questions.” You open a document with an interminable list of questions, and you frantically begin quizzing yourself.

I’ve done this. Several times. There is value in researching the most common interview questions and testing yourself, but before you google “most common job interview questions,” spend fifteen minutes drafting a 30-second introduction.

“Tell me about yourself . . .”

You know it’s coming the moment you sit down in the chair. . . “tell me about yourself.”  It’s often the first thing an interviewer will invite you to answer.

Here’s a good example of an introduction for a job interview:

I spent my childhood hiking the Carson Range and waterskiing on Lake Tahoe. As an avid water-skier, I love waking up early to be the first person to break the water. That sort of embodies how I approach things. I was the first kid in my family to go to college. I graduated with a master’s in advertising from UNLV a year early. And I’m still an early riser. I went to work at the crack of dawn at Smith Advertising for five years. And I still like to metaphorically “break the water” when I work. That’s why I’m so excited about your company. I want to work at an advertising firm that encourages their graphic designers to create innovative and clean designs.  

Admit it. If someone started their interview off this way, you’d be impressed. It’s especially impressive considering how most candidates won’t be prepared to introduce themselves:

I was born in Nevada a few miles from Lake Tahoe, so I am an outdoorsy person that loves to water ski. I graduated from UNLV with my master’s in advertising, and I’ve been working as a graphic designer for Smith Advertising for five years. I loved working for them because of their clean, innovate designs.

An introduction for a job interview needs to be. . .

  • Personal
  • Concrete / Specific
  • Memorable

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How to successfully introduce yourself in a job interview:

  • Brainstorm personal items you can share with an interviewer: hobbies, anecdotes, an important life event, your favorite things, what inspires you, etc.
  • Develop promising ideas (a hobby, like, event, inspiration, etc.) to include concrete details and/or specific moments. In the example, this woman could have said “I’m an outdoorsy person that loves to water ski.” What makes this introduction memorable is the specificity. When does this woman like to waterski? First thing in the morning. Why? To break the water first.The more detailed, specific, and concrete—the more memorable.
  • Once you have the memorable, personal detail for your introduction, bring it back to your interviewer and the job. Use the memorable bit of your narrative to illustrate qualities the company is looking for. Or use the memorable bit of your narrative to illustrate how passionate you are about the mission of the company. Or use the memorable detail to show how your personality aligns with the company culture. For example, the detail about breaking the water illustrated how the applicant was an innovative graphic designer.

Why should you spend fifteen minutes on an introduction for an interview?

It’s asked at the beginning of the interview, so it sets the tone for you interview. Not only is a great introduction crucial for a good first impression, but this question strikes at the very purpose of the interview.  The interviewers already scrutinized your resume and believe you have the right qualifications. Now they wish to see if you’re a good fit for the company.

“Tell me about yourself. That’s the whole ball game.

Make a great first impression

So you know one of questions that they will ask you, and you know that your answer to this question is important and sets the tone for interview.  Yet, so often job applicants overlook preparing for this significant moment.

Don’t make this mistake and ad-lib your introduction.

Take fifteen minutes to draft an important 30-second introduction for your interview. Start the interview with a personal, concrete, and memorable detail that illustrates why they should give you the job.