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“So tell me about yourself.” There are no five words that provoke more anguish in people than this statement. However, it is one of the most frequently asked questions in job interviews. Talking about yourself is scary, but it’s an essential occupational skill. Follow these four easy steps to introduce yourself and communicate who you are and the distinctive value you bring to the table.
Related: Want to stand out from the crowd? Know your unique value proposition.
Step 1: build a relationship
Often when you’re faced with “so tell me about yourself,” you’re deep in conversation with people who barely know you. So don’t start talking about the scope of work. Instead, try to make a genuine connection and build a relationship with those who ask. Share a little about your background and your situational identity. Your situational identity is where you are in your life right now, a particular circumstance that shapes how you present yourself in the world, or a community you identify with that helps shape your individuality.
As background, some people choose to talk about their family, where they went to school and where they are from. However, you can talk about a cause or community you belong to, or a personal story about a time in your life that helped define you. For example, a client of mine was asked to talk about himself in a recent interview. He talked about his time in the military, taking responsibility for his younger siblings after his mother passed away, and what this taught him about leadership. Sharing aspects of your background and identity provides a deeper understanding of who you are. It can also reveal common ground between you and your prospects that can help you connect and build trust with them. This is also a good way to demonstrate your interpersonal skills. 55% of employers say they find it very difficult to find qualified candidates with strong interpersonal skills.
People with good interpersonal skills can “build healthy relationships with colleagues and work better in teams,” say communication scholars Brian Spitzberg and William Cupach. Therefore, people with these skills are in high demand. In fact, many employers say that interpersonal and communication skills are very important to gaining leadership positions in their organizations.
Step 2: Communicate who you are, not just what you do
When people meet you, they don’t meet your credentials, experience, or knowledge. Instead, they get in touch with your personality and social skills (also known as “soft skills,” “human skills,” or “power skills”). When asked about yourself, bring your personal attributes and core values to the fore. These are your human skills that communicate who you are as a person, not just what you can do. For example, you can state that you are a very compassionate person, explain why you say you are compassionate, and provide an example from your professional experience where being compassionate was beneficial in that situation.
Employers highly value human skills because they know job-specific skills can be taught. Therefore, they look for skills such as leadership, empathy, communication, adaptability and self-awareness. These can indicate whether you can interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. People who are empathic are seen as better coworkers and leaders because they tend to create the right climate and set the right tone for employees and colleagues to thrive.
In the same way, your values provide important information about your character and important clues about what you stand for and what people can expect when they work with you. Companies want to hire hard-working professionals with integrity and good ethics. Sharing your own spirit helps demonstrate that you can fit into a company culture, contribute effectively to its mission, and work in harmony with the team. To communicate your core values, you could say something like: “I believe in integrity. I therefore approach things honestly. I am fair in my judgment and aware of how my actions affect another person.” You can then offer a specific example of how you lean on her values to help you navigate challenging ethical situations.
Related: 6 Questions All New Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Starting a Business
Step 3: Communicate your competencies and the pain points they address
Reveal your capabilities, including areas of expertise, technical knowledge, and experience. Also, show how your competencies help solve pain points in your niche and the results you’ve achieved. For example, you could say, “I’m great at marketing. I created a digital marketing campaign for company X and they were able to increase sales by 50%.” This is important because it allows your listeners to recognize that you have a strong personal brand that gets results. Communicating the problems your competencies solve also helps you land positions where your talents are valued, engage in jobs that pique your interest, and assignments where you can provide the most value.
Step 4: Differentiate yourself
Indicate your point of differentiation. What do you bring to the table that others don’t? How do you stand out from the competition? How does this “x factor” add value? In today’s fiercely competitive job market, it’s crucial to separate yourself from the pack. What makes you different could be a creative approach you take to solve a challenging problem, a new perspective, or a more efficient way to accomplish a task. You can also stand out by relying on human skills, such as your ability to build positive relationships or simply be trustworthy. For example, a client once told me that she gives the same energy and commitment to her clients at 10 pm as she does at 8 am. She was completely blown away.
In general, whenever you hear “Tell me about yourself,” remember that it’s about making a strong and memorable first impression. It’s an opportunity to show that you can communicate clearly, connect with other humans, and demonstrate your unique worth. Do not miss the opportunity to show all the power of your personal brand. You will be more confident in telling your own story, building trust and giving others the chance to get to know you better.