After reading this the ‘Hiring Powers That Be’ are going to come down and cut me off from ever working in the Human Resources field again. OK that may be a bit dramatic but I am revealing one of a hiring managers secret weapons.
The first question an interviewer always asks is “So tell me about yourself.” It may sound harmless but watch out, this is where it can get you in deep trouble and cost you the job! Yes, before you have even discussed qualifications and background experience your answer to this question will either keep you in the running or boot you out before the interview is over.
The question is designed to be a warm up. When you first greet someone for an interview they would like to get to know you, most likely so you’ll warm up, feel more comfortable and at ease talking to them. But be care because this question often entices people to share personal information. When I say personal information I”m not referring to your social security number and place of birth. I’m referring to you, what you do, who you are, where you go, your family, etc.
When I have asked this question in interviews (Yes, I am guilty of being one of those people) I am surprised at the responses that I get. They are hardly ever professional and career focused. Normally a candidate will start of with well I was born in New York City in ’74 went to school at Green Park Elementary, had two dog, I love to play basketball and now I’m married and have two kids.
Sneaky recruiters will use this information against you. They know they can’t come out and ask you about your age, religion, marital status, etc. And this is exceptionally tricky for STAY AT HOME MOMS!!! I warn you!!! USE DISCRETION.
I once had an interviewer start of with the So tell me question. Knowing what I do I kept it strictly professional. I said I graduated from XYZ University with a Bachelors of Science in Communications and started my career in Recruiting with a National Staffing Agency, I progressed through the ranks, then moved on to a better opportunity with ABC Corp. I have been with them 6 years and am now seeking a more challenging role as the Human Resources Manager for LMN Inc.
See how I kept it purely about my career progression? This is the proper way to answer the question. But the interviewer was not satisfied that I didn’t come out and tell him about my personal life and later on in the interview he just came out and asked the illegal personal question. “I am sure you have a family and children don’t you?”
WHOA! Hello illegal question. I said, you’ll have to pardon my response if it comes off negatively but actually I think you really need someone in this Human Resources position that is knowledgeable about current employment law because that is an illegal question and could really get you into a lot of trouble if you ask the wrong person.
Thankfully he laughed it off and said “oh, I didn’t know that – it’s a good thing you said something. We really do need someone that knows that information.” The next day I had an offer on the table. And he never interviewed anyone again – phew, lawsuit averted.
The reason why I mentioned previously this question is tricky for stay at home mom’s is because you get caught in the trap. When they say, so tell me about yourself you immediately want to say “Well, I have two kids and for the last 4 years I have been staying at home taking care of them.” I hate to even say this but **some** employers will look down on this. They’ll think oh she has kids and that may detract from her job duties, and what about absences if her kids get sick? How much work will she have to miss?
I am not saying every employer is like this by any means but there are some out there. Know what your rights are and what is and isn’t OK for an interviewer to ask. And if someone says to you in an interview “So tell me about yourself” keep it professional and about your education and experience. Refrain from telling them you whole life story.
Hopefully, this will help many of you make it to that next step in the interview process and one step closer to the job of your dreams.
Share this post:
About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
Leave a Comment
Will your resume impress employers? Take this 2-minute quiz to find out.
Get your personalized plan for a resume that stands out and lands you your dream job!
Need a little help getting hiring managers to take notice? Find out what's standing between you and those magic words "You're exactly who we've been looking for!"
This is a key question that also can assist the candidate to guide the interview. I train my candidates to answer as you said but also have 3 top things they are most proud of accomplishing and inject them into this answer quickly. It usually provokes questions about it and the candidate can then guide the interview.
Good stuff and good blog. I like it and will put it on my blogroll.
The Job Swami Career Blog
So much information out on the web, I’m glad to have found this one. It will remain on my personal list.
This one is guaranteed question asked to me while facing interviews but all the time i felt like i haven’t prepared enough but from now onward i am going to prepare this question according to your tips. So thank you for this article. Going to save for further use.
“Tell me about yourself” sucks and I hope that any interviewers who use it have an accident on their way home!