Foliotek Blog

Tell Me About Yourself

"Tell me about yourself." What a loaded request! How do you respond? How much do you say? Should you take advice from The Sound of Music and "start at the very beginning?" I hear that's a very good place to start, but is too much? This request, "Tell me about yourself" shows up on just about every list of 'most commonly asked interview questions'. That means if you don't know how to respond, you might bomb your next job interview.

Experts say that your response to this interview question should take about a minute.

Yikes, that's not a lot of time to work with. Your one-minute response needs to be interesting, concise, and informative. This is your chance to tell a story about the experiences you've had and the skills you've developed which make you perfect for the job. And no, you should not start at the very beginning.
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One of the first steps in telling a good story is knowing your audience. What should the interviewer know about you? What skills does the position require? Carole Martin from Monster.com suggests focusing your response on previous employment and current strengths/abilities, then relating those experiences to the job you're seeking. Her article gives a great example of using this strategy to turn a poor response into something memorable. If you don't have previous work experience to draw from, think of a personal experience that showcases the attributes you want to convey. Does the job you're applying for require excellent organization skills? Tell about an event you recently organized and its success. Just make sure any personal information you share directly relates to the job in question.

Preparing a strong response to this interview question can be tricky. However, if you've created a Foliotek ID Page with Projects, you might be further ahead than you think. If you haven't, you'll want to get started right away. Your ID Page should include a solid introduction (if it doesn't, read this previous post and jazz up your introduction ASAP ... no, really ... like right now). The Projects included in your ID Page should highlight previous experiences and showcase your abilities. In order to create your ID Page and Projects, you've already thought about the valuable skills you have and the virtual first impression you want to provide. You're well on your way to developing the perfect response. Now you just have to put a few words together to sum it all up in one minute.

Related Posts:


Your Virtual Handshake

When you walk into a room to meet someone for the first time, you extend your hand for a handshake. But what do you do before the interview? How do you reach out a steady hand without someone standing directly in front of you? Your cover letter and Identity Page, of course!

A cover letter is used to introduce yourself; a precursor to help you stand out of the stack of resumes an employer has to dig through. It's how you tell them a little more about who you are as an individual and make them want to choose you for an interview. How do you draw them in with your cover letter?

  • Explain why you are a benefit to their company because of your experiences. Don't tell them what they already know - that you're applying for 'such and such job' and that you're 'just plain awesome.'

  • Illustrate how your skillsets and character traits are a valuable asset to their company's culture and values (show your awesomeness without bragging!).

  • Mention something you know about their company or an impressive fact about the industry and how excited you are to be involved.

Get more Cover Letter tips like this and more from Nerdwallet.com's Expert Advice Column. You are more than just what your resume states, and this is your chance to show the company 'the person behind the resume.'

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Foliotek adds another dimension to the cover letter through our Identity Page. As discussed in our post last week, Geoff explained the importance of showing your work to potential employers using Foliotek projects. The Identity Page is a perfect place to include these projects along with a description of who you are, your school and work credentials, any websites where you're a contributor, contact information, and your resume. Think of it as your online brand; your virtual cover letter.

Extend that handshake before you even set foot in the door and include a link to your ID Page on both your cover letter and resume. This will give potential employers the feeling that they already know you when you come in for your interview. That, my friends, is what we at Foliotek call a leg up.


How to Transform Ugly

So you’ve written your ID page introduction, and now you’re questioning whether or not it’s got what it takes to grab an employer’s attention. Perhaps you know your intro doesn’t make the cut, but you don’t know what to do next. If you can’t just sit down and write a super-awesome introduction from the beginning (like most of us!), write out what you can to start. Then read on to see how to take an introduction that is just downright ugly and transform it into something amazing.

Version 01. Let’s start with the ugly.

I am going to be an Architectural Engineer. I like colors and design. I am good at math. I travel a lot.

This ID Introduction has zero hook, but instead starts with a thesis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the writer doesn’t elaborate other than stating characteristics of liking “colors and design” and being “good at math.” The sentences aren’t cohesive and don’t contribute to the whole. Although the introduction is simple, it is too simple and lacks any interest.

Helpful Hint: If your ID intro is currently ugly, the first step is to add in a little more information and sprinkle with detail.

Version 02. A bit better.

When I was little, I had a burnt pumpkin brick house. I told my mom that’s what it was. I like colors and design and see them everywhere I go. I’m excited to build new things all over the country.

While this introduction is better, it still isn’t very good. It has a short hook by beginning to tell the story, but this story is incomplete. Why is it important to know that the writer had a burnt pumpkin brick house? What is the relevance of this information and why do we need to know she told her mom this information? We can infer that the child told their mother the house color, but is it because her mother always burned pumpkin bread? There is no context to the information. A lot of people like colors and design, so why does this information set the writer apart? So she sees it wherever she goes … and? We are happy that she is excited about building, but why? What is she building? Why does she want to do this? Not only does this introduction leave the reader (or employer!) with a lot of questions, but it gives no thesis. We can only imagine what she wants to do with her life, but in an ID Introduction, we want to be straight forward.

Helpful Hint: To make your ID Intro great, tie it all together. Explain the hook and how it relates to your characteristics and thesis.

Version 03. Just right.

I first noticed that my childhood home was made of brick when I was five years old. At six, I told my mother that our house was Burnt Pumpkin Brick and not Red Brick. Since then, I have noticed details in color, line, and design everywhere I go. My attention to detail, passion for modern architecture, and desire to bring life to towns through design resonates deep. I am a future Architectural Engineer.

This ID Introduction has a hook that tells a story. The story isn’t random or irrelevant because it ties into the details this person was able to recognize at such a young age. The writer goes on to explain an admirable characteristic: her attention to detail. She explains that this attention to detail gives her a passion to create amazing architecture wherever she goes. She closes with a simple but straight forward goal: that she is going to be an architectural engineer. Her ID Intro is 404 characters. Could it be longer? Yes. Does it have to be? No. She gives us all of the components of a good introduction and doesn’t add any unnecessary ‘fluff’ in order to take up the whole page.
Hannah Stone Online Identity http://www.foliotek.me/hannahstone

Congratulations! You now know what it takes to write a good ID Introduction and how to transform your ugly introduction into a solid one. Want some more help?