The 2nd most painful interview question: tell me about yourself …

February 14, 2017 by In Blog
The 2nd most painful interview question is this, “Tell me about yourself.

The 2nd most painful interview question is this, “Tell me about yourself.” How do you respond? First, you freeze. Then, your mind wanders off to when you were a young student at the university. How can you answer this question effectively and why do we even ask it in the first place?

Where do you start? What do they really want to know about you? Do they want to know your interests? Or, do they want to know where you studied? Or do they want to know why you chose this field? No. No. No. They ask this question to get a first impression, fast, which will respond to these concerns: Do you yourself understand the job you are applying for and can you sum up in 2-3 minutes that you are relevant for this job?

We want to know if we will spend ½ hour with you or 1 hour with you.
Relevant means that you have the same experience on the job description and you fit with our corporate culture (personality fit).

How do you do this?

Thank the person for interview, look at them in the eye and show that you are happy to be there.
Explain where you went to school, what your diploma is and briefly highlight theory around subject.
For example, I started my career in ________, I evolved today to___________, where my main responsibilities are:______________(mention a few things which you have done that are similar or same on the job description.)
My personality and values are: list 3-5 words which align you with the company values/mission statement.

Winning Example:

“First, thank you for the invitation. I am really happy to be here. *hint: don’t forget to smile
In 1970, I obtained a degree in Business Economics at the Sorbonne in Paris. We focused on core principles in finance supply/demand, macro/micro economics and profit and loss and things like what is trading surplus.
Since then, I have built a career in Finance, starting out as a business analyst in the manufacturing sector and since then I have built my career the last 7 years in financial management, where my main responsibilities are: financial planning, responsible for entire P&L of company with a turnover of 200 million euros. I do the quarterly reporting and consolidation of our subsidiaries.

I am really excited about this job because not only does this role fit me well but I want to work for a company where it’s important to pay attention to innovative ideas, search for improvements if possible, and a corporate culture that values integrity and close team collaboration”

If you are not prepared, this question can get you in trouble. If you are well prepared, it can be one of the best questions you are ever asked because it allows you to highlight yourself perfectly for the job.
The first most painful job interview question is, “What are your weaknesses?”, in case you were wondering.


In order to make a good first impression, you SMILE, your EYE CONTACT is solid and your VOICE is CONSISTENT. Your tone is strong and clear, adapted to the tone of the interviewer. If the interviewer has a soft tone, soften your tone too. If they speak slow, speak slower too.

If you can communicate in the interview well, we assume you can also communicate effectively in a meeting at work with your future colleagues.

Erica Elias is a certified business and career coach ( and has interviewed more than 6,000 people, with She is also an author and her books can be found on these links: and

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