This is a question from one of readers, Carlos. Here is an extended version of his question:
Q: I am asking you if you could point out some good and straight tips in answering interview questions like, “Tell me something about yourself?” Don’t you think it’s a very vague question and most HRs ask the same set from time to time? I know it sounds ridiculous to dole out your whole life story. I just want an honest and straight to the point response.
A: First of all I would like to state that as a former HR officer myself, I also asked this question a lot. The possible reasons why interviewers ask this question are:
- To break the ice and get the interview rolling
- To learn more about the applicant so they can pick up points to ask about
I would like to stress that there is no straight and specific answer to this kind of question simply because people are different with different lives and experiences. The key is to:
- Offer an answer that reveals a little about yourself BUT
- Do not reveal too much about your personal or family life (mention as little as possible)
- Do not make your answer too long
- Include details about your professional experience and professional qualities
- Be honest
The best that I can offer is an example of how you might answer this question. You can start by saying something like:
My name is Jill Tan. I am from Cebu City. For the past three years I worked as a human resource officer specializing in training and development where I was put in charge of running a minimum of seven training programs a year. I find that this is the area in which I work best because my major strengths include organizing learning modules, creating instructional activities and presenting concepts. I am interested in moving on in this same career direction and I am looking forward to possibly pursuing it with your company.
The above response would be a good one to give if the position you are applying for is related to your experience. If it is not, you might consider saying something like:
My name is Mark Mendez. I am from Davao City. For two years I worked as a production engineer for a food processing plant. Although I found the work experience enjoyable, I am currently eager to pursue a career in sales since this is a major point of interest for me and one in which I am certain I will be able to perform well. I have had some experience selling insurance when I was a part time working student and have had considerable success at it, having sold several plans in one year.
Keeping your answers as professional and as brief as possible is the best way to handle the question BUT in some cases, interviewers ask follow up questions. They may want to know more about your family, how many siblings you have and how many children you have. In fact, I have been interviewed by someone before who specifically told me to start about my family.
Strictly speaking, interviewers themselves should avoid personal questions and this is the norm in western organizations. In the Philippines however, it is a fact that these questions are asked to determine whether or not you might potentially have attendance, punctuality and performance issues due to your personal situation.
You may share personal bits about yourself and your family but avoid going into very specific details. You should rightfully feel ill at ease if an interviewer starts prodding you for your life story. You may say something like:
My name is Marian Santos. I am from Iloilo City and the youngest of three siblings. All of my older siblings are professionals in the fields of Accounting, Law and Medicine. I have decided to pursue a career in Information Technology, having graduated with a degree in IT. This is also the ideal career path for me since I have always been interested and good at database management and systems development.
In my experience in local companies here and in Cebu, the third sample is perhaps the most ideal. If you are however applying for a position in a foreign company, the first two samples would be the better options.
REMEMBER that there is no clear cut answer to this question because you and I are very different people. Do not use the samples above as your answers. You have to tweak them to fit your experience.