That interview question: “Tell me about yourself.”

Often interviews start off with this question, and your answer will set the tone for the interview.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of the easy answer – the basics.  I’ve been a nurse for xx years. I like to cook.  I graduated at the top of my class.  But that’s not what the interviewer wants.  They’re giving you an open floor to tell them why you’re the best candidate. 

An open-ended question like that demands a well-thought-out answer.  While the question given is “tell me about yourself,” what the interviewer is really asking is, “what makes you stand out from the other people I’m interviewing?”  This is your opportunity to talk about your passion, your narrative, why you’re the perfect choice for this job.  Those are really the three ways to answer the question, but pick your tactic and be able to present yourself in 30 seconds or less.  There’s no need to cover all 3 ideas below – just pick one and stick to it.

  • Talk about your passion.  Why did you become a nurse? What makes you tick? What motivates you to be the best nurse you can be?  Are you following in your mother’s footsteps?  Were you inspired by someone’s care for your loved one? Do you have a secret passion for putting an end to inpatient falls? This is where you come off the page – your resume details your accomplishments, so your answer to this question should make you three dimensional.
  • Give your narrative.  Think of a particularly touching story from your career.  “Let me tell you a story… ” and at the end of the story, reiterate a major theme (such as patient advocacy, compassion, teamwork, EBP, or whatever), with “and that’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity on your team.” Tie your story into their company’s trajectory. Everyone likes being complimented – “Everyone says great things about how this hospital treats patients, and I want to be a part of that.”
  • Identify why you’re the right choice for this job, but only if you’ve done your research.  Know that they’re looking for someone strong in patient education? Describe how you’ve done that well.  Know that their surgical infection rate has been on the rise? Talk about your career focus on infection prevention.

In short, this is your opportunity to shine.  If you waste it by giving a bullet-point run-through of your resume, you’ll never get that chance back. This is one of those questions you always have to be prepared to answer. Prepare for it well, because it will determine whether they take the rest of the interview seriously or not.

 

 

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