Getting to Know You: Answering questions about yourself during an interview

As a Career Counselor I found many students and alumni were uncomfortable talking about themselves. It can be challenging to distill who you are down to a few sentences. This can be even tougher when interviewers ask about your life outside of work, especially when you don’t have any specific hobbies you are passionate about.

When a recruiter asks “Tell me about yourself?” they really mean, give me a very short run down of your experience and qualifications for the position. Your answer should be relatively short and related to the opportunity with maybe something fun (like you being a huge hockey fan) thrown in at the end. This isn’t simply a reiteration of your resume, it’s more like a one minute pitch about what makes you a valuable candidate.

When managers ask, “What do you do in your spare time” they are trying to get an idea of your personality and whether you would be a good fit with the team. They want to better understand who you are and see if you can hold a conversation. To answer the “free-time” type questions, think about activities that are meaningful to you. If you don’t have an official hobby, that’s okay, but you still want to think about things that you enjoy that you can talk about. Maybe you you enjoy sharing home styling suggestions on Instagram, or perhaps you like creating new recipes. 

It can be difficult to talk about yourself and your interests with someone you just met, but it’s important for employers to understand who you are as well as the knowledge and skills you would bring to the role. If you are struggling, I recommend writing out some key bullet points and then practice answering those questions with others. The more you get used to talking about yourself, the more natural you will be in an interview.

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