Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

How do you answer tell us about yourself if you have no experience?

3 min read

Don’t make an essay out of your answer since you don’t have a lot of work experience. Discuss your education as it relates to the position. Tell them what you’ve done outside of your classes that relates to the position.

What to answer when asked tell me about yourself?

  • Discuss your current role, the scope of it, and perhaps a recent accomplishment.
  • Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that is relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.

Theresa Merrill always leads with, “tell me about yourself,” when she does mock interviews with her clients.

It is good practice because it is the very first thing an interviewer will ask you to do, whether you are having a preliminary phone screen, speaking to your prospective boss, or sitting down with the CEO during a final round. It might seem like an easy win, but responding to this invitation to talk about yourself in the context of a job interview can be difficult.

It’s possible to prepare in advance and use the common opening prompt to your advantage. Understanding why people are asking a question is the key to crafting an impressive answer.

It is a great opportunity to show that you can communicate clearly and effectively, connect with and react to other humans, and present yourself professionally. When you hear these words, tell me about yourself. The manager of graduate student professional development at the MIT Media Lab recommends a simple and effective formula for structuring your response: present, past, future. Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that is relevant to the job and company you are applying for.

It makes sense that you are sitting here talking to me about this role, so you want to be absolutely certain that your interviewer is left with that impression. Tina Wascovich, Muse career coach, thinks that they are giving you an opportunity to succinctly articulate why you have the right qualifications. If you are in the midst of a job search looking for a particular type of role, you might have a basic template you use for every interview, but make sure to adjust it to fit the company. If the company or the particular team emphasizes something else, see if you can incorporate that into your answer.

It is possible to give the cue that you have done your research and are a good fit by using individual keywords. Even if that broaches slightly more personal territory, you should still be able to shed light on why you are passionate about your work or about this company, even if you keep your answer professional. According to Wascovich, if people feel comfortable telling their story from a passionate perspective, it helps engage the interviewer and set them apart. You don’t have to go into a huge amount of detail, but if your goal in an interview is to stand out among the applicants and be memorable, then you should use some passion in your answer.

She says that if a person really is connected to their mission and what they want to go after in their next role, this is a good place to bring that in. If you speak for more than a couple of minutes, there is a good chance you are getting into too much detail.

The interviewer should be given a chance to ask follow-up questions about what intrigues them the most. Davis suggests leaving yourself a voicemail or recording your answer and waiting an hour or more before listening to it to give yourself some perspective. Asking a trusted colleague, friend, or family member to listen to your answer will help hone it. According to Wascovich, recruiters might be more understanding of new grads in their first couple of years in the workforce who sound like they have memorised their answer, but it is likely to be a red flag for anyone with a little bit more experience.

At every stage of the interview process for a job, from the phone screen to the final rounds, you might get some form of “tell me about yourself”, but that doesn’t mean you have to give the same exact answer every time. It is smart to talk to a C-level executive about why you are drawn to the company they run.

You can enhance your answer and make it more specific to the role and company progress based on what you learn as you progress through the interview process, such as, “When I talked to so-and-so, it really resonated with me that your mission or value is…” It is my opinion that most hiring decisions are made in the first minute, which includes your greeting, handshake, eye contact, and the first thing you say.

If the powers that be aren’t making an irreversible determination shortly after the conversation begins, a first impression can color the rest of the interview. If you have to spend the rest of the time making up for a bad opening, you are in a very different position than if you answered right away. I am excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center because I would love the chance to dig in deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I did the work in the first place.

What do you say when you have no work experience?

Try something like: “I am interested in an entry-level position.” I need an opportunity that will allow me to build a solid professional foundation, and I know I have much to learn.

Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

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