Preparation Stories + Advice

How to Answer that First Question at an Interview

Let’s visualize it. It’s the week after the Virtual Spring Career + Internship Fair and you are getting ready to start your interview with an employer you met at the event. Or maybe, you connected with a BC alumnus through Eagle Exchange and you are logging onto Zoom for a networking chat. You watch as your interviewer opens their mouth to form the first question. 

“Tell me about yourself.” 

Normally, when an interviewer asks this question, the response is … “I am from (________) state. I go to Boston College and study (_______).”

This is a boring answer and the information is on your resume. There is a much better way to answer that question.

First, you need to understand why this position is open. And remember, the hiring manager needs to fill this job because work isn’t getting done. Your job is to solve the hiring manager’s problem. For example, let’s say they are looking for a marketing person.

When they ask you to tell them about yourself, the answer should have three parts:

  1. Show understanding about the job
  2. Demonstrate knowledge about the company
  3. Exhibit your fit for the opening and how your experience can move the organization forward

Example Responses:

  1. “I have been studying marketing for the last two years.”  Then describe a project you have worked on so they know you are familiar with that field. (This is about you and your interests.)
  2. Employers love to know you know something about the organization. This is your chance to show your knowledge and compliment the company. Think of this as having fun facts to prove that you know the value of working for this kind organization. (Proves you are a serious candidate.)
  3. Explain why this job is a good fit for your skills and how your experience can assist the organization moving forward toward its goals. This is helpful in keeping the interview focused on what you can bring to their team. (Shows you are part of the solution.)

Many interviews could be over after the first question because some candidates do not understand that the interview is not all about them.  The goal for you is to be offensive minded in the interview.  Many people who are new to interviewing think this conversation is like one you have with a friend.

This is not the case. The interviewer represents the organization and will make recommendations on who moves forward in the process. You have one job—to prove that you are qualified for the position. If you take the interview questions on an unrelated tangent, you lose control of the interview and probably won’t receive the job offer.

Control the narrative of your story. You have no reason not to ace this interview question. Prepare an answer to the first question that makes them notice you as a candidate that they will want on their team.

When all else fails, use this sample response:

“Hi! I’m [name] and I’m applying to the [internship role] to gain more experience in [industry]. I’m currently taking classes about [list relevant coursework], and have always wanted to learn more about [topic]. I’m excited to potentially work at [company] because [unique fact about the company] and I can grow my knowledge and skills in [topic area].”

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