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How to Answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Using 9 Tried-and-True Tips

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How to Answer 'Tell Me About Yourself' Using 9 Tried-and-True Tips

The first time I was prompted with “Tell me about yourself” in an interview, I reeled off a canned spiel about how I love helping people – I was positive it would impress my interviewer. But after my cliched answer triggered a disappointed look on her face, I panicked.

I ended up rambling about how “fun” I was, citing my time as the lead singer and guitarist for a Blink-182 cover band in the sixth grade as compelling evidence. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance at first impressions. So to nail your interview, learn how to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.”

What Interviewers Really Want to Know

If you’re in the process of interviewing for a new role, you know how difficult it can be to find a unique and compelling answer to this common prompt.

“Tell me about yourself” is very open-ended yet one of the most popular ways interviewers start the conversation. This answer has a huge impact on your interviewer’s first impression of you and can shape the entire conversation.

To gain some insight on the best way to respond to “Tell me about yourself”, I asked Claire McCarthy, a recruiting manager at HubSpot, about the best way to respond to the prompt.

“There’s no ideal answer to ‘Tell me about yourself,’” she says, “but I always encourage candidates to create a value proposition for themselves that touches on a couple of things.”

According to McCarthy, the ideal value proposition covers:

  • Your motivation
  • The specific challenges that excite you
  • What you can bring to the table
  • Why you want to work for the company you’re interviewing at and why now
  • Why this job is a good fit

Armed with McCarthy’s advice, we’ll help you develop a strong, cohesive value proposition that answers all of these questions.

1. Be honest.

The most important thing about answering this question is being honest.

If you start your interview by embellishing details about your experience or lying about your skills, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Even if the hiring manager doesn’t realize it at the moment, they’ll likely detect inconsistencies later on.

It’s hard enough to get this question right, don’t make it harder on yourself. Instead, skip the games and bring your full self to the interview.

2. Tell a story.

Think of this question as an opportunity to tell the interview a short story about yourself.

Just as a story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, yours should too – except you’ll be covering the past, present, and future.

Throughout your answer, you’ll weave in several elements that will highlight your skills, motivation, and future goals.

3. Weave in personal details.

This step requires a delicate balance.

You’ll want to weave in personal details about yourself that will help hiring managers discover what drives you and have a holistic view of who you are.

However, you don’t want to do a deep dive into your personal life.

So, only highlight personal details that tie back to a professional skill or goal. For instance, you might mention your love of storytelling from early childhood and how that led you to start a career in content creation.

4. Describe what motivates you.

One of the most important (and common) traits hiring managers typically look for in candidates is their intrinsic motivation. Research suggests intrinsically motivated employees produce a higher quality of work than extrinsically motivated employees do.

So if you can recount a personal anecdote that proves you’re a craft-driven professional, and not just someone who is enamored by the company’s lucrative stock options, you’ll immediately grab the hiring manager’s attention.

To do so, lead off your value proposition like this:

“As I approach my five-year anniversary working in the content marketing space, I’ve learned a lot about myself. More specifically, I’ve realized I feel the most fulfilled when I can craft gripping stories that actually help and inspire people.”

5. Explain what challenges excite you.

Hiring managers don’t generally hire candidates to maintain their team’s status quo. They hire candidates who will challenge it and propel their team to greater heights.

To show that you can be a catalyst on the team, speak to the challenges in your industry or this particular role that excite you, just like the example below:

“Today, we both work in an industry where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, saturating our space with mediocre content. It’s never been harder to cut through the noise. But this doesn’t intimidate or discourage me. It actually excites me because it forces me to keep innovating and finding new ways to connect with an audience.”

6. Highlight your most relevant skills.

Once you explain what challenges pique your interest, you can then naturally segue into how you possess the necessary skills to overcome them and excel at the role, like the example below:

“There’s a fierce battle for attention in content marketing right now, and it has pushed me to master both my writing and analytical skills. Data drives decisions in our industry, and I know if I want to make an impact on a team, I need to be both a creative and a strategist. Thankfully, my ability to adapt has allowed me to pick up the necessary skills to accurately extract insights from data and weave them into a compelling story.”

7. Spell out why you want to work at the company you’re interviewing at.

Highlighting your most relevant skills will capture your hiring manager’s attention. But to truly impress her, communicate how your passion and skills align with the company’s interests and goals, like the example below:

“That’s why I think I’d be a high-impact employee here – you care a lot about doing two things right: making objective, data-driven decisions and telling great stories. I believe I can help you get better at both of these things.”

8. Illustrate why you want to work for the company right now.

After you spell out why you want to work for the company, delve into why you want to work for them right now.

This shows that you took initiative to learn about the company’s most recent updates, and the hiring manager will definitely take note of your proactiveness. Check out the example below:

“This is also one of the best times to work at HubSpot – I was at INBOUND in September and was impressed with all your new product launches. It’s clear that HubSpot is doubling down on innovation and strives to propel to the top of the industry. I’d be pumped to be a part of that.”

9. Prove that you’d be a good fit for the job.

To pack a punch at the end of your value proposition, show the hiring manager how you’ve used your skills to improve your current team by quantifying your accomplishments.

These previous experiences will prove your worth and qualify you as the employee who can take the team to the next level. Cap off your answer with something like this:

“And as the top-performing content strategist at my current company, where I’ve doubled blog views and grown our email subscription list by 40% in only one year, I think I could help you develop a killer content strategy, write some of the best stories in MarTech, and build an even more loyal audience than you boast now.”

What Not to Do When Asked “Tell Me About Yourself”

Just as there’s a long list of things you can say when answering this question, there’s also one for mistakes you should avoid.

When answering “Tell me about yourself,” don’t:

  • Wing your answer – Memorize the key points to hit so that you can ensure a concise answer every time without sounding rehearsed.
  • Focus on your personal life – Given the context in which this question is asked, focus on your professional journey instead your personal one.
  • Discuss contentious topics – Topics like politics, religion, and sex have no place in an interview, much less during this question.

“Tell Me About Yourself” Sample Answer

Altogether, a strong answer to the “Tell me about yourself” prompt would look like this:

“As I approach my five-year anniversary working in the content marketing space, I’ve learned a lot about myself. More specifically, I’ve realized I feel the most fulfilled when I can craft gripping stories that actually help and inspire people.

Today, we both work in an industry where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, saturating our space with mediocre content. It’s never been harder to cut through the noise. But this doesn’t intimidate or discourage me. It actually excites me because it forces me to keep innovating and finding new ways to connect with an audience.

There’s a fierce battle for attention in content marketing right now, and it has pushed me to master both my writing and analytical skills. Data drives decisions in our industry, and I know if I want to make an impact on a team, I need to be both a creative and a strategist. Thankfully, my ability to adapt has allowed me to pick up the necessary skills to accurately extract insights from data and weave them into a compelling story.

That’s why I think I’d be a high-impact employee here — you guys care a lot about doing two things right: making objective, data-driven decisions and telling great stories. I believe I can help you get better at both of these things.

This is also one of the best times to work at HubSpot — I was at INBOUND in September and was impressed with all your new product launches. It’s clear that HubSpot is doubling down on innovation and strives to propel to the top of the industry. I’d be pumped to be a part of that.

And as the top-performing content strategist at my current company, where I’ve doubled blog views and grown our email subscription list by 40% in only one year, I think I could help you develop a killer content strategy, write some of the best stories in MarTech, and build an even more loyal audience than you boast now.”

Framing ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ as ‘Pitch Yourself’

“Tell me about yourself” might be one of the most dreaded prompts in the history of interviews.

But if you understand why hiring managers prod candidates with it, you can turn your answer into your pitch.

From there, structure your value proposition the way we did above and you’ll make a strong first impression.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Nov. 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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