Freshly armed with your data science resume, you’ve now landed an interview for an exciting new role. Your handshake was firm, your eye contact has been solid, rapport has been built….and then, it happens. “So, tell me about yourself.” How’s that heartrate, introverts? Although you should have a pretty good idea of your skills and attributes, especially since they’re on your resume and probably landed you the interview to begin with, answering this question with comfort and skill proves difficult for many interviewees.
The first thing to remember when you’re preparing for a job interview is that, however much you may hope it isn’t coming, your interviewer is very likely to present you with the task of describing yourself in your own words. Speech is different than the written word, and she or he will be interested in how your description of yourself enhances the portrait painted by your resume. It is important for you to present these two views of yourself consistently, but you should also make sure you’re confident “going off script”. That is, you want to be able to recount your skills, attributes and experience in a conversational style that doesn’t feel like you’re narrating a bulleted list of points from your resume. For those introverts we mentioned earlier, it can be a good idea to let your interviewer know you’re an introvert – just take care to portray it as something you see as positive overall. An example of a positive element of introversion is that it can help you to be a good listener.
Although you don’t want to sound like you’re narrating your resume, that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be carried over from the resume-writing process. Remember the importance of brevity? That still applies here. While you want to make sure to include key details, it is important not to overdo it on the specifics of each point. Face-to-face communication requires that your interviewer process and react to everything you’re saying in real time. If you feel like you’re talking too much or too quickly about any one point, just imagine how the person sitting across from you must feel.
That brings us to arguably the most important point: preparation. You should repeatedly practice answering this question, preferably with the assistance of a mock interviewer. No need to seek the services of a professional – a friend or mentor, preferably with experience in the field in which you’re applying, will do nicely. This will allow you to hone your message while also giving you the opportunity to receive feedback on the clarity and completeness of your answer in advance. The finished product will sound something like the “elevator pitch” you’ve probably heard about in the past – the idea being that your answer should be brief enough to showcase your main strengths as a candidate in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
Taken all together, these steps will build your confidence heading into the interview and help ensure you ace the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question.