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How to Answer "Tell us About Yourself"

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"Tell us about yourself" is an interview question you can count on being asked. Sometimes candidates who answer other questions will freeze and fumble at this question. Here's how to answer and tips on what they are looking for.

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

How do you answer, "Tell me something about yourself?"

How to Answer "Tell us About Yourself"

Tell Me About Yourself

Preparing for the "Tell me about yourself" question is critical to the success of your interview. But it's such a broad question that it's hard to know where to start.

It's important to be focused and purposeful in your response. Everything you choose to say should be planned and have a purpose.

Answer Purposefully

It's probably not relevant to landing a nursing position in the ED that Valentine's Day is your favorite holiday, or who your favorite band is.

So how do you decide what to say? You have your whole lifetime to pick from, so how do you narrow it down?

Think back to a time when you were on a first date with someone who you knew you wanted a second date with. You shared things about yourself designed to further attract this person, right?

So you already have experience in selectively choosing what to share about yourself. It's the same in an interview.

Identify the traits and characteristics they are looking for in a candidate. For example, one thing every employer looks for is trustworthiness. Read the job description, and then read their mission statement to understand the kind of employees they are looking for. Look for keywords.

You may very well be a perfect fit for the organization and share the same values, but if you don't tell them, they will never know

Talk in Stories

Superlative words are soon forgotten, but stories are remembered.

Rather than saying " I'm a very loyal person", say "Once I commit to something, there's something in me that makes me see it through. Two summers ago, I planned to go on a mission trip to Mexico as a Youth Group Leader. I knew most of the teens in the group and we had been planning this trip all year. They were so excited!

At the last minute, a close friend of mine invited me to go on a Caribbean cruise with her and her family at the same time. I really wanted to go with them, but there was no way I could back out and let the kids down. I went to Mexico and have no regrets."

See what you remember from this article a week from now. You may not remember anything else, but you probably will recall the story of the Mission trip to Mexico.

Present-Past-Future Model

One way to organize your thoughts is to use the Present-Past-Future model.

  • Present: Tell them where you are now in your job or school situation
  • Past: Tell them about your previous work placement
  • Future: Tell them you hope to be employed by them

Here's an example of how to answer "Tell me about yourself:"

Quote

"Well, (smiling) currently I'm in my last semester of nursing school. I'm Class Secretary and received the Mary Shell Award for exemplary patient care and academic standing. I'm doing my Senior Practicum in Intensive Care. Before that, and up until last Summer, I worked as a waitress.

For the three years that I waitressed, I had perfect attendance and was often asked to train new waitresses. I made many friends at my job, including repeat customers, and still keep in touch. I tend to get involved in whatever group I'm in. I'm very social and I get my energy from interacting with people.
 
Last Summer, I interned as a student nurse on Telemetry at Happy Hospital in the same town where I attend university. The nurse manager asked me to stay on after graduation and work as an
RN on her floor. She said she really liked the way I interact with patients, even difficult patients. It's probably because I learned a lot from a module I took called "How to handle patient complaints.
 
But my family is most important to me, and I miss my cousins. I grew up surfing in the Summer, and can't wait to go to the beach again.
 
Now that I'm moving back to my hometown, I'm really looking forward to an opportunity to work here at Happier Community Hospital, where I can begin my career as an RN and grow."

Here the applicant started in the present, segued to the past and ended optimistically in the future.

She/he also communicated (in code) "I am a leader, a people person, a self-starter, savvy (I understand about pt satisfaction), and loyal"...right?

That's how to answer "Tell us About Yourself", friend! Hope this helps you nail your next interview.

Related Articles:

How to Prepare for Your Interview

Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

Nurse Beth is an Educator, Writer, Blogger and Subject Matter Expert who blogs about nursing career advice at http://nursecode.com

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19 Comment(s)

Wow! Great article and I will use this at my next interview!

labordude, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D, OBED, NICU, Lactation. Has 15 years experience.

Under no circumstances should you ask the interviewer "well, what do you want to know?" For interviews, if you don't have a longer version of your elevator pitch, GET ONE! This is your opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, motivations, and plans within the context that they benefit you, but mostly how they can benefit the employer. I have interviewed many people and if I can't discern what they will bring to the unit and how they can help us achieve our goals as a group and organization, they will not be hired.

Thank you for this! That question has always been one that makes me flounder.

Pheebz777, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, CVICU, E.R.. Has 18 years experience.

Another puzzling question almost all employers ask is "tell me about your strengths and weaknesses".

I have mine memorized.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Pheebz777 said:
Another puzzling question almost all employers ask is "tell me about your strengths and weaknesses".

I have mine memorized.

That's great, when you're prepared. Here's another article on "What's Your Greatest Weakness?"

Hi, i hav e a question. this is actually the first time I use the site si I don't really know how it works....Anyways Im America citenzen and I studied BSN in the Philippines. Now I'm back in Cali and I've been hearing that BON in CA requires for OB 5 actuals, 5 cord care and 5 newborn care and for medsurg they requiere 5 minor and 5 major procedures. The good thing is that i have all the cases complete but I'm still doubting if this is all they are asking for. Please please someone let me know before i submitt my application. Im also using CGFNS to transfer my records. Please i would really appreciate some help here. Thank you!!!

So what should a person say, when they don't volunteer, they haven't won any awards, their grades are okay. And have only had one job previously?

Any suggestions, I am so bad at interviews and talking about myself in general.

labordude, BSN, RN

Specializes in L&D, OBED, NICU, Lactation. Has 15 years experience.

pixiestudent2 said:
So what should a person say, when they don't volunteer, they haven't won any awards, their grades are okay. And have only had one job previously?

Any suggestions, I am so bad at interviews and talking about myself in general.

Are you telling me that you haven't done anything in your life and career that you are proud of? What did you do at that job? Let me give you a hint, the answer is NOT "take care of patients in X unit." How did you make that facility/unit a better place to work and receive care? You didn't have to change any actual policy or practice, but what did you do as an individual do to maximize your role and the service you provide?

synaptic

Has 5 years experience.

I just said I was the average joe at my last interview and got the job. but I didn't really need the job that badly and nps are in short supply here so they had to take me anyway. I also said I was boring and like to read books.

I need to start my own reality tv show, would probably help insomniacs out quite a bit.

Completing the CEUS for the CNA license at CEUFast.com was not too hard at all. There are about 89 of them and have almost completed all of them and printed out the certificates.They are cracking to see if people are doing them now.

So I know it's an over-asked question and I've read several how-to guides on the subject, but I still come up blank. I've had three terrible interviews and no job offers, and I'm running out of positions to apply for. Anyway, most guides say to use this as a chance to sell yourself and talk about how wonderful you are, but my view of myself has been in the toilet my whole life. When I try to think of positive things to say, it's basically about how caring I am and how I want to help people...aka what every nurse is going to say. But other than that, I feel like I'm lying. Energetic? Sometimes, but not consistently. Cheerful? Same. Positive attitude? Obviously not about myself. When I talked to my husband about it, he said that I'm basically afraid that I'll be "found out" if hired, and that really is how it feels. I try to be honest amd thats clearly not working for me. (Who wants to hire the nurse who has nothing to say about herself?) I feel like if I say the things nurse managers want to hear, but then they see that's not really me if they hire me, that would be worse.

I'm sorry for this post. I'm feeling lost and incredibly depressed.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

I think you need to address your underlying problems (low self-esteem and depression) before will be able to successfully move forward. "Faking it" is not always the best way to solve a problem. Sometimes, you need to actually address the root cause of the problem.

Have you tried counseling to address your issues? I recommend it. Talk to your doctor, pastor, or whoever you have in your life and ask for a recommendation to a counselor.

In the meantime ... if you want to continue your Job Search. Focus on the facts and not on the "selling yourself" part. Answer those questions with factual information that you know is true -- where you went to school, previous experience, how long you have lived in the area, etc. Then you won't feel like you are lying. You can also focus on things outside yourself that you care about -- the type of work you want to do, things you hope to learn, etc.

But I hope you get some help for your psych/emotional issues. You deserve to feel good about yourself.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

llg said:
I think you need to address your underlying problems (low self-esteem and depression) before will be able to successfully move forward. "Faking it" is not always the best way to solve a problem. Sometimes, you need to actually address the root cause of the problem.

Have you tried counseling to address your issues? I recommend it. Talk to your doctor, pastor, or whoever you have in your life and ask for a recommendation to a counselor.

In the meantime ... if you want to continue your job search. Focus on the facts and not on the "selling yourself" part. Answer those questions with factual information that you know is true -- where you went to school, previous experience, how long you have lived in the area, etc. Then you won't feel like you are lying. You can also focus on things outside yourself that you care about -- the type of work you want to do, things you hope to learn, etc.

But I hope you get some help for your psych/emotional issues. You deserve to feel good about yourself.

I so agree. You feel like a Poser but you need to find your genuine, worthy self.

To prepare for the interview question "Tell us about yourself", compose a succinct answer. Avoid cliches (team player, goal oriented, etc) and use the Present, Past, Future model.

Present: "Currently I'm studying for my CCRN (or applying to school, or in my last semester, or working in Med Surg)"

Past: "Last Summer I interned at a neuro pediatric ICU (or served as camp nurse, or volunteered, or worked as a waitress and consistently earned the highest tips, etc.) The nurse manager asked me to stay on full time and said my ability to communicate with families was remarkable."

Future: "Family is most important to me and I want to work here in my hometown as my parents are getting older and need me."

Best wishes

Find some support, as suggested, to address the low self-esteem and depression. In the meantime, I assume you need a job ASAP, so I would recommend "fake it until you make it". One way to do this could be to describe yourself to the interviewer in terms of what others tell you. For example, you could say "well people often tell me I'm very energetic and driven, which will help me achieve X, Y, Z in this position". You might not see yourself that way, but you don't have to share that.

With regards to being "found out", I completely understand the fear. We all sell ourselves as best we can in an interview and if we do it well and get the job, the initial excitement is often followed by the thought, "oh crap, now what if I'm terrible at the job", or "what if I don't live up to expectations", etc. This is normal to an extent.

My solution? Fake it like you did in the interview. I'm relatively new at my job and am not always happy and confident at work, but I sure pretend to be! Slowly my "pretending" is being replaced with true confidence. This doesn't mean don't ask for help when you need it. Just appear confident and calm when doing so, no matter how scared and frazzled you may really be.

Getting therapy or treatment, if needed, for depression will also help the "real you" and the "fake you" reconcile. I've been there too! It's hard, but it is possible to address your depression at the same time you are starting a new job. I started on antidepressants soon after starting my RN job. In a perfect world, it would be nice to address just one of these things at a time. However, sometimes you also need to pay the bills ASAP!

Best of luck :)

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 40 years experience.

You've gotten some good advice so far. The only thing I can add is to put yourself in the shoes of the employer. What do you think any employer would be looking for?

Most would look for someone who shows up reliably and on time, who works at being competent and efficient and takes initiative to keep learning. Someone who is respectful of others and is ready to lend a helping hand to her coworkers. Those are the bare basics of what any employer is looking for. So touch on those things to show that you get it.

Good luck.

I know where you're coming from, I think. I suffer from depression and I've said the same about myself. Is this your first nursing job? I would hope that there have been times in life when you have not felt this way. Maybe you could draw on that. I really have no answers. I can usually compartmentalize, like separate my life situation from work. I do a less strenuous job in which I care for a single pediatric patient and just focus on her needs. I am thinking that you are probably getting treatment but if not please seek out help. I am on meds prescribed by a psychiatrist. Sometimes meds are prescribed by primary care doctor but they are not well versed in these therapies and changes that may need to be made. I'm new here but just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. Hope you feel better!

NinjaNabiRN, BSN

Has 14 years experience.

As someone who doesn't have anything positive to say about themselves either, I run into issues where I say 'I'm a hard worker'. Which I am. I started saying I 'handle stressful situations well' but I don't feel like I do, LOL.

I also never won any awards and my only positive stories involve work related things since I really don't have many positive experiences outside of work that could be used for work, if that makes sense. Nobody is going to want to hear about how I play video games when I'm not working..