Job interviews typically include a wide array of “getting to know you” questions; some are specific while others skew toward being vague and open-ended. Perhaps the most difficult of all potential interview prompts falls into this latter category via the infamous: “So, tell me about yourself.”
It seems like such a simple request, but how do you know where to begin? What part of “yourself” should you share with your interviewers? And what the heck are they actually trying to learn about you?
If this conversation topic leaves you stumped, leadership expert Simon Sinek has a strategy for you. In a recent chat with Business Insider, Sinek offered up a exercise that, when used prior to a job interview, can help you narrow down the scope of “tell me about yourself” and reveal a genuine and thoughtful response.
Sinek calls his technique the “friends test," and it’s unbelievably simple:
1. Find a friend who you trust (not a spouse or a family member).
2. Ask them “Why are we friends?”
...and that’s it.
Because most people will respond to this question in a not-so-specific way (“We’re friends because you’re loyal," “because you’re kind," “because you’re funny," etc.), Sinek recommends nudging your friends in a more detailed direction, rephrasing the question as "What is it about me that I know you would be there for me no matter what?"
Ideally, Sinek told Business Insider, you’ll want to try the “friends test” with multiple pals in order to gain a fuller perspective on the qualities that draw others to you. Once you have a few key characteristics pinpointed, you can translate your friends’ feedback into interview-appropriate language. For instance, when Sinek tried this exercise himself, his friend told him that he has an inspirational presence. Here’s how Sinek chose to present that info in an interview context:
“I wake up every single morning to inspire people to do what inspires them. … I imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired to go to work, feel safe when they're there, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. And I think that your company is devoted to that cause as well, which is why I want to work for you. … I've met people here and they all seem on that path, which is why I feel compelled to interview here. I want to be a part of whatever it is you're doing because I think it'll help me fulfill my own purpose and my own cause."
Essentially, our close friends often have a clearer view of our positive attributes than we have ourselves, and asking them to weigh in can help us distill these traits and discuss them articulately during an interview.