"Tell me about yourself" or "give me a quick introduction of your profile" is almost always the first question encountered in your software engineer interviews. This guide teaches you how to maximize this chance to impress the interviewer by crafting the perfect self introduction.
Interviewers want to work with candidates they like. Leave a good/deep impression and it will increase your chances of success. Most of us are not strangers to self introductions as we meet new people now and then and have to introduce ourselves every once in a while. However, self introductions in interviews are slightly different from real life - you need to tweak it to your advantage - tailor the self introduction to the role and company you are applying for! Your self introduction evolves as you grow and are at a different stage of your career.
When answering "tell me about yourself", you can rephrase the question into:
"Tell me about your journey into tech. How did you get interested in coding, and why was web development (or replace with other job-specific skills) a good fit for you? How is that applicable to our role or company goals?" It is probably not a good idea to spend valuable time talking about things which aren't relevant to the job!
Make an elevator pitch
An "elevator pitch" originates from a journalist trying to pitch an idea to an editor. The only time to catch the editor was in the elevator and she had only around 30 seconds to do so. The key elements of elevator pitches include:
- Short - You have limited time!
- Direct - As you only have limited time, you should get to the point
- Attention-grabbing - Present your most attractive ideas
Whether you're at a job fair with hundreds of other candidates and you have limited time or you are simply explaining who you are to a potential connection or client, it is important to be able to clearly and accurately describe your knowledge and skills quickly and succinctly. Your self introduction is an elevator pitch for yourself!
Here are some tips to develop a good elevator pitch for your software engineer self introduction:
1. Start with basic background information
Include who you are, who you work for (or school and major), and what you do.
- Internships - You should mention the following: name, school and major, focus areas, past internships and/or noteworthy projects
- Full-time - You should mention the following: name, past companies, noteworthy projects (best if it's a public consumer product that they would have heard of)
Does this look familiar? It should be, because it is similar to your resume! Your resume is a condensed version of your knowledge and experiences and your self introduction is essentially a condensed version of your resume. As you grow older, professional experience becomes more important and school background becomes less important. Hence your self introduction changes as you become more senior.
2. KISS (Keep It Simple and Sweet)
Tell them some highlights from your favorite/most impressive projects and including some numbers if they're impressive or challenges that you've overcome. Do not delve into the depths of how you reverse engineered a game and decrypted a packet to predict when to use your DKP on a drop. Tell them the executive summary: "I reverse engineered X game by decrypting Y packet to predict Z." If this catches their interest, they might ask further questions on their own.
3. Why do they want you?
Tell the interviewer why you would make a good hire. Is your experience relevant to the company? Have you used a similar tech stack as the company or built relevant products? What unique talent(s) do you have that may give them confidence about your ability to contribute to the company?
Lastly, you must practice your pitch! Having a great, succinct summary of your skills only helps if you can actually deliver it rapidly! You should practice keeping a quick but easy-to-follow pace that won't overwhelm them but won't bore them. It's a precarious balance, but can be ironed out with practice.
After coming up with your self introduction, keep it somewhere where you can refer/tweak in future. Memorize them and in future you can just use it when you need to but don't sound like you're recalling it from your memory when you're actually saying it out. Sound natural!
Having an elevator pitch on hand is a great way to create a network and chance upon new job opportunities. There will often be times when you can't prepare for an interview or meeting and it is incredibly handy to have a practiced pitch.
Good examples of software engineer self introductions
Example 1: Front End Engineer at Meta
"Hi I'm XXX and I graduated from National University of Singapore in 2015 with a degree in Computer Science. My interests are in Front End Engineering and I love to create beautiful and performant products with delightful user experiences.
Back in school, I designed and built a web application, NUSMods which solves a huge problem of class and timetable planning every semester. It receives over a million pageviews a month and is used by over 40,000 NUS students and even some professors. It is built using a modern web technology stack - React, Redux, Jest, Babel, Flow, webpack and is mobile-responsive."
I'm interested in the Front End Engineer role at Meta because I have been using Meta Open Source Front End technologies for a while now and am inspired by Meta's mission and Open Source culture.
- "I love to create beautiful and performant products with delightful user experiences."
- Qualities that a Front End engineer should possess
- "It receives over a million pageviews a month and is used by over 30,000 NUS undergraduates and even some professors."
- Mention something about the project which stands out
- "It is built using a modern web technology stack - React, Redux, Jest, Babel, Flow, webpack and is mobile-responsive."
- Meta tech stack! Also hints that you keep yourself updated with modern web technologies
Example 2: Front End Engineer at Lyft
"Hi I'm XXX and I graduated from National University of Singapore in 2015 with a degree in Computer Science. My interests are in Front End Engineering and I love to create beautiful performant products with delightful user experiences.
I previously worked at Grab where I led the Grab for Work project. Grab for Work was a service for companies to make corporate transportation expenses convenient. Companies can create employee groups, set ride policies and share corporate payment methods with their employees. I built the project with another engineer over the period of 3 months on a React/Redux and Golang stack."
I'm interested in the Front End Engineer role at Lyft because I like working in this ridesharing space and creating products to improve the lives of users.
"I love to create beautiful and performant products with delightful user experiences."
Same as above, qualities that a Front End engineer should possess.
"I previously worked at Grab where I led the Grab for Work project."
Lyft was Grab's sister company! In fact they even had a partnership in the past. Most Lyft engineers would have heard of Grab before and mentioning this catches their attention.
"I built the project with another engineer over the period of 4 months on a React/Redux and Golang stack."
Acknowledge that you work with others. Building a non-trivial system with just 2 people in 3 months is quite good for a non-trivial system. Lyft also uses Golang for their high performance systems.