Many people fear being stumped by an unexpected question in an interview. However, don’t let preoccupation with unpredictable questions cause you to inadequately prepare for standard interview questions. It’s possible that they will ask you, “If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” It is likely that they will ask, “tell me about yourself.” The very familiarity of questions such as, “tell me about yourself” can cause us to undervalue the opportunity they present. Much of the interview will be shaped by the interviewer. This is an open-ended invitation for you to introduce yourself and make a positive impression.

A skillful answer to this question makes connections. They help the interviewer see you in context. In order to give a full and effective picture of yourself, we recommend drawing on three areas:

Yourself in relation to your values. Many people launch into a list, delineating their past job positions. While it is important to highlight your experience, a savvy interview will not just tell what they’ve done, but tell them why and how they’ve done it. Explain the values that motivate you and how they have informed your work

Yourself in relation to your team. No one works in isolation. Your interviewers are not just interviewing for a role, they are interviewing for a member of a team. Unpack how you work with others, demonstrate that you value the contributions of others and approach things collaboratively.

Yourself in relation to your goals. Close by briefly highlighting where your career is headed. Describe your long-term ambition and passion. Sketch it in a way that allows them to see how you could grow in their organization and contribute to the health of their institution.

Throughout your response, be warm and practice good eye contact. Remember that this is not a monologue, but the opening to a conversation. With some foresight, “tell us about yourself” can start an interview out a solid footing and set the tone for the interview to follow.