Physicians: How to respond when the recruiter says 'Tell me about yourself'

Published on: Aug 19, 2019


You've spent years studying to become a physician and countless hours every week building your skills and experience. You can answer complex medical questions without missing a beat. But when an interviewer asks you to describe yourself, you don't know where to start.

Do you describe your educational background? Do you explain what drove you to become a doctor?

If this sounds like you, you're not alone. A survey of U.S. adults found that 92% of respondents experience stress during job interviews, with anxieties ranging from nervousness to a fear of being overqualified.

When you struggle to respond to the open-ended prompt "Tell me about yourself," keep these tips in mind.

Use the job description to frame your response

This part of the interview is often used to determine if you're a good fit for the organization's culture and work style. Therefore, your answer should reflect these considerations. Thankfully, you have a key tool that can guide your response: the job description.

Try to extract two or three qualifications you know the physician recruiter is looking for, then frame your response accordingly. For example, if you know the organization is looking for someone with a calming bedside manner, you could talk about how you respond to high-pressure situations.

Structure your answer in the present, past and future

Another effective way to structure your response is to use the present-past-future formula developed by career expert Lily Zhang. It's easy to remember and intuitive enough that you won't have to memorize much.

For this response, you begin by telling the interviewer a bit about your current role or a recent accomplishment. Then, you explain how you got there while describing your previous experiences. Finally, you transition into what you'd like to do next and how the position for which you are interviewing aligns with those expectations.

Use the job description to frame your response.Use the job description to frame your response.

Keep your response brief

Don't feel like you need to tell the interviewer your entire life story. Ultimately he or she is more concerned about your skills and experience. Keep you response professional and succinct, but not dry.

In other words, try to express your passion for medicine as you relate the finer details of your education and work experience. Tell the interviewer what you enjoyed most about your previous experiences and why they're driving you on to bigger and better opportunities. If you're moving to a new location, explain what drew you there.

Plan your answer ahead of time

By reading these tips, you're already on your way to being prepared for your interview. Consider writing down how you will respond to this prompt and read your answer aloud to see how it sounds. If you can, role play with a friend to practice your response. However, you don't need to memorize your answer. You want to sound natural and conversational throughout the interview.

Now that you're more prepared to nail your next interview, sign up for free job alerts from today. When you struggle to respond to the open-ended prompt “Tell me about yourself,” keep these tips in mind.