“Tell me about yourself”
Posted on 14 May 2015
This can be one of the most dreaded questions poised to you in an interview. There is no real right or wrong answer, yet how you answer it will set the tone for the rest of the interview. As it’s such an open question it often throws people, unsurprisingly most people do not prepare for it. So when poised with the question one will think – what exactly do they want me to say here? What do they want to know? And then the panic sets in; some of you will freeze not being able to respond, start reciting every detail in your CV or worse turn into a rambling Michael Scott!
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way...” - Michael Scott (from the Office).
Whatever you do, don’t be a Michael Scott. So you ask, “what should I share when asked the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question?”
Why are they asking you the question?
Before we get into how to answer the question, let’s think about why your potential new employer has asked you this question? They could be:
- testing you to see how you will answer without direction;
- trying to see how you articulate information about yourself in a few sentences;
- trying to gain an insight into your personality and how you compare to the other candidates;
- trying to see if you will fit in with their company culture; or
- ultimately wanting a high level overview of your achievements, knowledge, skills, abilities and personality.
It’s important to think about what they may be looking for so you can put an emphasis on things that you know are paramount in the individual they’re looking for.
It’s your time to shine
Now it’s time to work on how you will answer the ‘tell me about yourself question’, as this is your 5 minutes of glory and a prime opportunity to really position yourself as the right person for the role.
What you need to do in roughly 5 minutes is to explain in a structured approach who you are, what you do and why you're the perfect candidate - essentially a slightly longer version of an elevator pitch. If you’ve never prepared an elevator pitch consider using the present, past, future formula to structure your response:
Start with who you are and where you are right now in your career.
A little bit about your experiences, successes (relevant to the role) and skills you have gained.
Finish with the future – where you are looking to go, achieve and how this fits in line with the job you’re interviewing for.
- Focus on skills and experience that are relevant to the role.
- Relax and show your personality.
- Be concise and enthusiastic.
- Be prepared to be self-deprecating and/or use humility!
- Summarise your background, achievements and objectives.
- Talk about your career goals that are relevant to the interview.
- Give them your “Unique Selling Proposition” – your biggest strength and benefit a company will get from you.
- Including a quick mention of volunteer work, interests or hobbies that are relevant to the role or will show a bit of your personality.
- Share your life story filled with personal information - they aren’t looking to find out if you’re married or what you hate about the city.
- Mention that you moved to the new city as your husband got transferred which has happened several times (aka if he gets another transfer then you will leave).
- Badmouth past employers.
- Talk about what you don’t want in a role i.e. working late.
- Tell them that your dream or passion is to open up a café (you’re not exactly going to stick around then are you).
- Avoid politics and controversial topics.
- Dive into a long recital of your resume.
Finally, it’s a good idea to make sure what you are going to say is reflected on your professional profiles such as your LinkedIn profile and successes are mentioned in your CV. As employers will check out your social presence just as you will (or should) have checked out theirs! Now go prepare your brilliant answer and practice it with a friend, family member or a recruitment consultant before you head into your interview.