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‘Tell Me about yourself’

This is one of the most frequently asked opening interview questions but for many interviewees, their ‘nightmare’ question!

Why? Because, regardless of the level you are operating at, most people lose sight of the real reason for the question and instead of grasping the opportunity to shine, they ramble on and meander off course or cover irrelevant facts about themselves e.g. “I am 42 and married with two children etc

Instead of being overwhelming, by answering “Tell me about yourself” effectively you have a golden opportunity to make a really positive impact, first impression and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

You can take control of the interview and WOW the interviewers by really selling yourself effectively.  Bring out your personality, highlight your strengths, key skills, achievements, motivation, qualifications and value added for the position and really show off your personal brand!

Why ask the question? “Tell me about yourself” helps the interviewers assess you as a person, gauge how confidently you can talk about yourself, how clearly focused you are about your career aspirations and how you relate to the prescribed job role and the organisation.

What is the best way to tackle the question? Because you need to give a really positive and well structured answer, start by writing it down and then practice reading it. To do this effectively you will need to practice your answer repeatedly and refine it until it feels right so it becomes second nature and comes across in your own style, rather than scripted and robotic.

When you are comfortable with your ‘pitch’ practice it in a mock interview situation with family or friends or in front of the mirror until your delivery is natural and confident.

However, remember one of the golden rules of interview technique; ‘aim to intrigue not inform’. Ensure you give the key headlines and some interesting top level detail rather than firing all your bullets at once and drying up. Also, keep your answers to no longer than two minutes as this is the maximum attention span for most people.

So what is a good answer to ‘Tell me about yourself?’

Firstly, it is useful to build the picture of the type of person you are and your key personality traits, as in addition to technical skills, the ‘fit’ is important in most roles and then a brief overview of your career to date. Depending on the nature of the interview, it can help you with your interview flow to structure your answer along these lines:

“I will tell you a bit about myself first and then give you a brief overview of my career to date”.

This is where 3rd party endorsement (see winning at interviews part 1) can really help e.g.

“My boss always tells me that I am a real asset to the team as I am very self motivated, positive and highly passionate about my job and my enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the team.

My main strength is the ability to motivate teams and lead them to deliver targets and I am at my best while working under pressure and faced with challenges.

I applied for my current job because I have a real interest in this field ……..

What I am most proud of is my record for consistently delivering against required targets ………

Before I got promoted, my role was mainly focused on …. and I worked hard to gain my …..  qualification.”

Winning at interviews is not easy. If you are lacking in confidence or really want to ensure you ‘nail’ the interview, it will pay you to invest in a good Career Coach. They will help you to plan your interview approach, hone your interview skills and challenge you to answer the key questions, especially ‘Tell me about yourself’ in the most effective way to give you a greater chance of success.

 

Guide to Winning at Interviews

Do you have a fear of interviews? You are not alone. Interviews for many people can be highly stressful, intimidating and downright nerve racking.

In today’s competitive job market interviews come in all shapes and ‘sizes’ from telephone interviews to full blown day (or longer) assessment centres.

There are strategies for all types of interview. The focus of this article is on the importance of having the right mindset plus some effective strategies to help you ‘nail’ that interview and show why you are the best candidate for the job.

Interview myth 1 – “You won’t get the job because there are far more experienced candidates than you”.  I have heard this comment from clients countless times then helped them turn this round to achieve interview success. Invariably this is your perception rather than reality!

Core belief – “If you have been invited to an interview you must have a good chance of success”. Winning at interviews involves having a positive mindset. Although we all know situations where a candidate is already earmarked for the job, you must believe you have a fighting chance of getting get the job or at least create a positive impact for the future.

A recent senior level client is a wonderful example on these two points. Whilst I have respected their anonymity, they have agreed to share their thoughts to benefit others.

Self belief – If you have self doubts and focus your thoughts on your lack of ability or experience, which could be perceived as more limited, it could become the focus of the interview. This is exactly what happened in a previous interview.

“My self doubt took over and I was set on course to planting the seed of doubt in the interviewers’ minds before they even have had a chance to really get to know me”.

Passion – I coached the client to prepare them for a similar level interview some months later and really worked on their mindset and approach, especially as they felt that there were candidates with more specific experience who had been short listed.

“This time I was prepared and proactive. I approached the interview confidently by realising and focusing on the transferable skills, qualities and experience that I did have and how my abilities, previous achievements and passion would make the difference in the role.

Practicing answers to likely interview questions and your feedback on my style and content of answers was really helpful and relevant. Many of these came up, so I felt ready and confident”.

The client was successful and got the job! This was another fantastic example of what I passionately believe and have proven with hundreds of similar successes i.e. passion, desire and a positive attitude can win the day against more experienced candidates.

The 12 P’s for Winning at Interviews

Plan and prepare. Research the organisation, job role and questions you wish to ask

Use positive mindset strategies for overcoming self doubt and nerves.

Be punctual, you may only get one chance.

Presentation – First impressions count. Smile, firm handshake, eye contact, good posture, dress for success and display positive body language.

Be enthusiastic, use tone of voice effectively and build rapport. Be yourself, sell yourself, and bring out your personality.

Be polite and personable. Listen, check understanding and ask for clarification if necessary.

Be professional and only volunteer positive information. Answer questions confidently, concisely and honestly, don’t waffle. Never be critical of a previous employer or boss.

Give specific examples to show competency and bring out your passion.

Tactically use ‘3rd party endorsement’ e.g. ‘people say / my boss says’.

Ask relevant questions. Never discuss salary or benefits unless asked.

Follow-up with a short polite email confirming your interest.

Practice!!!!

If you want to know more about how to win at interviews, visit our Career & Personal Development website.