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.