“Tell me about yourself” interview question

This question seems to strike fear into the hearts of many candidates – and yet, ironically, the motivation for asking it is to relax people at the beginning of the interview! It also allows you to get off to a good start and to highlight some key, interesting facts about yourself – so make the most of the opportunity.

What is interesting about you?

Make a list of your key achievements, your main areas of work and your particular skills and training. You can also include some non-work related facts. For example if you do work for charity or run a local football team, these involve skills that are of interest to a future employer.

Do remember how many times the interviewer will have asked this question and so try to pick some things which are memorable and perhaps a bit different from what everyone will say.

Structure your answer

This type of answer really needs some structure otherwise you can end up just burbling away and then running out of things to say.

  • Introduction

This is like the top line of your c.v. It’s a thumbnail sketch of who you are, what you do and what kind of roles you are looking for. It will probably be just a few sentences.

  • Three main points

Look at your list and select three things to structure your answer around. Three is a memorable number – it helps the listener to follow what you are saying and also allows you to keep on track.

For each point;

  • Explain what the skill or area of work is.

I was responsible for creating a new software database for my department.”

  • Emphasise what you did, what was involved and how you did it.

I had to do a lot of research to discover what was needed and I had to make sure that everyone bought in to it and was able to use it.”

  • Add what you learnt and what you gained from it.

I learnt that some people can be resistant to change, but that once I had explained the benefits fully, and really listened to their input, then they accepted it. Now they say they can’t imagine how they managed all those years without it. It really gave me the confidence to initiate and lead projects.”

Try to end with the most powerful and interesting point as this will stay in the interviewer’s memory.

  • Conclusion

It is very important to finish cleanly and on a strong note. So sum up and then end by re-stating what kind of role you are now looking for (being sure that it fits appropriately with the current interview).

Practice

Practice this answer out loud a few times so you get a sense that it flows well and makes sense. Don’t learn it off by heart – as it is then difficult to make it seem spontaneous. But do become familiar with the material, and adapt it as necessary depending on the job you are applying for.

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