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Tell me about yourself: How to answer one of the most dreaded interview questions
27 November 2014
If I asked you right now to tell me about yourself, how would you answer? This is your chance to make a solid first impression so be careful!
It’s a difficult question – how can you possibly encapsulate all your experience and skills in one answer? – but a common one nonetheless. And it is possible to answer well. You just need to be specific, relevant and impressive. Let me break that down for you.
Recruiters are always looking for the specifics. We want concrete examples of your achievements, with data and results to back it up. Things like “I led a project that increased sales by X or saved the company $Z” are much better than “I have solid project management skills.”
Know your audience and tailor your response accordingly. Be conscious of who you’re meeting with and why. When selecting your examples, choose the parts of your career that most closely align with the role you are interviewing for.
Keep your answer short, punchy and upbeat. A lot of candidates start rambling when they’re asked to introduce themselves, which not only fails to impress the interviewer but also wastes valuable time.
Keep your answer short, punchy and upbeat. A lot of candidates start rambling when they’re asked to introduce themselves, which not only fails to impress the interviewer but also wastes valuable time. If you spend 10 minutes giving an overly detailed rundown of your career history, there will be less time to cover more relevant areas related to the role.
How to structure your response
Keep it simple! It makes most sense to me to break it down into three parts:
3. Opportunity for follow up
That looks something like this:
(Background) I have more than 25 years experience in retail, including roles at Company A, B and C. I specialise in visual merchandising, and as State VM Manager at Company A, I implemented a project that ultimately increased revenue by X% by standardising our in-store experience via store layout.(Reasoning) I am looking for a role that allows greater flexibility and provides the opportunity to hone my skills in ecommerce. I am also really interested in area X, Y and Z that this role offers. (Opportunity to follow up) Is there anything else I can tell you?
A few additional pointers
- Presentation is often as important as what you’re saying. You need to engage your interviewer, because if they’re not engaged at this early stage of the interview it will be very difficult to recover from that and build rapport.
- Don’t forget an interview is a two-way street, and sometimes a poor interviewer can leave you scrambling. If you’re asked a more general question and you aren’t sure what the interviewer wants to hear, you can ask for clarification. Something as simple as “Would you like me to start from the beginning of my career and talk you through it, or provide a few key highlights?” will do the trick and ensure you answer the question to the interviewer’s expectations.
- It’s worth practicing your introduction before the interview so that you can answer confidently and appear more relaxed. Once you have this framework, you’ll be able to tailor it to meeting people outside of an interview setting. This applies just as easily to a networking event.
"Tell me about yourself" is the question that most often opens an interview and provides the interviewer with their first impression of you. When answering, make sure your response is:
- Structured with a background, your reasoning and an opportunity for follow up