Many of us have heard the question ‘so, tell me about yourself’ and have had to answer it once or twice. Tackling this apparently ‘simple’ question during your interview is not as easy as it appears. How do you impress the interviewer and display your aptitude for the desired position? In this article, we break down the steps you can follow when answering this age-old question.
Keep in mind, the aim of this question is not for you to ramble on about your life story (although we’re sure it’s interesting) or describe your work experience, which is already listed on your CV. This is the time for your personality to shine; giving you a great chance to prove just how capable you are for the job.
What are the interviewer’s goals?
Before we get into how to properly answer this question, we need to first understand what the interviewer wants to hear from you. Not only does your CV already list your past work experience, it also highlights your education, hobbies and work-related strengths. The answer you give will set the tone for the rest of the interview and will help the interviewer form their first impression of you right off the bat.
So, what should you focus on? Use your professional journey to illustrate what defines you and include your positive personality traits, hobbies and goals. Be concise while trying to sell yourself by listing your skills and accomplishments. This will give the interviewer a glimpse into how well you ‘fit’ the job requirements and why you stand out from the rest.
Present-Past-Future: First, discuss what you are presently doing right now. Then talk about your past work-experiences which relate to the job you’re applying for (feel free to throw in some stories which portray the skills you gained). Lastly, describe your future goals and why you will be the perfect fit for this career opportunity.
Example: ‘I work as a business analyst at Emirates, where I develop technical solutions to business problems and analyse documenting requirements. Before that, I worked at Groupe BPCE where I assisted customers with processing transactions and resolved complaints. This helped me improve my managerial and organisational skills. Although I loved the work that I did, I’m excited to work as a Bank of England employee; to implement my skills and provide the highest-quality service.’
Tell your story: Treat the interview like it’s an every-day conversation since the interviewer is trying to get to know you better. Speak in a creative and organised story-form about your education, achievements, work experience, hobbies and goals. Describe what it is in your life and career path that matters most to you and how you came to interview for their company. Use real-life examples and your personal experiences. End it smoothly, using a phrase or sentence that summarises who you are.
Example: ‘I get along with people very easily and have strong interpersonal skills. I come up with creative strategies for challenges. I received my education from school and am currently working for (insert company). I have an experience of x amount of years of working in (insert company) and would like to continue with the same profession. I believe that I will get a lot of opportunities in this field. My interests and goals are… This is all about me.’ – To find more examples such as this one, click here.
Describe yourself in three words: This is a short, sweet and to-the-point approach for you to demonstrate your knack in precision and creativity. This description will draw the interviewer in, so feel free to expand on the words you chose once you see that they are intrigued and curious to hear more.
Example: ‘I am innovative, driven and outgoing.’ Next, you can expand on this by describing how you incorporate each of these three traits. ‘I love coming up with new ways of getting things done. I am always dedicated to completing a task to its fullest and rising to the challenge. I thrive most when I’m working with people in a team-setting and I strive to ascertain a positive work environment with my co-workers.’ – Remember, it is always good to add a personal story to drive your point home.
Tips to help you prepare
A great way to make you feel confident when answering this question is to practise beforehand! The first step to accomplishing this is to simply write down all the things that pop into your head that you believe define you; such as your hobbies, goals, passions, background, philosophies, strengths, weaknesses and achievements.
The next step in implementing these concepts in your answer is to look at what you wrote from a stranger’s perspective. Try to weed out what is irrelevant to the position and focus more on the traits, experiences and other ideologies that you possess which the interviewer will be looking for. Try to be original and find the answer that means a lot to you. This will help you come off as sincere, unique, and most of all, CONFIDENT.
Points to consider:
- Use simple language when describing your previous line of work in technical terms
- Always mention the tasks, projects, and skills you have which are relevant for the position
- Go in order – discuss your experiences in a chronological way
- Keep it SHORT and sweet – under 30-45 seconds
- Try not to be too specific with your answer
Another very important point to remember – DON’T overstress your answer. Be sure to speak clearly and steer clear of idle chatter. You don’t want to bore your interviewer and you most certainly don’t want to make things awkward by spewing out whatever thought comes to mind. You never want to have a monologue with yourself, so make sure you give your interviewer a chance to intervene and keep a constant dialogue.
Just take a deep breath, organise your thoughts and dive into the most interesting things first.
Believe me, when you take our above advice and practise with our interactive interview preparation, you will be excited to hear the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question when the time comes!