Tell me about yourself!

All interviews start with the same question: Tell me about yourself

The question sounds easy on paper, sure. After all, we talk about ourselves all the time, but when you think about it, it’s a really open-ended question.


Do you start with your background? Do you go through whatever’s on your resume/cv? Or do you introduce yourself more as a person than a professional?

Worried and unsure of how to answer? Relax, you’re not the only one, most people struggle with this question.

Here’s some good news, though: there’s a very easy way to answer the dreaded interview question.

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask The Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question Anyway?

So why do hiring managers ask this question?

Do they really want to get to know you better?

Are their lives really so boring and wrapped up in work that they’re forced to ask these questions in order to live vicariously through their prospective employees?

There are two much more practical reasons why hiring managers ask this question:

  1. They want to see how you react to a question asked casually and without structure
  2. They want to get a feel for what you deem to be “important”

So how does one answer this question?  The best way to understand this is to first talk about the common mistakes made by most job seekers.

Common Mistakes

This is one of the job interview questions that most people get wrong. So in order to ensure you don’t end up as one of these people, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that people make:

1) Repeat your cover letter and resume.

Yes, it’s important for you to highlight moments in your past when you were successful, but the real power lies in highlighting the accomplishments that are most relevant to this specific position.

2) Telling your life story

This is probably the most common mistake that people make. Why?  Because it’s the easiest way to answer this question.

“my name is Flexy Chats, Well, I’m from Pindabasa Village. I was born in 1973 and spent most of my childhood hunched over a computer, striving to become a software engineer.  I love everything tech and I am inspired by Bill gates and Mark Zuckerbag.  I really love computers and spent a lot of my time sitted on my computer.”

 

Look.  It’s great to share your personality with others.  But save it for after you get hired. Keep it professional and craft your answer with relevance to the open position.

3) The 10-Minute Monologue

Don’t go off on a ten minute monologue all about you. Keep it short, a minute.  90 seconds at most.

There are going to be a lot more questions coming down the pipe that will allow you to elaborate on your various experiences, skills and accomplishments. Don’t feel like you have to answer all of them at once.

A Simple Formula for Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

Below is a simple and effective formula for structuring your response: present, past, future.

  • Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it and perhaps a big recent accomplishment.
  • Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and or mention previous experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.
  • Future: Segue into what you are looking to do next and why you are interested in this position.

For example,

“Sure, so, my name is Flexy Chats and I am 26 years old.

For the past 5 years, I’ve been working as a business analyst at Shift Lojik and Pindabasa. I have some background in data analysis, with a degree from University of PINDABASA.  What really got me into the field, though, is the internship I did at Mr_CEO Media.. 

Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that I’ve always been good with numbers and handling data.

For example, when I was working at Shift Lojik, I led a project for migrating all operations data to a new data warehousing system to cut down on costs. The new solution was a much better fit for our business, which eventually led to savings of up to $50,000 annually.

Moving forward, I hope to expand my experience across different industries. Particularly fintech, which is why I’m interested in your company”

 

Note: This is not the only way to build your response, of course, and you can tweak it as you see fit. If there is a particularly story about what brought you into this field, for example, you might decide to start with that “past” story and then get into what you are doing in the present.

Whatever order you pick, make sure you ultimately tie it to the job and company. “A good place to end it is to give a transition of this is why I’m here,” You want to be absolutely certain your interviewer is left with the impression that it “makes sense that you are sitting here talking to me about this role.”

How to answer “Tell me about yourself”

Okay, so now that you have an idea of what you shouldn’t do, let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how you should answer this tough job interview question.

So what is the most important thing to remember?

 “Focus on what most interests the interviewer.”

You don’t want to focus on what is best about you, you want to focus on what you are going to do to full-fill the needs of the company you are interviewing with.

 “It’s not about you, it’s about them.”

What does this mean?  You need to tailor your response to the question to the needs of the organization.

How To Structure Your Answer

Okay, so you understand that you need to “tailor” your response to the company and position you are interviewing for by emphasizing the Qualities that they desire in their perfect candidate.

But how exactly do you do that for Tell Me About Yourself?

The best way to do it is to provide a success story that highlights the quality that you are trying to demonstrate. A Success story is an example from your past work experience that clearly demonstrates you succeeding in some way. Below are a few example success stories you can use tin an interview or to craft yours.

Example 1

‘I am a software developer, with over nine years’ experience. My career has seen me spearhead multiple complex software development initiatives that have added genuine value to companies.

Most recently, I developed an HR System for Shift Lojik. This solution enabled the efficient management of employees’ information and payroll. It saved thousands of people hours and over two hundred thousand dollars per year in wages.

Since I was a teenager, I have been passionate about developing software. Back then, I used to develop my own software, like to-do applications, etc. Some of these software were sold to and or used by friends and other people. After leaving school, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and I haven’t looked back since.’

Example 2

Sure! So I've always enjoyed writing and public speaking, even going back to high school. This led me to pursue writing-related passions, for example in college, where I was an editor for our school newspaper. In addition to writing, I got to learn how to manage a team and the writing process.

After college, I took a job at Acme as a social media manager, writing copy and social content for the company blog, but I raised my hand to work on the communications plan for a product launch which is where I discovered my interest in product marketing.

After switching to a product marketing role and managing the two most successful new product launches last year, I realized I'm excited to take on a new role. I have learned, I work best on products that I love and use, and given thaxt I'm a big user of your company’s products I jumped at the chance to apply when I saw the open posting.

Example 3

“I have been engaged in the education industry for the past 4 years. My most recent work was at a Play School as their Branch Manager. I was personally responsible for coordinating and managing the day to day operational matters of the school.

With my leadership abilities and strong communication skills, I was able to develop a healthy atmosphere driven by team spirit amongst the teachers and the lower staff as well. I played the role of a mentor where I taught the teachers life skills which in turn, they passed on to the children attending the school. 

Now at this point of time, I am looking for a company that values teamwork and the group dynamic, where I can leverage my experience and learnings to my as well as the organization’s benefit.”

Don’t have any work experience? Don’t worry, we have got you covered, check the example below!

"My name is Flexy Chats, I’m 26 years old and I recently graduated from University of PINDABASA with a BSc. Honours Computer Science. While there, I learnt a lot of practicals in subjects like web and software development, web and software security, data communication and Networks, artificial intelligence and machine learning, operating systems, embedded systems etc. I was part of the software development team for the University Innovation Hub.

I’ve worked hard in my education and now I’m ready to apply my knowledge into practice.

While I don’t have any real-life work experience, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the IT environment. A lot of my courses involved working with real companies to solve real problems.

Now, I’m looking to leverage everything I have learned in university and get some hands-on work experience."

Conclusion

Ultimately your goal with how you answer this question is to get the interviewer to see you not as a potential candidate, but as a future employee. An interview is really just a long sales pitch.

You’re selling you and you want the company to buy!

Let’s go back to the first few paragraphs of this blog. People who talk only about themselves are boring. Luckily for us all, you’re not one of those people!

By following what we’ve shown you here, you can take the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself” and turn it into a solid moment within your interview where you can prove again that you’re not only a professional, but you’re perfect for the job!



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