I love the “Tell me about yourself” interview question. You are almost guaranteed to be asked it, usually at the beginning of a phone interview or face to face interview. Seemingly innocent, it often trips up a lot of candidates, who are unprepared for an open, non-specific question. It’s also a question that is disguised as a way to observe you and how you communicate. So how much information should you give? What does a recruiter want? Why have they asked it?
When you are asked to “Tell me about yourself”, a recruiter is looking for the following:
How you communicate
They want you to be concise, articulate and give an answer that is an appropriate length..The content you choose to disclose – is it relevant to the role? Are you ticking the selection criteria boxes they want? It’s a great opportunity to start selling yourself, without being too sales-y.
You have the floor. Are you confident in answering an open-ended question? Are you TOO confident? How are your nerves? How do you present yourself?
While you are talking your body language is undoubtedly being observed and assessed. Use open body language, lean forward slightly, make eye contact with each interviewer (if there is more than one).
If you work in sales, you know that people buy from people they like. Hiring is much the same, you’ll be more likely to be hired if they like you. Hiring Managers tend to like the candidate most like them. Unfair, but its human nature. One of the CFO’s I worked with was known to be intimidating in interviews and had zero tolerance for candidates who waffled. This one time (at band camp) he ended an interview after 20 minutes and when he came to give me feedback so soon after the interview had started, I knew it was bad news. He told me he had only asked 2 questions, one of them being the tell me about yourself interview question. The candidate was a talker, and her nerves got the best of her. Faced with an interviewer who was intimidating, her natural response was to talk. And talk. And. Talk. She missed all the cues he was giving her that signaled he was not impressed, and kept talking. Observe the communication and personality style of the interviewer and try to match it. If they are a talker, be chatty (but keep it on point). If they are businesslike and factual, mirror that with your answers.
So how do you answer the tell me about yourself interview question?
- Don’t underestimate this interview question, it is one of the most important to prepare for.
- Keep your answer to 60-90 seconds
- Don’t give your life story
- Keep it professional not personal
- Don't give a shopping list of your soft skills eg "I'm hardworking, honest, reliable...."
- Stick to a few sentences that sum up your professional experience, key skills career progression to date, and what you are looking for next.
Example “I have over 10 years’ experience in the Transport and Logistics industry across a variety of warehouse and operations roles. I started off at ABC Transport as a forklift driver and when I left the company I had progressed to Warehouse Manager, leading a team of 12. I enjoy finding ways to get the most out of staff and streamline processes, and am keen to use these skills in a more Operations based role, which is why I applied for this role.”
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