Tell Me About Yourself: How to Approach This Interview Question

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What do you say when you’re asked in an interview, “tell me about yourself?” Do you spout out key dates and institutions from your past? Do you robotically recite your resume? If you do, you’re not alone.

Here’s why that’s not the best approach

If you think about it for a minute you’ll realise the interviewer already has that list from your application. So why would they want you to simply repeat it?

Tell me about yourself is a common interview question. It’s a good icebreaker, it eases you into the interview and can provide valuable insights to the interviewer about your strengths, your likes, your dislikes and what you’re like as a person. When you list through your educational or work history that’s not giving the interviewer the insight they are looking for.

What not to do when answering: Tell me about yourself

Tell the interviewer your life history, from the date you were born, all the educational institutions you studied at throughout your life, and your entire work history.

So then how do you approach the question? What are they looking for?

Here’s how to answer this question well

Talk about what you like to do, what your strengths are, highlight some work experience that really lit you up, discuss why it lit you up, and talk about your key successes, ones you’re proud of. Not only will this give the interviewer a great insight into you as an employee, it’s also information you will love talking about and you won’t be able to help being enthusiastic and energetic in your answer because you’re talking about what you love to do and how you love to do it.

Other areas to think about could be, if you have been working in a specific industry or role for a long time and you’re looking to get promoted in that industry or field, talk about it. Talk through how long have you been working in that industry/field and why have you stayed so long. Tell them what it is that interests and excites you. Tell them what your aspirations are, what you want to learn, develop and contribute to. If you want to be managing your own team soon, let them know.

If you’re applying for a career change – talk about it. Tell them why you have decided on a career change. What has brought you to this decision? What skills and experience do you have which you can transfer to the field you’re looking to progress in?

Finally, think about the role and company you’re applying to – how can you tell them about yourself and genuinely link that to what they are looking for? What do you have that is perfect for them? What do you feel you possess and what is it about the way you work, what drives and motivates you that fits perfectly in their company culture?

Why “Tell me about yourself” is a great question for you too

Remember, an interview is a conversation and it’s a two-way process. Of course the interviewer will ask “tell me about yourself” and many other questions to gauge whether you fit into their team and culture. Equally, it gives you the opportunity to assess, from the interviewer’s response and the conversation that leads on from your answer, whether you’ll be happy working for/with them. This question is a good starting point for both you and the interviewer to figure this out. It also is an easy question to help you feel at ease and start the interview off well. So next time you’re asked “tell me about yourself”, embrace it and use it to your advantage.

About the author: Nicola Clemmit runs Nicola Clemmit Consultancy: supporting candidates with successful interviews and applications.

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