Category: Advice

"Tell me about yourself". How to answer this interview question

Article by Lynne Dare, Director at Mosaic Search & Selection

Tell me a little about yourself?

This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.

Interviews are a bittersweet business. On one hand, you’re excited to be meeting a prospective employer. On the other, you know you’re about to willingly subject yourself to some of the most awkward lines of questioning known. Including the inevitable, “So, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Talking about yourself should be easy—you’ve known yourself your entire life! But for most of us, it’s pretty tough, especially when you’re in the hot seat in an interview.  Either the words don’t come or they come in full flow!

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can prepare and answer this open question and impress the interviewer.

Assume the Position

Body language is important, and whether you realise it or not, it speaks volumes about your personality and state of mind without you saying a word.

When you’re asked to talk about yourself, give your body a moment to catch up to your brain before you speak. Take a deep breath, and adjust your posture. Relax your shoulders, un-cross your legs, and do whatever you need to do to “switch” into a more casual posture. Not too casual—you’re still in an interview—just enough to give your interviewer a few body language cues that tell him or her you’re comfortable and excited to talk about yourself.

Keep it Short

Although your interviewer did ask you to talk about yourself, he or she probably doesn’t want to spend the entire interview hearing your life’s story. While you want to give a complete answer, linger too long and you’re likely to look unfocused—or worse, lose the interviewer’s interest.

To help keep your response in your interviewer’s attention sweet spot, keep it between one and two minutes. You’ll have to practice this at home a few times to get a sense for what you can fit into that timeframe, but once you do, you’ll be able to pace yourself when it’s time for the interview.

Follow the Formula

What should you include? Your interviewer has seen your CV, so don’t regurgitate all your bullet points—just pick out a few examples about some of the more significant and relevant milestones to the new job you’re approaching.

The trick, of course, is to keep yourself on topic while doing this. Think about hitting the following three points.

To start off, share the easy stuff, like what you are currently doing, what you studied in college, or what your career path has been focused on.  For example, “ As you’ve probably see, I studied business and communication at University, and have been focusing on client relations and business development in the tech world ever since”
Next, move on to your professional accomplishments.  Pick two or three really unique milestones that relate to the job you’re applying for – for example, maybe you were given the opportunity to work with a high-profile client as a result of your skills as a negotiator.  Or, perhaps you won an award for providing outstanding client service.  If you can throw in tangible results of your accomplishments as well  – like improved client retention or increased sales – all the better!
Finally, bring it all together by talking about how all your prior experience has positioned you to pursue the challenges and opportunities the company and role you are interviewing for would offer.  Something like, “With my tech background and my track record of solving really tough client issues, I think I’d really succeed in this role”

Be Yourself

When interviewers ask to hear more about you, they usually mean it. The rest of the questions you’ll be asked during your interview will cover your skills and capacity to do the work—but this first question seeks to uncover what you’d really be like to work with every day.

In other words, this is a great opportunity for you to show off your sparkling personality. Don’t be afraid to relax, smile, and throw in examples or anecdotes that show off your passions and interests (think: “The last company I worked for focused on sports teams—which was great, because I enjoy following rugby!)

Talking about yourself may never be easy, but using these tips will help make it look easy to your interviewer. While your CV may have an impressive list of accomplishments, nothing on paper could ever bring those talents to life like the person who made them—you!

Your Consultant at Mosaic Search & Selection will be happy to advise you on interview technique to ensure success in your next career move. 
Contact us
for interview advice and further information.

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