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Answering the “Tell me about yourself” question

Tell me about yourself

“Tell me about yourself” Is most times the very first question an interviewer will ask you to do for them to know who sits across from them.

It might seem like an easy one because of course you know all about yourself but responding to this, is the real challenge that can be stressful and complicated. You don’t know what to say, where to start, what not to say, which part of your life story to pick from within few minutes.

Do you start with your background?  Do you talk about your family? Do you just repeat what’s on your resume? Or just talk about your professional experience than your person?

I was once asked to talk about my family during an interview which I normally don’t do, I was completely caught off-guard and it ended up being a terrible interview because I that was something I never talked about and I couldn’t salvage the situation at the end of the day

So, the question that pops into your head is “why are they asking that”, “what exactly do they want to know”, “isn’t that my private life for an interview” because everything is on your CV right? The importance of this question is to help both of you ease into and transition into the actual interviewing.

The question is also a great starting point to help both interviewee and interviewer get their bearing and help direct where the interview should go depending on what you the interviewee says.

You go into the room, asked to take a sit and feel relaxed by the interviewer and thrown of guard with this question that can come in different version like

Walk me through your experiences

Tell me a little bit more about your background

Your resume in right here but talk to me about yourself

Tell me everything on your resume

Tell me what’s not on your resume

If you’re able to answer these questions satisfactorily well and fit what the interviewer wants, you’re an eligible candidate. To be able to communicate effectively when put on the spot is a good representation of what and who you can be professionally.

At this point it will be wise to outline some of your education and the most important skills you have and that are needed for the job you’re there for.

The importance of this question is to know how and where you fit in with the company’s current team and if your goals and values are in line with those of the company. Therefore, building rapport with the interviewer may show them that you are a candidate that will fit in well with the rest of the team.

Its pretty straightforward and your answer should be about your past, present and future.

The past – talk about your background and relevant work experiences, how did you get to where you are now?

The present – your current role, what you do and your top accomplishments

The future – your interest in the position.

So, how do you nail the perfect affect answer…

Practice your answer ahead of time

As part of your preparations, work out and know your answers ahead of time, know the angle to which your answers should go and practice saying it out loud in the privacy of your room or a faux interview by practicing with a trusted colleague, friend, or family member to hear yourself and hear feedback from how they interprete what you’re saying.

Think through what you want to convey about yourself ahead of each interview and practice saying it, it will make you much more confident

Keep it professional, simple and short

They want your history from birth or life story, until asked, keep it professional.

They simply want your professional experience; they are generally looking to get a broad overview of how you see yourself as a professional as a sort of introduction before starting to dive more deeply into the specifics.

It’s not the best time to talk about your family or hobbies, except if asked or something about the company makes you share such details.

Roughly one minute is a good general guideline for how long it should be, but if your interviewer looks interested and engaged adjust accordingly, you’ll know when its time to stop.

Speak with Passion

Tell your story from a passionate perspective, it will help engage the interviewer especially if you intend to stand out among other applicants.

Give success stories

If experiences that may raise concerns, refute those concerns while answering and give success stories on how you face those challenges in the past. Your answer shouldn’t a sad story but you want to stay upbeat and enthusiastic about both your career and this particular job opening.

Avoid sob stories and Keep It Positive

You’re not supposed to talk about bad experiences or why you were previously fired except you are asked, it isn’t the best time or right time. Wait until you get a specific question about why you’re looking to change jobs or why you have a gap on your resume to address those topics.

Also avoid bad badmouthing your previous employer

Talking points W.A.P. (Work, Academic, Personal)

A good “tell me about yourself answer should talk about

Work – at least 80% of your answer should focus on your previous experience and accomplishments here.

Academic – 10-15% of your answer be about your academic background (university, academic achievements, etc.).

Personal – 5-10% should be about you as a person, while still keeping it relevant to the company and professional.

Captivate your interviewer with a story

Okay you’re not supposed to be listing points about yourself, make your answer sound like a story to be enjoyed with very little professional jokes or non at all if the atmosphere doesn’t call for it or you can’t pull it off.  If you see that the interviewer is getting distracted or bored, know that its might be time to wrap up.

Be excited for the job

Ask your interviewer questions about the job and make sure your excitement and eagerness are clearly visible for the job right from the very beginning.

First Impression Matters

As an applicant, you only have one chance to make your first impression, some hiring decisions are made the first minute and can influence how the rest of the interview will go.

Just be prepared and show the interviewer you prepared for it, show them you are flexible, approachable, a communicator and a team player.



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