If one interview question defines you, this is it. Literally.
In fact, with the focus shifted to how you describe yourself (both personally, and professionally), it has the potential to derail you perhaps more than any other question. Especially if you haven’t prepared for it properly in advance.
We’ve already covered some of the most common interview questions that could come up, but here’s our advice for how to answer: ‘Tell me about yourself…’
The real question
What they’re asking: ‘Tell me about yourself…’
What they’re actually asking: Who do you think you are? And will you know what to leave in, and what to leave out?
So, this question involves talking about yourself. Seems easy enough, right? Yeah, not so much.
One of the reasons ‘tell me about yourself’ stumps so many jobseekers is that it’s open-ended. And with no obvious answer to reach for, it requires much more thought to make sure you don’t go off on a tangent which has no relation to the role.
In other words, you actually need to practice.
Step one: Break it down
First things first: you need to get your structure sorted.
The key to this question is to tell a story. You don’t necessarily need to start at the beginning, but you do need to show some sense of progression. And, ideally, what the future holds.
How did you get to this point? What drew you to this role – and what makes it the right career move for you?
Almost any structure will do, just so long as you’ve rehearsed it. Otherwise it’s all too tempting to try and say everything at once – leading you to stumble on your words or, worse, ramble on with no real direction.
A simple example could be: where you’re from, what you studied at university, and where you work. Then segway into the role you’re interviewing for. But there are lots of options out there.
Find the one that works best for you, and you’re ready for the next step.
Step two: Rehearse it
We can’t overstate the importance of preparation.
The trick here is to sound like the answer has been provided completely off the cuff. Spoiler alert: it should never be off the cuff.
By rehearsing it in advance, you’ll be able to really hone in on what you want to say and, crucially, how you want to come across.
It will also allow you to get your ending sorted. Because there’s nothing worse than your interviewer not being able to realise when you’re done talking. Especially if you can only follow it up with a classic ‘um, is that what you were looking for?’ moment.
Step three: Nail it
There are some interview questions where sounding heavily rehearsed will count against you. ‘Tell me about yourself’ is not one of them.
Don’t agree? Try answering it now, and see how easy it is to go off-track.
For many recruiters, this question really helps set the tone for the rest of the interview. It’s your chance to show them what you’re passionate about, and really get your personality across with gusto.
Confidence (and honesty) is key. So avoid false modesty and false bravado at all costs.
Instead, really try and make the connection with the person interviewing you – and use this as your opportunity to stand out.
With the right amount of personality – and practice beforehand – you’ll have nothing to worry about.
I’m an Assistant Marketing Manager at X, specialising in sporting goods, and I’ve been working in the industry for eight years.
I’m actually from Durham, originally. My family owns a shop there, which is probably why I was initially attracted to this line of work.
I studied retail management at Nottingham University, which was great. After this, my first full-time role was with Y, as a buyer in their homeware section. I didn’t really know much about homeware when I started, but I managed to double sales year-on-year, which led to me being promoted to the position I’m in now.
I feel like this job is a great career move for me. I love working within the sports industry, and I think I’d be a really good fit. I believe you’re looking to increase your sales of fitness equipment, aren’t you? So that would be the first area I’d concentrate on.
Outside of work, I love to ski. I also blog about american football, when I have some free time. Although, with my two young kids at home, it can be a challenge!
Is there anything else you’d like to know?
Need more interview questions?
Unfortunately, we can’t help you predict exactly which interview questions will come up on the big day. However, we can help you prepare for every eventuality and avoid any interview nightmares.
Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again to find out how.
Still searching for your perfect position? View all available jobs now