This is a common question and will almost certainly be asked at interview.
So, how should you answer, and what should you highlight? Here, we list the starting point of your answer and give examples for new graduates and the experienced.
The most important point to be mindful of is situational awareness. Why are you there? It’s with the objective of gaining employment, so when asked “tell me about yourself” it’s important to highlight your professional competencies and precisely why you would be a good fit for that company.
Below we’ve listed the things you should avoid.
- Use an excessive amount of time to answer
- Give lots of personal details
- Forget to tailor your response to the company
- Be over familiar
Now we’ve covered what you should avoid it’s time to discuss how you should formulate your response to this popular interview question.
We’ve broken the points down into 4 easy to follow steps below:
Choose the right starting point (VITAL)
Your goal when answering, “tell me about yourself,” is to give a brief, concise walkthrough of your career story that oozes relevance.
You want to start at a point in the past (like how you began working in this field), and end up at your current situation. So, the first thing to decide is where you’ll begin the story.
If you’re a recent graduate: Start with the fact that you just graduated, and explain why you chose this career path or field of area of study.
For example, you might start your answer like this:
“I graduated with my degree in Public Health three months ago. I chose that field of study because I’ve always been interested in Health and influencing factors, and a couple of family members have been affected by metabolic syndrome.”
If you have 1-10 years of experience, then start with the moment you graduated and walk them through your employment experience since then.
Here’s an example of how you could start your interview answer in this situation:
“I graduated with my degree in Marketing three years ago and immediately went to work for a small advertising company in London. Since then, I’ve…”
And if you have 10-20+ years of experience, you can start with a mid-point in your career. This will keep your answer from getting too long.
For example, if you’re a manager, you could start with how you first became a manager. If you’ve been working for 25 years but have only been a marketing professional for 11 years, you could begin with how you got started in marketing.
Here is an example of how to begin your answer to “tell me about yourself” as an experienced candidate:
“I first started managing people fourteen years ago, when I was promoted from Sales Associate to Sales Team Lead Supervisor. Since then, I’ve…”
Highlight Experience and Accomplishments
As you tell your story, explain key accomplishments you’ve achieved, work you’ve done, skills you’ve learned, and key career moves you’ve made. Focus on the accomplishments that highlight qualities this particular oragisation is looking for.
Have they mentioned “ambitious” in the job description? Have you previously been promoted? Then that is worth mentioning to support their desire for ambition and your accomplishment of achieving.
Make a point of checking the job description for the role and highlight key points of the role (their desires), then give examples of experience and accomplishments that prove that you meet their desire for the role.
Random impressive facts aren’t enough. You should be thinking about how this ties in with the company you’re talking to.
What does this particular job involve? Is there a lot of leadership? Talk about your experiences leading (no matter how small!), how it went, what you learned.
You need to “tailor” your answer for, “tell me about yourself,” to their job description and their needs. Try to talk about experiences and qualifications that are relevant for the job you’ve applied for.
Sum-up by explaining your current situation
The best way to finish your story is to bring them up to speed on your current situation.
Why did you wish to apply for that specific job? What are you looking to do next, etc.
For example you might end your answer by saying:
“…and that’s why I wanted to interview with Trustpilot. This position seems like a great opportunity to advance my people skills, and continue building my career and challenging myself”.
Keep your answer work-related
Last but by far not least! This point is vital and shows that you are professional and able to stay focused in stressful situations. When employers ask, “tell me about yourself,” in an interview, they usually want to hear about you as a professional. So, the safest approach is to keep your answer work-related and share your career story, rather than personal details.
You can show personality and share personal details later in the interview, but it’s risky to share too much personal info at the start or when answering “tell me about yourself.” Too many personal details may come across as over familiarity or lack of situational awareness. Stay focused and start be being professional. You can warm up as you go along, but it’s important to create a great impression from the start.
How to perfect a great response
Remember to be concise and never use more than 2 minutes to answer this question.
Practice the answer to this question for the job that you are being interviewed for.
We’d recommend that you record yourself. That way you will see how you actually deliver the response.
Don’t use more than 2 minutes and make sure you are confident in your answer, that will only come with practice, so you best get going!
Before you go to interview ….
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