Tell me about yourself is probably the most common question asked at interview and you’re probably dreading having to provide your answer on the big day. But let me tell you that your success in providing a credible answer all comes down to preparation.
How do interviewers expect you to answer the question?
They expect you to provide a summary of why your skills, experience, values are a fit for the business, role and team. You can add the icing on the cake by punctuating the answer with relevant career highlights and achievements as backup. Contact me to talk more about your interview strategy and talk about your own answer to this question.
Preparation is Key!
In fact the first thing you should do is prepare, and there are several things that you should research. For example, you need to understand the values and the culture of the business so that you can determine, first and foremost, if the role and business would be a match for you and a place in which you could be happy. If it turns out that there is no match at all, then you should question whether you should attend the interview and move on to apply for a role that is closely aligned to your values. From a personal point of view, I remember that I was able to gain a real rapport and break the ice by demonstrating in my answer that there was a values and cultural alignment with myself and the businesses that I interviewed with.
Understand The Role
Another point to research before you provide your answer is that you need an understanding of the role and how it fits into the team and business. You will then be able to pick out the skills and expertise that you possess which match those required by the role. Extend your research so that you have a full understanding of the industry in which the business operates. Again, this is important because you’ll be able to showcase and articulate relevant industry experience when you give your answer so that you can demonstrate that there is an affinity between yourself and the role.
Understand the most relevant points of your career and highlights
As I said before, these are things that I did myself and had a lot of success with, but once I had done the preparatory work, I would then move on to the next step, which was understanding the most relevant points of my career and the highlights. I went about reviewing my CV and each of the roles that I had done and what I had achieved for each role. I would pick out one or two relevant career highlights to present during the interview. The last thing you want to do is show up to the interview – CV in hand – and recite each point of your CV from top to bottom. That would take way too long and would demonstrate a lack of preparedness on your part and a lack of understanding of what the interviewer is asking for.
Research interviewers, talk about what’s important to them
It’s also really important to understand and acknowledge the most important concerns of the people interviewing you so that you can relay the fact that you could be a potential solution to their challenges. One great source of their concerns and challenges is the job description, the job advert, or job brief, because they will highlight the key requirements of the team and business and sometimes put those concerns in order of importance. For example, if managing a growing team is a key challenge, then your answer should highlight your ability as an excellent manager. If launching a new website is in the pipeline, your answer should stipulate your ability to do just that. The key here is to pick out the most pressing and significant concerns so that you can begin to put the interviewer’s mind at ease and show them that you know and understand what is most important to them.
Draft and practice prepare a relevant answer
By now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “How can one question require so much effort and preparation and how can I fit all of this into one succinct answer?” The answer is, first of all, you need to make a draft of your answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Believe me, it’s not going to be perfect first time around, and it’s probably not going to be succinct and clear on the first draft, but the key here is make sure you have it in black and white before you go any further and attend the interview. You can always refine it as you go along.
Keep the answer brief mine was less than one minute
In a moment, I’m going to give you a personal formula that I used to answer this particular question, but remember, there is not a one-size-fits-all formula and there will often be circumstances in which you will need to play it by ear and gauge the response of the interviewer when you provide your answer. Don’t think that this formula will cover all eventualities, because it certainly doesn’t. It just gives you a starting point and an appreciation of what may be required. The key point that I want to put across is that the answer should be brief.
When you practice it, as I did with mine, aim to keep it to under one minute. From time to time, when I felt that the interviewer was not satisfied or needed more from my answer, I would be proactive and ask the interviewer, “Are there any other specific areas that you would like me to talk about?” More often than not, I covered the interviewer’s concerns and questions in my original answer. On the other hand, talking too much would only serve to alienate the interviewers, because it would demonstrate that you are not focused and prepared, and that you don’t understand what is important to them.
I’ve witnessed it for myself where interviewees will essentially rehash their CV or recite what’s on their CV in a monologue fashion, seemingly ignoring the purpose of the interview. Just don’t do that, because the interviewers are likely to become bored and begin to draw conclusions towards your lack of suitability for the role.
My Formula For a Successful Answer
I want to share my personal formula for answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, it’s the same formula I use to teach my interview coaching students and useful you to remember for your interview.
You don’t necessarily need to structure your answer in the same order as presented below. The point is that you need to include all of the elements given below so that your answer covers all bases.
Say who you are: talk about what you do as a professional and highlight relevant credentials that apply to your job application.
Business Fit: Reasearch you’ve done prior to your interview should indicate that there is a good degree of cultural and values alignment. If that is the case you need to articulate this to the interviewers because it will contribute to their decision making.
Expertise: it’s not enough to simply state your skills and expertise, you will also need to give a couple of highlights or achievements from your career as backup to differentiate yourself from the many other candidates with similar experience.
Interest: show them you’re interested. Don’t underestimate the importance of this one and remember that you can show interest through your actions and by stating – in no uncertain terms – that you are interested.
And when we put it all together your answer might read something like this …
I’m a marketing manager who over the last 8 years has managed teams, large budgets and international consumer marketing projects that have resulted in average year on year profit growth of 10%.
I have an excellent track record of helping small to medium businesses grow their brand and audience through deploying effective through line campaigns that have improved engagement and increased sales of key products. And as an example, online sales of widget x – during my tenure at Impressive Company 2 – totalled £2.5mill which was an all-time record.
Teamwork is something I enjoy and I love a fast and fluid environment; customer satisfaction is an important factor in my decision making.
My current role is going really well and I’ve been able to galvanise the team – but I’m ready for this challenge especially because I already use and endorse Impressive Company 3’s products and services.
I want you to prepare and write down your own answer and when you’ve done it, pitch me on the phone and I will let you know what I think. Just contact me here to arrange a time to talk about your answer and so I can find out more about your interview strategy