How to best answer the ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question
By Charlotte Grainger
Answering the ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question doesn’t have to be impossible.
You’re sitting in an interview room, eyes fixed forward and shoulders back. You’ve done all the pleasantries. You’ve introduced yourself and answered that, yes, you found the place okay. You’ve smiled and shaken hands with your interviewers. But now, they ask that classic interview question: ‘Will you tell us about yourself?’ It’s a tricky one, but you needn’t panic. Here’s how to perfectly construct your ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview answer.
Avoid personal and unnecessary details
This particular question can sound a little misleading at first. Despite the way that it’s phrased, the interviewer is not asking you about your personal life, so don’t give an overly personal answer. Avoid starting off with information about your hobbies, marital status, living situation or, especially, political persuasion.
None of the above has anything to do with how well you can perform the duties of the job role at hand. What’s more, these tidbits of information could actually weaken your chances of landing the job if they rub the interviewer the wrong way. Cut them out completely and get straight to the point.
Expand on (but don’t recite) your CV
The person sitting opposite you should have already read and digested your CV. So, when they roll out the old ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question, they’re not asking you to regurgitate the information you’ve already given them. No, the question is more about expanding on and advancing the details they already have.
With that in mind, it’s worth re-reading your CV before you enter an interview situation. Look for the skills and experience you’ve listed and try to find areas in which you can add some colour to these things. For instance, if you write that you have experience in business accounting, you could explain what that task entailed. You might state how long you were in charge of a business’ accounts and what you learnt from that experience.
Pick out three of your notable traits
Don’t ramble; you want to give your interviewer some clear and concise facts about yourself. You want them to remember your best traits when you walk out of the room. That’s why you should limit the number of traits or skills you list to three (or even two!) when you answer the ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question. Make sure that these skills are relevant to the role and show off what you can offer.
Before you enter the interview, you should already have these skills picked out and ready to recite because they are the basis for your answer. It might help you to write down the traits on a piece of paper and make some general notes. That way, the moment that the interviewer utters those all-important words, you will have a pre-planned response you can use.
Support what you say with evidence
It’s one thing to say that you’re a hyper-organised person, but can you prove it? Cast your mind back to your university days. Chances are your tutor asked you to back up every statement you made in an essay. This same method is required when it comes to answering this tricky interview question.
Whenever you state that you have a skill, use an example to back it up. For instance, if you say that you know how to use Microsoft Excel, explain what you used it for and how it helped you in previous roles. You get bonus points here if you can slip in a ‘success story’, i.e. an anecdote about how you met or exceeded goals in your previous role.
Keep calm and take some breaths
Trying to cram all of this information into 45 seconds is a mistake, so take a breath. Talking at a super fast speed is a sign of nervousness and, in some cases, falseness. You don’t want to give that impression. In the millisecond before you open your mouth, check in with yourself. Are you calm? Are you poised? Having this moment of mindfulness could help you stay in control here.
Bonus tip: Practise makes perfect
Unless the company has sprung the dreaded next-day interview on you, you will likely have a few days in the lead-up to it. Use this time wisely. Sit down and write what you will say when asked the ever-expected ‘Tell us about yourself’ interview question. When you’ve listed your traits and skills, write notes about the times in which you used them. These are your examples and supporting evidence, and they are crucial to your success.
Next, try reeling off the answer. You can do this in front of the mirror or, if you’re feeling brave, to your partner or friend. That old line about practise making perfect couldn’t be any truer. In the days before your interview, you want to memorise these words so that you can say them at the drop of a hat. When you know them by heart, you’re ready.