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Tell me about yourself: How to answer one of the most dreaded interview questions
If an interviewer asked you right now to tell him or her about yourself, what would you say? This is your chance to make a solid first impression, so try your best to prepare a good answer.
The question is indeed difficult — how can you possibly encapsulate all your experience and skills in one answer? — but a common one. And it is possible to answer well. You just need to be specific, relevant and impressive.
To be specific, provide concrete examples of your achievements, with data and results to back it up. For example, instead of saying that you have solid management skills, it would be better to say that you led a project that increased sales by X or saved the company $Z.
Know your audience and tailor your response accordingly. Be conscious of who you’re meeting with and why. When selecting your examples, choose the parts of your career that most closely align with the role you are interviewing for.
Keep your answer short, punchy and upbeat. A lot of candidates start rambling when they’re asked to introduce themselves, which not only fails to impress the interviewer but also wastes valuable time. If you spend 10 minutes giving an overly detailed rundown of your career history, there will be less time to cover more relevant areas related to the role.
How to structure your response
Break down your answer into three parts: A brief background, why you are keen on the role you are interviewing for (reasoning), and the opportunity for the interviewer to follow up.
Here are some examples:
(Background) I have more than 25 years experience in retail, including roles at Company A, B and C. I specialise in visual merchandising, and as State VM Manager at Company A, I implemented a project that ultimately increased revenue by X% by standardising our in-store experience via store layout.(Reasoning) I am looking for a role that allows greater flexibility and provides the opportunity to hone my skills in ecommerce. I am also really interested in area X, Y and Z that this role offers. (Opportunity to follow up) Is there anything else I can tell you?
Presentation is often as important as what you’re saying. You need to engage your interviewer, because if they’re not engaged at this early stage of the interview it will typically be very difficult to build rapport later on.
Keep your answer short, punchy and upbeat. A lot of candidates start rambling when they’re asked to introduce themselves, which not only fails to impress the interviewer but also wastes valuable time.
Don’t forget an interview is a two-way street. If you’re asked a more general question and aren’t sure what the interviewer wants to hear, ask for clarification. Something as simple as “Would you like me to start from the beginning of my career and talk you through it, or provide a few key highlights?” will likely do the trick.
It’s worth practicing your introduction before the interview so that you can answer confidently and appear more relaxed. Once you have this framework, you’ll be able to tailor it to meeting people outside of an interview setting. This applies just as easily to a networking event.
"Tell me about yourself" is a question that most often opens an interview and provides the interviewer with their first impression of you. When answering, make sure your response is:
- Structured with a background, your reasoning and an opportunity for follow-up