So tell me about yourself

On the face of it, answering the common interview question, “So, tell me about yourself” seems easy enough. After all, you just have to talk about your background, and this is a topic you know better than anyone else. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, to be frank, a lot can go wrong. Many perceive this to be one of the easiest interview questions to answer, however providing a strong response is deceptively difficult. Firstly, this will probably be one of the first questions the interviewer will ask you, and it’s what they will base their first impression of you on. Also, answering badly could knock your self-confidence from the get-go, and thus damage your performance for the rest of the interview. Therefore, it’s essential that the answer you provide is a good one.

Structure your response

First things first, ensure your answer is structured. This will ensure you have covered all relevant points, and are able to tell your story to the interviewer whilst keeping them engaged.

By its very nature, the parameters of this question are very broad, and can prompt candidates to start telling the interviewer every single detail about themselves, from which school they went to, to what their hobbies and interests are, for example. However, what the interviewer really wants to know at this stage of the interview is:

1. Your relevant educational and professional background
2. The key skills and expertise you have which directly relate to this opportunity
3. What you are looking for in your next role and why this role appealed to you

So, in answering this question, how should you talk around each point?

1. Your educational and professional background

Start your answer by providing the interviewer with a brief overview of your educational and professional background. Ensure you only include the experience and education which relates directly to the role, as opposed to say, that Saturday job you had when you were 15 or which high school you went to. For instance, if you were applying for a role of senior digital marketing executive, this part of your answer may look something like the below:

“I am a business management graduate with a Masters in Digital Marketing. Since leaving university I have enjoyed a two year marketing career within the sports industry.”

As you can see, the above answer outlines only the educational and career history which could be useful for the role, keeping the interviewer engaged and ready to hear about the next point – the skills you have learnt during this time.

2. The key skills and expertise you have which directly relate to this opportunity

It’s now time to talk about the relevant skills and expertise you developed throughout your education and professional experience so far. For instance:

“During my time within this industry, I have been able to apply what I learnt during my Master’s, whilst building upon my digital marketing expertise even further.”

You must also be able to support this part of your answer with measurable examples, for instance:

“I believe that my digital marketing skills are best showcased by an email marketing campaign I recently lead, which increased our conversion rate by 10%.”

So, to recap, at this stage of your answer, you should have provided both an overview of 1. Your relevant educational and professional background 2. You key skills, expertise, and the evidence to back it all up.

3. What you are looking for in your next role and why this role appealed to you

For the final part of your answer, it’s time for you to explain to the interviewer what your career ambitions are and what you want out of your next move.

At this stage, it may be tempting to speak too much about the reasons you want to leave your current employer. Instead, you need to succinctly explain why you want this role, at this organisation. The golden rule for answering point 3 is to keep it positive and focused on the opportunity in hand, for example:

“My previous organisation has helped me develop the digital skills I have today, however, I believe that for the sake of progressing my expertise further, it’s time to move on. Therefore I’m looking for a more challenging role within a fast-paced global organisation, where there is plenty of room for me to grow as a marketing professional; hence why I was so pleased to be invited to interview for this role.”

Watch your language

Now you know which specific points to cover when answering this question, think about the language you use. Keep your language simple, and where possible, use action verbs to better showcase your skills. For instance, by saying “My digital marketing skills are best showcased by an email marketing campaign I recently led, which increased our conversion rate by 10%” you demonstrate your leadership skills, as well as your ability to drive positive results.

An example of the perfect answer

Taking all of these golden rules into consideration, the perfect example of an answer to “Tell me about yourself” might sound a little something like the below:

1. “I am a Business Management graduate with a Masters Degree in Digital Marketing. Since leaving university I have enjoyed a two year marketing career within the sports industry.

2. During my time within this industry, I have been able to apply what I learnt during my Master’s Degree, whilst building upon my digital marketing expertise even further. I believe that my digital marketing skills are best showcased by an email marketing campaign I recently led, which increased our conversion rate by 10%.

3. My previous organisation has helped me develop the digital skills I have today, however, I believe that for the sake of progressing my expertise further, it’s time to move on. Therefore I’m looking for a more challenging role within a fast-paced global organisation, where there is plenty of room for me to grow as a marketing professional; hence why I was so pleased to be invited to interview for this role.”

Practice makes perfect

Practice, practice, practice! By doing so, you will be able to quash any nervous habits like waffling or forgetting what to say, as well as displaying negative body language like not making eye contact or fidgeting too much. For this reason, it may be a good idea to either practice answering this question in front of the mirror, a camera, or someone you trust who can give you feedback.

To sum up, the interview question “Tell me about yourself”, is a deceptively tricky question to answer, and will more than likely be one of the first things you get asked. So, get your interview off to a strong start, by planning a relevant, concise and positive answer which tells your interviewer why you are sat in front of them, and why your skills and experience deem you the best person for the job.

Looking for more interview tips? Check out some of our other blogs:

Author

Marc Burrage was appointed as Managing Director for Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan KK (“Hays Japan”) in October 2015. Marc has 20 years recruitment experience, 17 years within the Asia Pacific region and 8 years at country manager level.

Marc joined Hays at the beginning of 2012 as the Regional Director for Hong Kong, in 2014 he was asked to head up Hays Asia wide Talent Solutions business before being appointed to his current role. Marc is now responsible for the day to day operations and growth of the Japanese business across all specialisms, supplying permanent, executive search, temporary, contract and onsite solutions. Marc has broad industry and functional expertise, with a proven track record of continued success and has led and grown businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Prior to working in the recruitment industry Marc held various sales and marketing management positions in the automotive industry. He has extensive business transformation and change management experience and is adept at building, developing and leading cross functional teams. Marc was a board member for the Leadership Institute of New Zealand and studied strategy at Ashridge International Business School.

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