When it comes to job interviews, sweaty palms, awkward handshakes and forced smiles are bad enough. But you also have tough questions to deal with – one such question is: ‘Tell me about yourself’.
Talking about yourself sounds like an easy thing to do, but, for many, describing yourself to a potential employer can be harder than solving a mathematical equation.
Where do you start? Do you tell them your whole life story? Do you share what you get up to in your spare time with them? Or do you strictly stick to your work history (which they clearly know, having already read through your CV)?
Take a breather – there’s no need to get in a panic!
This is how to answer 'tell me about yourself'...
Before you jump to conclusions, this question isn’t asked to make you feel awkward and squirm in your seat – hiring managers aren’t that horrible! Conversely, it’s not an invitation for a free therapy session, either.
Instead, it’s intended to help a potential employer find out how you perceive yourself and if you would be a good match for the company if they were to hire you. It essentially acts like an icebreaker at beginning of an interview where you introduce yourself to a potential employer, right before diving into the details of your previous roles.
How to Answer the Question
There’s no right or wrong way to answer this question, but there are steps you should take to deliver the appropriate information about your skills and character within the working environment as effectively as possible. Below are some insightful tips to help you get started – but be sure to always practice your answers so that they sound natural.
1. Explain Who You Are Professionally
Although you should inject some personality into your answer, you shouldn’t give your interviewer a full rundown of your entire life since birth. Instead, you should provide a statement of who you are in the professional world. For example, if you’ve been in the PR industry for a while, you could say: ‘I would describe myself as a creative PR manager with over six years of experience in the fashion world, running successful campaigns for industry leaders’.
2. Highlight Your Achievements
You might think that reiterating the same achievements you’ve listed on your CV is a complete waste of time, but the truth is that the hiring manager probably just glanced over your application and didn’t pay much attention to the details. In other words, now is the time to bring those achievements to light and really shine. You could do this by saying: ‘Over the past year, I have focused on building strong social media strategies for clients, ensuring that they are portraying a strong consumer brand. During this time, I grew new accounts by 24% by creating and implementing a social media productivity plan’.
3. Explain Why You’re Looking for a Job
You should finish your description by telling the interviewer why you’re here and why you want the job. This could be because you’re a big fan of the company or that you feel it’s time to progress and move on to bigger and better things in your career. Depending on your particular situation, you could say something along the following lines of: ‘Although I love my current role, I feel it’s time I progressed and expanded my knowledge. This is the ideal opportunity for me to do just that and I’m really excited to learn more about the [insert name] industry’.
These sample answers can be adapted depending on your industry and experience. They are meant as a guide to show you how to formulate the best answer.
- I’m a highly motivated HR manager with over 10 years of experience recruiting for Fortune 500 companies. Throughout my career, I have focused on the customer service industry, solving complex problems and ensuring the clients come back. I enjoy fast-paced environments and feel that it’s time to move on to something more challenging at this point in my career.
- I’m an enthusiastic graphic design graduate with the ambition of creating new concepts. Although I don’t have much experience, I did complete an internship at [insert company name] where I managed to work on real-time projects and put my design skills to the test. I’m a huge fan of your company and would work extremely hard to prove that I have what it takes.
- I am a creative copywriter with over three years’ experience working in the travel industry. I mainly wrote about new experiences and tested out new hotels and packages. My writing was published in the Traveller’s Guide and Time Out which is a huge achievement. However, I would now like to work for a single organisation and have a solid readership instead of freelancing.
Mistakes to Avoid
When crafting your answer, do make sure to avoid these common pitfalls:
1. Listing a String of Adjectives
Although you’ll need to use some adjectives to describe yourself, you should back them up with a short explanation. Don’t simply fire off cliché adjectives that the hiring manager has heard 1,000 times before. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t call yourself likeable – they’ll be the judge of that!
2. Blowing Your Own Trumpet Too Much
You will evidently need to talk about some of your achievements, but this shouldn’t come across as bragging. Your answer should be modest and relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
3. Rambling On
An interview should be a dialogue between the interviewers and yourself – not a monologue about your life. If you find yourself talking for over 30-60 seconds, it’s time to cut the cord and let the interviewer speak. You don’t want them to think that you talk too much and can’t communicate properly or effectively!
4. Focusing on Your Personal Achievements
I hate to break it to you, but no one cares if you were crowned Miss Devon or have over 2,000 Instagram followers (unless you’re applying for a social media role, of course), so keep your achievements strictly professional. If you haven’t achieved anything worth mentioning, you could just focus on your professional skills instead.
5. Telling Them Your Life Story
Unless the topic of conversation arises, there’s no need to tell the hiring panel where you’re from and how you ended up in your current position. If you get the job, you’ll have plenty of time to discuss these personal details later on.
Having a clear strategy of answering the questions ‘tell me about yourself’ and ‘describe yourself in a few words’ will show that you’re a serious professional who is eager to get the job. So, if you want to be one step closer to your dream, make sure you’re fully prepared for the hardest interview questions out there!
Have you ever been asked to describe yourself in an interview? How did you answer the question? Let us know in the comments section down below…