There's no denying that interview questions can be tough. One of the most common interview questions—and one of the most difficult to answer—is "tell me about yourself."
This question can be tricky because you want to make a good impression, but you also don't want to talk for too long. It can be difficult to know what information to include and what to leave out. You want to give them a good impression of who you are, but you don't want to spill your entire life story.
This is why preparing your answer is so important. If you've prepared an answer and practised it, you'll be less likely to waffle or skip over any relevant information. You will also be a lot more confident in your delivery.
In this blog post, we will provide some tips on how to answer this question effectively and impress your interviewer.
What are interviewers looking for?
When interviewers ask you to "tell me about yourself," they are usually looking for two things:
- an overview of your professional experience
- a snapshot of your personality
In your answer, you should aim to provide both. Start by giving a brief overview of your current role or most recent role. Then, give a brief summary of your career journey to date. Finally, add a sentence or two about your personality and interests.
"I am currently working as a marketing assistant. I have a degree in marketing and I've been working in the industry for three years. I'm passionate about marketing and I love coming up with creative campaigns. In my spare time, I enjoy going to the gym and spending time with my family."
This answer gives the interviewer an overview of your professional experience, as well as some insight into your personality. It is important to keep your answer concise—you don't want to bore the interviewer or ramble on for too long.
Preparing your answer
The best way to prepare for this question is to think about what key skills and competencies you want the interviewer to know about you. Write down a few key points that you want to include in your answer. Then, practise saying them out loud. Here are a few tips to help you prepare your answer:
Tailor your answer to the job
You should also make sure you link everything back to the job description. Think about the type of candidate they are looking for and how you can highlight that you would be perfect for the role. Always tailor your answer to the role you are applying for. You shouldn’t have a fixed answer to this question, it should always adapt to the role you are applying for.
Think about what they are looking for
It can also be helpful to think about what the interviewer might be looking for. As we mentioned above, they will likely be looking for an overview of your professional experience and a snapshot of your personality. With this in mind, try to focus on experiences and qualities that will show them that you have the skills and attributes they are looking for.
Don’t recite your CV
Your CV has got you this far, but now it’s time to leave it behind. You need to go beyond what is written down and share more insight about your experience, your motivation and your passion. This is your chance to offer a three-dimensional picture of who you are as a person.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality
Finally, don't forget that interviewers are human too! They want to get to know you as a person, not just as a candidate. So don't be afraid to let your personality shine through in your answer. You might find that you have a shared interest or hobby that could help to break the ice and allow you to speak more openly with the interviewer.
Remember that first impressions count
This is often the first question that is asked in an interview, so it’s your chance to really shine. First impressions count, so make sure you are prepared to answer this question. Be confident in your delivery, but try not to sound rehearsed.
Think about your delivery
Saying longer answers aloud can be daunting, so make sure you pause, breathe and take a sip of water if you need to. A small pause to drink water might feel like an eternity to you, but the interviewer won’t notice. They might even appreciate the chance to catch up with some notes and gather their thoughts. Many interviewers use the answer to this question to shape their follow up questions, so they will appreciate you taking your time to answer it correctly.
Some things to avoid
When preparing your answer, there are a few things you should avoid saying. Most importantly, you want to avoid rambling on for too long. They don't want to know your life story. Instead, focus on giving a brief overview of your professional journey to date.
Keep things light and positive when you talk about your current or previous role. Even if you left on difficult terms, you should always be neutral in your language and don’t drag their name through the mud.
You should also avoid sounding too rehearsed. This can make you come across as insincere or fake. Instead, try to sound natural and relaxed.
Finally, don't forget that interviewers are looking for a snapshot of your personality. So avoid sounding too stiff or formal in your answer. Instead, let your personality shine through!
By following these tips, you'll be able to deliver an impressive answer to the question "tell me about yourself." You'll show the interviewer that you are confident, prepared, and most importantly—that you are the right candidate for the job!
Now that we've gone over what interviewers are looking for and what you should avoid saying, let's look at some of the standout phrases that will help to make you a more memorable candidate.
Power phrases to use in your interview
"I am currently working as a _____."
This is a great way to start your answer. It gives the interviewer an overview of your current situation and tells them what you do day-to-day.
"I have a degree in _____."
If you have a relevant qualification, be sure to mention it! This shows that you have the necessary skills and knowledge for the role.
"I've been working in the industry for _____ years."
This shows that you have experience in the field. The number of years you've been working doesn't matter—what matters is that you have experience!
"In my most recent role, I was responsible for _____."
This is a great way to explain your current or most recent role. Rather than simply stating the job title, you're going to outline what responsibilities rested on your shoulders.
"I'm passionate about _____."
This shows that you have a genuine interest in the field. It's always impressive to interviewers when they can see that you're passionate about your work.
"In my spare time, I enjoy _____."
This is a great way to conclude your answer. It gives the interviewer a snapshot of your personality and tells them what you like to do outside of work.
By using these power phrases, you'll be able to deliver an impressive answer to the question "tell me about yourself." You'll show the interviewer that you are confident, prepared, and most importantly, that you are the right candidate for the job.
How do you know if you have said enough?
It can be difficult to know if you have given enough detail in an interview setting. The interviewer will probably be taking notes, so it can be difficult to pick up on non-verbal cues. If you’re worried that you haven’t been detailed enough in your answer, simply finish speaking and then ask, “would you like me to continue?”
This gives you a moment to pause while the interviewer decides if you have said what they need to hear. If you’ve glossed over certain areas, they might ask you to revisit specific parts of your work or personal history. But if you have answered their question, this will avoid the risk of you rambling on to fill the silence.
How to practice your answer
Striking a balance between having a concise answer and not sounding rehearsed is always going to be a struggle. You want to sound well-prepared, but natural. To do this, you should try answering this question aloud.
You can try this alone or with a friend or family member. Getting a second opinion on your proposed answer could be just the thing you need to refine your answer and make sure you aren’t forgetting any important facts.
Remember that the person has already seen your CV, so you aren’t simply trying to repeat what is already mentioned there. You should instead be looking to enhance the information and provide more insight into who you are and what you want the interviewer to know.