Tell me about yourself?
Tell me about yourself is a frequently asked interview question, often used at the start of an interview. As tempting as it might be, this is not an invitation to tell the interviewer your life story.
The danger of this question is that it is so open. If you have not come across this question before, the first thought going through your head is likely to be “what the on earth should I talk about?”
The key to answering this interview question is to prepare an answer and practice it before you arrive at the interview. If you don’t and ramble, you could, worst case, give away information that rules you out of the running for the job without knowing it.
Ask the interviewer “Are there any specific areas you would like to know about me?” to try to narrow down the areas in which the interviewer would find it useful for you to talk about.
The interviewer is testing several areas with this question including:
- Your problem-solving approach – will you try to understand the problem more before trying to solve it i.e. asking questions
- Whether you will keep on a business related or relevant subject
- Your communication skills – how well you tell the story
- If you have done any research about the job – how relevant your story to the situation
A potential employer has a problem that they are hoping to solve by hiring you. The interviewer can only hire you after you have provided enough evidence that you can solve their problem.
Read the job description and do your research. Without research and thinking about the issues the role being applied for might need to overcome, it is very hard to answer this question well.
Keep your answer to this question focused on work
The interviewer is only really interested in how you solve their problem(s). That is why they are looking to potentially hire you. So, keep your answer focused on how you can help the potential employer due to your character traits, skills, and experience.
For your statements to have weight, you will need to provide examples of your experience or achievements relevant to your statements. Do not underestimate the importance of this. Anyone can make statements, far fewer can back them up with well thought through examples and achievements.
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Tie your answer in to the key requirements of the job
From your research before attending the interview and your experience of roles to date, you should have some idea about potential problems the interviewer is looking to solve.
Listen carefully, if and when the interviewer provides additional details of the job or current situation (their problem) at the start of the interview.
The character traits and skills you choose to talk about should ideally match some or all the key requirements of the job description / role you are applying for. This direct linkage will help answer a key question the interviewer has: “Can this person help me solve my problem?”
The person most able to demonstrate they can help the hiring manager with the problems in hand AND most likely to fit into the culture and ethos of the team is likely to get the job offer.
Tell Me About Yourself – Example Answer
Candidate: Are there any specific areas you would like to know about me?
Interviewer: You choose. [i.e. I am not going to make it easier for you]
Candidate: I am a very determined person who is calm in a crisis and gets on with actions to address the situation. A great example that demonstrates these qualities is when I joined my current company as Group CFO. I only had enough cash to pay suppliers for one day, a bank that would not lend any more money and high growth. It was a survival crisis for the business.
I worked out what the best next steps to take, got my team and the board onside and then I worked with my team to ensure that we kept very focused on achieving the next step as quickly as possible. Our actions helped save the business and the debt reduced from £12m to zero in 12 months, and the bank risk score from 80%+ to mid-20s in 9 months. I think this demonstrates my determination, my calmness in a crisis and my ability to take action that delivers results. Would you agree?
Practice answering the interview question
It remains important to practice your answer to “Tell me about yourself ?” out loud, just like an actor would learning their lines. It may be better to learn the key points to include rather than learning word for word, so it come across as more natural.
Practice makes perfect as they say.
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