How to Answer: “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview
Almost every interviewer will ask you the question, "tell me about yourself?" as the leading question in the interview. Even though this is a very common question, most interviewees have challenges giving the write answer. The answer to this question is quite obvious but very challenging based on several factors such as the tone of the interview, what stage are you in the interview process among others. We definitely know about ourselves but are often faced with thoughts such as “What exactly do they want to know?”, “What aspects of my life should I share or leave out?”
The article below provides you a detailed guideline on how best to answer this question, with an emphasis on the motivation behind the question and a structured formula to best answer the question “Tell me about yourself”.
Why Interviewers Ask the Question
Knowing the motivation behind any interview question enables you to come up with the best answer. According to seasoned HR professionals and Recruiting Managers, the question provides the perfect introduction to the interview. It eases tension in the interview room and provides a starting point and general direction flow for the interview. The interviewee’s answer to this question quite often determines the next question in the process.
The question also provides the interviewer or the recruiting panel an opportunity to know you for who you are beyond your papers. Getting to know a recruiter is one of the interview’s key goals, hence the need to answer this question appropriately. A good and well-thought-out answer to this question gives the impression that you are the best candidate, it shows your soft skills, presentation skills and the ability to communicate coherently.
The Formula to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Most recruiting managers and HR professionals recommend a simple three-step process to answer this question. Talking about your present role, your past roles/experiences, and your future ambitions.
Present: This involves talking about your current position and company, what are your duties and responsibilities and accomplishments if any.
Past: This involves talking about your previous experiences such as jobs, internships or leadership positions and how they relate to the current job you are applying to.
Future: Talk about your future plans and how the specific company would be a perfect fit for your plans.
The answer to this question differs for entry-level recruitments and experienced hires. As a recent graduate, there’s not much to talk about your professional life whereas an experienced hire would be expected to talk about their previous roles and skills and how they would fit with the new company. We highlight the best ways to answer this question in each of the scenarios.
1. Entry Level Recruitment
Entry-level recruitments focus on recent graduates and those in their final year of studies. Since most of the candidates for these positions don’t have enough experience, it is advisable to concentrate on your education and skills acquired while in school.
Common Bad Answers
There’s nothing much to say I live with my parents in this City and play sports
My name is Alice, I went to ABC primary school then later transferred to XYZ high school where I had a lot of challenges with some of the subjects. I play volleyball and like singing ….
Key factors to consider when answering this question include; not giving your entire life story, don’t be boring and don’t be too long or too short.
The employer is looking at your education and some information about your skills. When answering about the education talk of your current/most recent school and the qualifications that you are working towards achieving or have achieved.
Example of an answer:
My name is John Doe, I’m studying at (or have recently graduated at) XYZ University/College where I studied(or I’m studying) a Bachelor’s degree in XYZ
The second part of answering this question, about your skillset is the most important. The recruiter is quite aware that this is an entry-level position and does not expect you to have a tone of skills. Therefore, to appropriately answer this question, you have to follow a three-step process of going through the job description, relating the job description with your skills and finally curating an answer. Most job descriptions have common keywords such as, we are looking for enthusiastic, motivated people who can work under pressure. As you brainstorm, you need to highlight the key ideas, “enthusiastic, motivated and work under pressure”, and relate this with your previous experiences in school or internships.
Example of a good answer:
Hello, my name is John Doe, I recently graduated from XYZ University/College with a Second Class Honours(Upper Division) Bachelor’s degree in XYZ.
I believe I am an enthusiastic person who enjoys helping people solve their problems. During my time in college, I supported community events through various charity organizations.
I am also a highly motivated individual and believer in teamwork, this was demonstrated in my previous internship where our team ranked first in one of the company’s sport’s events thanks to my input to the team.
Finally, I am a person who can work well under pressure, I balanced 12 exams and coursework with an evening job by being disciplined organized and working towards achieving my goals. Thank you.
2. Senior Level Recruitment
When applying for senior-level or mid-level positions, the recruiters expect that you have gained enough skills and experience in a professional setup. Your success in the interview depends on how much you can convince the hiring panel that you’d add value to the company based on your skills and experience.
Example of an Answer:
My name is Peter, I have been working with XYZ company as an assistant project manager for the past two years, during this time I have provided value to our clients through the strategies we developed and implemented for them. I was recently awarded the best project manager based on one of the projects we did for NewCo company in a record four months. Before XYZ, I worked at ABC company as a Market Analyst where I gained skills in market analysis, data analytics, etc. In addition to this, I hold a Bachelor's Degree from XYZ University and various professional certifications such as CPA, ACCA, and PMP. I am also a member of various professional bodies in the country such as (ABC..). Now I am looking forward to taking my career to the next level with your company and continue to provide value to our clients under your company's brand.
You can create a presentation in PowerPoint or any other format that highlights your key experiences, skills and previous projects. In the presentation, you should highlight what methodologies you used in your work and what the results were.
Finally, you need to practice quite regularly to perfect your speech and presentation skills for you to succeed in that interview. All the best!