This open-ended interview question has become so common in interviews these days: 'Tell me about yourself'. It's not that the person on the other side of the table is looking for you to tell them about your hobbies, or that they want to know anything about your personal life. So what exactly are interviewers looking for?
To help you ace your next interview, here are the hallmarks of a great answer to the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question, and common pitfalls to avoid.
Fit your experience to the role (role research required)
The goal of a good answer to the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question is to fully connect the skills and qualifications you have with the attributes that an interviewer is looking for. The question should really be “Why should we hire you?” because that’s essentially what you want them to know. Give a concise and focussed overview of why you feel you’re suitable for the role.
Only share what's relevant
When interviewers ask you this question, they’re looking for information about you in a professional context – and not much else. They are not looking to hear about your family, kids or hobbies. This is simply because personal information like this won’t help an interviewer assess whether you are a good fit for the role they’re seeking to fill.
Do not recap your CV
The interviewer doesn’t need you to give a chronological recap of your employment history – they most likely have your CV sitting on the desk right in front of them. At this stage the interviewer is trying to find out how enthusiastic you are of the job and how much you want it. One way to express enthusiasm for the company in an interview is to conduct deep research before you enter the interview room. Your knowledge about the company will shine through in your responses and show that you’re taking this opportunity seriously.
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When was the last time a ‘professional’ critiqued your CV? Having a professional CV is the first step in getting that job interview. So make sure to submit a professional CV the first time, revisions are difficult to explain.
Don’t shy away from the details on why you are a good fit for the role. Just by saying that you are a team player or an enthusiastic worker, it’s generic, everyone can say that. These are essential baseline attributes for most jobs. What the interviewer is looking for is recent employment history, and why you have switched jobs and what you are passionate about work-wise. Anything that helps them figure out if you are a good fit for the current position.
Be the perfect candidate
To shape your response, a helpful thought exercise can be to imagine what attributes the perfect candidate for the role would have, and then match the skills and attributes you have with this ideal candidate. Before the interview, ask yourself, “What would the perfect candidate look like, and how can I demonstrate skills, attributes and experience that displays this?”
Keep it organised
With such an open-ended interview question, it can be easy to get off-topic and let your answer drag on for too long. Do not go off-topic, make jokes or let your guard down. Keep it professional throughout the process as you are being judged until you leave the room. It’s also important to have a general structure to your answer, which you should think about beforehand. Your thoughts must be well-organised, and must flow logically from point A to B to C, this is why practicing for a job interview is essential if you want to succeed.
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