The dreaded ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview question is one of the most feared and misinterpreted interview question of all.
Technically it’s not even a question, it’s more of an invitation to speak, it’s so open-ended that it can be difficult to know where to begin and where to finish, and what to add in-between.
However, it's highly likely that you'll be asked "tell me about yourself" in a job interview situation at some point in your career, so you need to know how to answer this particular interview question well.
In this article, I’m going to unpack the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question, and completely demystify it, I’m also going to give you a word-for-word example answer so that by the end of this article, you’ll be confident to answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question in your next job interview.
Three reasons why interviews ask "Tell me about yourself"
Although this isn’t technically a question, it is considered to be one of the most common ways for interviewers to start an interview.
Most people have been asked ‘tell me about yourself’ at least once in an interview and if you haven’t, your time will come!
You are most likely to be asked ‘tell me about yourself’ right at the beginning of your job interview, and this question is actually a great opportunity to kick off the interview in a really strong way, provided you get it right, of course.
Remember, most interviewers will recall the beginning and end of your interview the most clearly. It’s important to start off strong.
They want to see how you handle answering an unstructured question
Answering unstructured interview questions requires that you possess a good level of communication skills. It’s easy to waffle on and to end up saying nothing of value, it’s also too easy to deliver an answer in a way that leaves the interviewer confused.
Interview preparation is vital because it’s the time when you take everything that you think you should say and distill it down the golden nuggets, structures such as STAR are helpful for achieving this.
The interviewer wants evidence you are qualified for the role
The interviewer is not interested in your favourite colour, your hobbies or your high school experience, unless of course it’s relevant to the role, but that’s unlikely!
Instead, they want to hear about what makes you qualified for the role. The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is an opportunity for a candidate to tell the interviewer what they want to hear and to reassure them that they have the right person in the room.
They wants a quick summary about you
Perhaps not everyone on the interview panel had a chance to read your CV in detail. This opening question is a great opportunity to tell everyone in the room a little about who you are and can act as a spring-board into more questions.
Focusing on the right elements of your experience can help ensure the conversation is centred on things you want to discuss.
What doesn't the interviewer want
• They are not looking for your life story, this is a job interview
• They are not looking for a blow-by-blow account of your career history
• They are not looking for you to go through your CV line by line
It’s important that you know these three things up front, as they are the most common mistakes that candidates make when answering the tell me about yourself question.
How to answer the tell me about yourself question
I’m going to talk you through my three-part technique for answering the tell me about yourself question. It’s a tried and tested approach that I use when preparing all of my clients for job interviews.
When answering an unstructured and open-ended interview question like ‘tell me about yourself’, it helps to structure your answer in a way that helps you to be succinct, enables you to communicate key information and makes your answer memorable.
Three steps to answering ‘tell me about yourself’
We’ll break the answer down into three parts; present, past and future. Each of the three parts of the answer must link back to the job that’s being interviewed for and clearly evidence that you possess the skills and experience that they require.
Keep SHE in mind when answering ‘tell me about yourself’
The SHE method stands for Succinct, Honest and Engaging and that’s a great foundation for answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ question.
It’s a reminder that ‘tell me about yourself’ is not an invitation to ramble endlessly, but rather an invitation to engage the interviewer and leave them wanting to hear more.