Saturday, June 13, 2020
How to answer Tell me about yourself in an interview
How to answer Tell me about yourself in an interview Tell me about yourself? It seems such an innocuous question, designed to break the ice and put you at ease before the real interview starts. Well dont be fooled! This question has the potential to win or lose the day, so dont sleepwalk into disaster by taking the wrong approach. Plan your strategy beforehand. What do they want to know? There is purpose behind every question, so you can be pretty certain the interviewer is asking with intent. What theyre looking for is a sense of who you are, the person behind the interview mask. Its also a good way to see how you respond to such an open, unstructured question. All too often candidates prepare for the very specific questions around job and role, but fail to tackle the broader topics with quite the same diligence. Many employers will note how confident and articulate you appear, which points you choose to emphasise and how you build rapport. Your response will set the tone for the remainder of the interview; you want to engage the interviewer and whet their appetite for whats to come. A word of warning: this is not an open invitation to share your life story. Its not a cosy fireside chat be aware of time and place. You are in complete control of the narrative, so think trailer not directors cut! The wrong direction There are a number of ways you can take a wrong turn with this question. A pretty common mistake is to look bemused and ask, What do you want to know? Not only can this sound (unintentionally) confrontational, but it can make you seem woefully ill prepared. Many candidates perhaps overcome with nerves interpret this question literally, and start rambling ad nauseam about any and everything. Its pretty common to hear something like this: Im a final year politics student at X University and staying on campus this year in a house-share with four friends. Ive lived in London all my life and have a really great social life, which Ive been able to continue as a student. Ive got lots of different interests and belong to loads of societies. I particularly enjoy travelling and had a Gap Year in Thailand and Vietnam before I started here. Ive seen a lot of Southeast Asia now. Last year I travelled round Europe and also completed an internship, so it was pretty hectic. My boyfriend has just secured a job with Y Company so Im really keen to stay in London and develop my career here. This might seem a perfectly reasonable response to the question, but it doesnt stand up to close scrutiny it lacks purpose, focus and any attempt to align skills, interests and experience to the job role. Theres no sense of coherence and the balance of personal to professional is skewed. On hearing this, the interviewer may be thinking: Can this individual focus and commit? They seem to be pretty vague on the details is there any evidence of follow through? How long have they been doing x or y? There are no specifics here which societies? What level of responsibility? Any useful skills or experience they could apply? Concerns around motivation is s/he applying because they need to stay in the area? Does the personal trump the professional? A better approach I may be swimming against the tide here, but Id caution against using this question as *just* a sales pitch. Not only will your response sound predictable and contrived, but you run the risk of alienating the interviewer within the first few minutes. Do remember, most interviewers will decide within the first few minutes whether they like you or not and likeability can often win the day. Compare this response to the one above and note the difference in content, tone and style: Im in my final year at X University studying politics which has given me a unique opportunity to understand and analyse motivations of groups and individuals and be aware of my responsibilities as an active citizen. Ive also relished the chance to hone my critical abilities although my friends may sometimes disagree! One of the things Ive enjoyed about university is the chance to broaden my horizons, and try new things. Ive even become an Exec member of the FilmSoc. This year I interned at a public affairs consultancy and was fortunate to contribute to a high profile campaign, enabling me to consolidate my research and analysis skills. This experience affirmed my desire to pursue a career in this field, which is why Im sat here today. Im not suggesting this is a perfect or definitive response but it does hit a number of key points: The candidate has summarised their motivation for studying politics and how this contributed to their personal development. Theyve even managed to inject some gentle humour. We can tell the individual has made the most of the university experience to stretch and challenge themselves which would translate well to the professional workplace. Theres a strong sense of purpose and career aspiration, and clear evidence of suitability for the role. The candidate articulates this is in a natural and compelling way. This answer moves seamlessly from the personal to the professional and the general to the specific. Why does this work? Because we see a little personality (but not too much), a good smattering of skills and strengths, and a positive attitude brought together in an engaging and coherent manner. Final tip: dont court controversy. Always err on the side of caution. An interview is not the time to spark debate or raise contentious issues. When the interviewer asks, Tell me about yourself , take a moment to pause and reflect. Dont give them cause to question your values, ethics or commitment. ClichÃ©d it may be, but youll never get a second chance to make a first impression.