Open-ended questions like “Tell me about yourself” are frequently asked at the beginning of interviews to get the conversation started. It can be hard to identify what the interviewer really wants to know and it is natural to be thrown off by these kind of questions.
The most simple and effective way to structure your response is by referring to the present, past, future.
Present: Talk a little bit about your current role or situation and perhaps a recent accomplishment.
Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.
Future: Finalise what you’re looking to do next, why you’re interested in the role and how you're a great fit.
Here are few simple things to remember when you begin building your response:
1. Keep it Professional
Avoid mentioning personal information such as marital status, friends, political or religious affiliations, etc. These factors should not determine your ability to perform within the job and can be highly sensitive topics that might work against you as a candidate.
When employers ask, “tell me about yourself,” in an interview, they usually want to hear about you as a professional. So the safest approach is to tailor your answers to the role or company, keep your answer work-related and not share your personal details.
Remember this is often your first impression and it matters. This includes your greeting, handshake, eye contact, and the first thing you say.
You don’t want to wait until you get this question in a live interview to try out your answer for the first time. Think through what you want to talk about ahead of each interview and practice saying it out loud on your phone or with family.
Practicing will make your answer stronger and help you become more confident. However, try and not memorise word-for-word, you don't want to sound like a news broadcaster or a robot.
3. Keep It Positive
It’s not the best moment to mention if you’ve been fired or laid off from your last job. Wait until you get a specific question about why you’re looking to change jobs or why you have a gap on your CV to address those topics. Stay positive and don’t badmouth your previous employer.
Don’t mention any weaknesses or list multiple vague strengths without supporting examples. Focus on core strengths and experience. Support two or three qualities with short, relevant stories that can be supported by your work experience.
If you have an interview coming up, be sure to read our blog post with more interview techniques!
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