How to answer “Tell me about yourself.”

Have you ever entered a job interview and got asked “Tell me about yourself?”

And was this your reaction: Gulp! What do I say? There’s so much about me but where do I begin?!

This is why it’s so important to have your answers prepared in advance. You don’t need to memorise a script – this will make you sound stiff. Instead, you want to have a few points up your sleeve and elaborate from there.

Follow the steps below and practice by yourself or with a friend. You’ll want to sound natural and confident, so it pays to practice. You also want to keep your answer short — not more than two minutes. So time yourself when you practice. Any more than two minutes and your interviewer may lose interest.

Here’s how to structure your answer for “Tell me about yourself” in your next interview.

1. Who you are

Your current role, the number of years of experience and what you do in the role. What have you been doing in the past few years that is related to the job you’re applying for? If you’re unemployed, then tell them why. If you’re a new graduate, tell them what you graduated in.

2. Why you’re qualified

Think of a recent achievement that you’re proud of related to the job you’re applying for. Emphasise your experience and share proof of your relevance (any awards, promotions, results etc.). Brainstorm a few achievements and choose the best ones that are suitable for the job you’re applying for. You can elaborate on just one and keep the other points prepared for later in the interview.

3. Why you’re here

Tell them why you want the role. This should be short and put you in a positive light in the eyes of the interviewer. The interviewer should be thinking, “I want to hire her because she seems excited and willing to take on the challenge.”

Don’t say something negative like, “I’m applying for this job because I don’t like my current boss.” This may be true to you, but your interviewer doesn’t want to hire somebody who won’t stick to a job because of a difficult boss. Think of another reason that would put you and the company you’re applying at in a positive light. Remain positive at all times.

Here’s a great one that you can use straight out of this email: “Although I love my current job, I feel I’m now ready for a more challenging role and this position really excites me.”

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Now let’s see how this framework plays out in the following example. Try reading the passage below out loud and listen to how you sound. You should sound clear, confident and upbeat.

“I’m a Marketing Executive for a telecommunications company with five years of experience in creating, planning and executing marketing campaigns. I’ve spent the last four years focussed on building relationships with our highest paying customers.

Recently, I was the project manager for the launch of the latest mobile phone where more than 100,000 customers purchased a phone with our 2-year contract plans. We’re really proud of that and we’re always striving to create products that our customers love so that they stay with us.

Although I love my current role, I feel I’m now ready for a more challenging assignment and this position really excites me.”

Remember, you don’t need to memorise a script. You want to sound natural, so just remember your main points. You should also be aware of how your interviewer reacts to you. She may cut you off and ask you to clarify on something interesting you mentioned in your introduction. Or she may look bored, so you might want to cut it short.

Make sure you keep yourself open and flexible to anything that may happen during the interview. Remember, an interview is a dialogue, not a monologue — it should be like a two-way conversation.

So if you’re having an interview any time soon, don’t be surprised when the interviewer says “Tell me about yourself”. Get yourself ready with the above framework and smile when you talk!

All the best in your next job interview!

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