How To Answer The “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

Joe McDermott | How To Answer
So you arrive at the interview and find yourself in the hot seat. All eyes are upon you and the first question the interviewer asks is:

‘Tell me about yourself’

Ok, you think, nice open question, easy one, so you launch into a great rambling ten minute speech giving all the details about your life from the day your were born including your hobbies and the name of your cat.

You feel very pleased with yourself but chances are with that one answer, you may have lost the job. The interviewer would possibly see you as incompetent, unable to summarise and lacking focus and direction.

In my experience many interviewees answer this question poorly when in fact I view this as a great opportunity for you to really sell yourself and make a powerful first impression. So what goes wrong?

If the question comes early on in the interview, the interviewer wants to hear about your career to date and what you will bring to the job. Indeed, it may be that they have not had an opportunity to read your CV and want you to help summarise it for them.

Why Interviewers Ask – Tell Me About Yourself

This interview question is so commonly asked because it is a great question. Asking this at the start allows the candidate to talk about something familiar i.e. themselves, so they start to feel at ease. It also gives the interviewer lots of information in a very short space of time.

It is also used to see how well a candidate can communicate. It is a test to see if you can summarise, can structure and can self analyse so that you can impart the most important information in a short space of time.

For the candidate even though this might seem difficult this too is a great question. Get it right and it could get you the job. Its a real selling opportunity and I suggest you spend time to get your answer perfect. Use the guide below but remember its about you.

How to Answer the Tell Me About Yourself question

We recommend that you keep your answer to no less than 30 seconds and no longer than 2 minutes. You should include your name, a personal profile, your key strengths, a recent achievement, your most recent responsibilities and where you want to go next in your career.

This is all about what you can bring to the job so avoid including details of your personal life, hobbies and interests. Unless something is relevant to the job don’t use valuable time including it.

It is a great selling opportunity so focus on your achievements highlighting the results you have delivered. This is proof of your ability and will set the scene for a much more productive interview.

Sample Answer

Here is a sample answer for a candidate being interviewed for a Finance Manager role:

“Good morning, my name is James Smith*. I am a qualified accountant with six years post qualified experience gained within the pharmaceutical industry.

I worked with Glaxo Smith Klein* as an assistant accountant and I have spent the past 4 years working with Pfizer* where my most recent role was as project accountant.I managed the project finance team of 8 staff and I’m proud to say that I recently implemented a new financial management system saving the company over £500,000 in year one.

I have a reputation for my attention to detail and delivering within strict deadlines and I enjoy working with financial data.

Going forward I will be working in a challenging finance role within the same industry and your organisation is one in which I believe I could settle down and make a real contribution.”

In this answer we have addressed the Capability, Commitment and Cultural Fit criteria and highlighted above are the key phrases that help make this a good answer.

At the end, the interviewee could ask ‘Are there any specific areas you would like me to talk about further?’

Even without this prompt we would expect the interviewer to probe further exploring the ‘new financial management system’, what other projects the candidate was involved in at Pfizer, what they did at Glaxo Smith Klein and why do they think they could settle down at this organisation.

*Some of the details of this answer have been changed for confidentiality reasons

Get Expert Help With Answering any Question

So, how would you have answered the above question or indeed some of the more awkward questions such as ‘What are your weaknesses?‘ or ‘Why should we hire you instead of the other candidates?

And, how confident do you feel about answering Competency Based or Behavioural questions, both very commonly used at present?

You know you can learn how to answer any interview questions like a professional and InterviewGold the leading online interview skills course will teach you how to do just that quickly and easily.

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