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Job seekers: How to answer the 'Tell me about yourself' question

When preparing for an interview, candidates tend to work through all the abstract questions that could possibly be asked, such as "give me an example of when you have…". But the most overlooked question is actually the most common and for some, the most difficult to answer.

Despite it being included in almost every interview, few candidates really know how to answer the "Tell me about yourself" question, but often it is the first question asked, so it is vital that you make a positive first impression with the very best answer.

Essentially, there are three parts that you need to include in any response to "Tell me about yourself".

Tell the interviewer who you are.

Introduce yourself professionally with a brief overview. It should highlight your strengths, as well as giving some sense of your personality. Name-dropping any significant companies or big projects you have worked on here is how you can instantly impress the hiring manager.

Explain your professional experience

Although it is vital that you inform the interviewer of your significant professional experience, it is important that you don't tell them everything about every job that you've ever done. Highlight the most impressive and most recent achievements, mention awards, successes, and how your key skills were employed to achieve success. Two to three experiences should suffice.

Explain why you're here and why you're a good fit for the role

This part of your answer should tell the interviewer why you want to leave your current job if you have one and what excites you about this role. You mustn't be negative about your current or last role. Tell the employer that although you enjoy your current position, you want to challenge yourself with some aspect of the job you're interviewing for.

What should you avoid?

Don't just paraphrase your CV

One of the most common approaches to answering "tell me about yourself" is to simply rehash everything already visible on your CV. By the time you've got around to mentioning the most recent, relevant information, the interviewer has already tuned out.

Don't be too modest

Whilst being too self-assured isn't likely to win over many hiring managers, you can be too modest in an interview situation. To impress a hiring manager, you need to show them your best qualities. Playing down your achievements or not mentioning them at all will leave you in a much worse position come the end of the interview. If you are shy, stick to factual achievements rather than empty brags. The job market is competitive, and you need to make sure that you stand out from the crowd. Create your personal brand and sell it.

Don't give too many personal anecdotes

Whilst the "tell me about yourself" question is designed to glean information beyond your CV; this isn't the time to tell the hiring manager about your pet cat and your love for haberdashery. Use hobbies and interests as examples if they lend themselves to the role. For example, if you are a sportsperson, you can show that you are dedicated and committed or focused and passionate. If you volunteer, you can show that you are caring and community orientated. Regardless of what job you're going for, you should remain professional throughout the course of the interview.

Don't ramble on

This often happens when a candidate overthinks the "tell me about yourself" question. Diving in and giving the hiring manager your life story, including personal, professional, and academic details is not necessary. They don't need your biography, but they do need to know if you're capable of doing the job and if your personality is a good fit for the team.

What good looks like

A well-rounded answer that contains plenty of information, has a little personality and rounds up nicely with why you are an excellent fit for this role would go something like this:

I am passionate about knowledge in both my professional and personal life - absorbing new information or skills and applying it wherever I can. I like to read and visit interesting places. As a marketing professional, I love that my role provides countless opportunities to implement new skills and techniques to drive goals and objectives to success. Recently, I was able to do just that when I completed a site audit and implemented SEO practices that increased site visits by over 60%.

In this role I am looking forward to working collaboratively, sharing ideas and developing exciting campaigns. 

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