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Job Interview Tips: Tell me about yourself

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One of the most dreaded job interview questions is “Tell me about yourself”. This question is often the first one an employer will ask – about 80% of interviews start with this seemingly innocent question. It is known as a ‘stress question’ which can either induce silence or a long ill considered ramble. If you are prepared this can be a ‘dream question’.

Answered well you can ‘set the scene’ for a great interview. A poor answer would include a lot of unnecessary information about hobbies, home life, ancient work history or personal matters

A poor answer would be:

“I’m 38 years old, married, have 3 children which take up a lot of my time and I love reading and knitting….”


You should also steer away from cliche answers such as:

“I am a team player”

“I have excellent communication skills”

You must have examples to back up your statements.

A skilful answer would be:

“I am a self starter. At ‘xyz company’ we had a problem with over ordering and waste, so I designed a new system which

reduced costs and wastage by 30%, saving us $200,00.”

It is obviously easy to talk about yourself but, you need to consider what the employer really wants to

know from a candidate which is usually:

  • an overview of your related experience
  • logical education and professional progression
  • how well do you match what they want?

Let’s expand on this last point – how do you match what they need. In a nut shell you must sell what the employer wants to buy. Therefore, it is essential to uncover their greatest; wants, needs, problems, or goals.

In order to do this there are steps you need to take:

  • research the companies strategic plan – this usually runs for 3–5 years and will give you a road map for where they are going and the key stages in how they will get there
  • prior to the interview research the specific role – not the general industry or organisation
  • read the detailed job description including essential and desirable skills
  • find out of there is anything in the outside environment which is likely to impact (either positively or negatively) on them. For example; government policy or legislation, technology changes, funding, shortages in materials, changes in consumer power or spending

Consider this a question a fantastic opportunity to:

  • market yourself
  • present your qualifications
  • give a focused purposeful response
  • give a ‘potted’ professional background history
  • tell them why you are interested in working for them (specifically as opposed to any organisation)

All this should be done ideally in no more than 60 seconds and certainly no longer than 2 minutes, as you can expand on points as necessary and if required.

The trick is to stop in the place at which you would like to be asked more about. For example:

“I recently designed a new __product which was really interesting, challenging and increased our sales by 15%”

(stop here and wait to be asked to expand)


Things to include in a ‘tell me about yourself ’ question would be:

  • why you made the decision to go into your particular field (if you are just starting out)
  • where you are now in your career
  • what qualifications make you the perfect candidate for the job in question – how you have positively impacted on your current / last employer
  • what strengths do you have that match this jobs requirements and how can you quickly and concisely summarise them
  • why do you want to work for this company?

Don’t include:

  • a re-read of your CV verbatim – known as the CV rehash
  • politics
  • controversy
  • religion
  • personal unrelated information

This personal sales pitch should flow effortlessly and be spontaneous and convincing, not staged and rehearsed.

Ace that Interview

To find out more about this topic you might want to read "Ace that Interview"

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