As a coach I’m constantly asked how do you answer tell me about yourself? If I could count how many times I have been asked this, let’s just say I wouldn’t quite be a Millionaire, but I’d be pretty close. How to introduce yourself in an interview is key in making a great first impression. The tell me about yourself interview question is one that stumps even the best of interviewers, and is partly down due to it being so open ended. I mean where do you start, and where exactly should you finish, how long should it be? There are so many variables and uncertainties regarding this question. Also everyone has their own take on how to answer tell me about yourself. Some say your answer shouldn’t be more than a few sentences long, whereas others will say you need to give a detailed overview of your career and all of your experiences.
As Job Interviewology, a leader in providing job interview coaching, we have various interview strategies in how to best approach this question. It can vary depending on where you’re based and which industry you’re in, for example, tell me about yourself interview question UK might be different from the US with regards to certain nuances (the US will prefer a shortened version).
So with this being the case I’ve put together some definitive principles that will help you in giving an amazing tell me about yourself interview answers for the rest of your career.
Why Employers Ask to Tell Me About Yourself?
Firstly you have to understand why an interviewer wants to interview you! To put it simply, it’s to assess whether you have the skills, experience, personality, ability to do the job and ultimately whether or not you’re worth the financial investment. In other words is it worth offering you a salary. Hence, tell me about yourself from an employer really means ‘tell me about the skills, experiences and knowledge that you possess which is worth us investing X amount of money on you’. So the focus is always directly linked to the value that you will bring to the role. Therefore, your hobbies such as baking or cycling will be a lot lower down on the list of things that need to be discussed.
Answering the Tell Me About Yourself question
1) Length of your Tell me about yourself answer?
Talking about yourself in interview isn’t a particularly enjoyable process for most people, from my experience the tell me about yourself answer usually is on the longer side and this is because you’re giving an overview of your whole career and there are lots experiences that you possess which are valuable for the interviewers to hear, and it naturally requires the increased the amount of time. Typically I would suggest the answer should be between 3 to 5 minutes long but definitely no longer than 5 minutes even if you’re very experienced.
2) How to Structure Tell me about yourself?
When you’re answering a question that is long such as tell me about yourself, how you structure and present the information becomes very important. If you present information in the wrong way the interview panel will become bored, lose interest or simply not follow your train of thought. Think of the tell me about yourself answer being a cake if you try to eat it all in one go it’s going to be messy, so the key will be to break up the cake into smaller slices and what your find is now eating the cake becomes a lot easier, an enjoyable experience and you may actually end up eating more then you would have you tried gobble it all it in one go.
3) What information to include in Tell me about yourself?
So there’s two main ways structure tell me about yourself, but in this particular post, as I don’t want to make it too long we will just focus on one which will work for the majority of people, where we will be focusing on one tell me about yourself example. This is the linear way of answering the question! For this you will need to use your CV or resume as a reference point and split your CV/resume into three sections, the first being your early-career, the second being your mid-career and the third being your most recent career.
The reason why it’s in this order is because you want to save the best till last and generally people remember the last thing that you say rather than the first thing that you say, so by having your most recent experiences last when you finish answering the question your most recent and relevant experience will be the most poignant in the interview panel’s mind.
Now that you have these three sections within each section I would want you to highlight three facts that are relevant for the job. These need to be short and sharp. Mention factual information, and this means providing figures, such as the number of people that you were managing, the size of the budget, the length of the project, the value of the project, how much money you generated so on and so forth.
Within each of these sections what you require then is a connecting story. The purpose of the story is to add charisma and to make you more personable and engaging.
So to start with, the tell me about yourself example intro you could be the following:
In the earlier part of my career after graduating from the University of Oxford in Chemistry, I decided to join a graduate scheme at XYZ company. I was there for 3 years and did the role of analyst and senior analyst.
Now mention your three points that are relevant for the job role following which we have the connecting story.
Although I found that I could continue to work at the company I’d always wanted to travel and so I decided to backpack across South East Asia and South America for 6-months this also gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I want to do next in my career. When I came back instead of working in FMCG I decided to move into finance this is partly due to there being more diversity in the type of analysis work and career progression opportunities. So this brings me now onto my mid-career where I then joined….
You would do the same for the mid part of your career and continue to talk about yourself in interview. One important point to remember, grouping job roles is also absolutely fine. Let’s just say you’ve had a long career the mid part of your career you worked at three different companies, you could say the following:
In the mid part of my career from 2010 to 2018 I worked in a number of organisations such as Amazon, Google, and the NHS In various roles including project coordinator, project manager and senior project manager…
From there you can do is pick and choose any of the three most relevant experiences from your mid-career to highlight so you could say
..at Amazon I did XYZ and then with the next bullet point say at Google I did ABC.
Finally, when you finish the last and the most recent part of your career section of tell me about yourself interview question, you have what is called the bonus section. This is optional where you can share something personal about yourself. I always say that the information that you’re going to share should be personally relatable and empathises with the other person, or it’s something that’s that’s genuinely interesting i.e. being a qualified scuba diving instructor, hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Now let’s say you have a dog you might want to mention that because there might be someone on the panel who also has a dog and straight away you have a point of relatability. In this way they will be able to see that you would be a good team fit. These days especially with the advent of social media, finding out information isn’t too difficult, most people with have a public LinkedIn , Twitter and Instagram profile. For example when I’m providing Amazon interview coaching, since the majority of their staff are on LinkedIn I always recommend that interviewees research to find those lines of synergy.
Mistakes to Avoid When Answering Tell Me About Yourself
- You don’t keep your points short and sharp: sometimes people can end up talking for too long on a particular point which then results in the interviewer losing interest. Therefore it is vital that you are precise and succinct in each one of the points that you make.
- Not practising this answer enough: there’s a high chance that this question will come up at interview and the fact that it’s quite a long response practising will be critical in ensuring that you give a smooth delivery, using great vocabulary and showcasing the right type of body language as you answer the question.
- Not signposting: if you think about the three points that you make any section of the tell me about yourself answer what you really need to be doing is ensuring then those points themselves are broken into to a smaller subsections. The way that you do that is by always saying firstly, secondly and thirdly. In this way, as they’re taking notes you’re making their life a lot easier also by signposting information which will register more clearly in their mind.
- Not tailoring your answer for each particular role: As I mentioned early in the blog post that the interview is looking at where you will bring value to their organisation therefore you have to ensure that every point that you’re making is valuable to them and this means modifying your answer for each role because that could be the difference between a good and a great answer
More Tips for Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”
- It’s important that when you find yourself answering the question that you stay focused and not get overwhelmed by the silence. We human beings seek validation and normally in a conversation ( which how we communicate 95% of the time) your words will be verbally validated approximately every 10 seconds, whether it be a ‘yes’, ‘I understand’ or ‘that makes sense’. However with an interview being an artificial and unnatural way of communicating there isn’t the opportunity within the engagement for the interviewer to say ‘yes’, ‘I understand’ or ‘that makes sense’. Neither is there an opportunity for you to ask for validation by saying ‘do you understand’ or ‘does that make sense’. Hence, it’s vital that you trust your prep despite the silence, and deliver with confidence without the need for your words to be validated.
- Sometimes when this question is asked the interview might interrupt to probe you on a specific point that you’ve made or taking a particular in interest what you have just said. If that is the case don’t get flustered by the interruption pause give yourself 2 to 3 seconds to collect your thoughts and once composed answer the question.
- There have been instances when I’ve been coaching a client and they have a very complex career history with lots of job changes as well as career changes. If that’s the case for you, it important not to try to explain every single idiosyncrasy because all that will result in is creating more question marks and doubt about you in the interviewers mind. Again, by being able to pick and choose which point you wish to highlight from your CV or resume and condensing it into only two to three points per section, you can avoid having to shine the light on those less attractive areas of your experiences.
Tell me about yourself best answer
The best answers given for tell me about yourself will always have a solid structure which ensures that information is easy to digest and clearly presented. Through signposting and bullet points. Also that it’s concise, relevant and demonstrates to the interviewer that there is alignment of your your qualities and what they’re are looking for in a candidate. Finally that it has an element of storytelling which creates charisma and ensures answer more engaging.
The tell me about yourself interview question UK or any other English speaking country whether it’s the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. Is a question which will come up time and time again. By following this guide you’ll find that your answer to this question will be far more impactful and effective.