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Almost every interview candidate we coach admits to dreading this question. Spend an hour preparing a great answer to this question and you will be doing yourself a massive favour which could just land you the job.
What are they really asking?
First off, Tell Me About Yourself is Interviewer code for Why Should We Hire You? So while it may be important to you, the interviewers do not want to hear about your social life, favourite hobbies, whether you are in a relationship or not, how many siblings or kids you have or what your sister does for a living.
What do they want to hear?
They want to hear your assessment of why you feel you have what it takes to do the job well. And they would like that summarised in a maximum of TWO minutes.
Your Work Experience
You should lead with your trump card which for most candidates will be their career and work experience. All of this should take no more than 60-70 seconds. You may think it’s impossible to do justice to your 25 year career in 70 seconds but remember that this is just the first few minutes of the interview. Just give them the headlines – not the whole article! Eg – “I have over 25 years experience in the healthcare industry and have held a number of roles throughout that time. For that last 8 years I have been working as a medical scientist in XXX company where I am responsible for managing a team of 8 scientists. Prior to that I spent 10 years working in YYY company. where I …….”
The rest of the interview will be spent examining these headlines – don’t be tempted to go into too much detail answering the very first question. Pace yourself! If you are a recent graduate with little relevant work experience you will lead with a summary of your recent Education and then summarise your work experience to date.
Next up are Skills. You can bet your first months salary that the interviewer has a sheet in front of them with a list of skills or competencies they are looking for in each candidate. The job description will most likely have mentioned skills such as teamworking, initiative, motivation, working accurately to deadlines, managing client relationships etc…. Doesn’t it make sense to tell them that you have all of these, even before they get a chance to ask you in more detail? Of course it does. It shows you know what they want and can give it to them. Remember you are answering “Why Should We Hire You?”
Lots of candidates we coach for interviews fear that telling an interviewer “I am excellent at managing profitable client relationships and have been successfully managing and motivating a team for the last 5 years” will make them sounds brash and full of themselves. It won’t. It will make you sound as if you can do the job.
Strong Finish – Tell them what you can do for them
The final part of the Tell Me About Yourself answer should focus on telling them that you understand their business and that you are confident that you can add value to it. Leave them thinking that it’s all about what you can do for them – not what they can do for you.
And don’t think that you can wing it and that a great answer will trip off the tongue in an interview. It needs to be practised – out loud. If you can impress the interviewer with a strong answer to this first question then the rest of the interview will be a breeze.
Contact Hilt for advice on Interview Preparation and Interview Training. You can also find a free guide on our website that covers how to prepare your answer to Tell Me About Yourself including a template for structuring a good answer.