“Tell me about yourself”: how do you nail that key moment in an interview?

Sep 09, 2021 4 mins

“Tell me about yourself”: how do you nail that key moment in an interview?

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So you just got an interview with your dream organization – congratulations! Now it’s time to prepare for the best possible meeting with your recruiter and get the job. To start, you need to learn how to answer ‘tell me about yourself.’ This part of the interview defines what to say at the beginning of an interview. This is a decisive moment: your ‘tell me about yourself’ answer is a golden opportunity to stand out and show your personality. It is up to you to come up with the best ‘tell me about yourself’ answers. Your answer is about balance and moderation: somewhere between summation and spontaneity. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you pass your interview with flying colors. Preparing this question is the best way to prepare for an interview and learn how to[impress in an interview.

1. Preparing for an interview

However the recruiter phrases it, this is your opportunity to speak freely and have the chance of making a good first impression in a job interview. How you answer this question will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Preparing for an interview will help avoid memory lapses, panicking, stuttering, or other mishaps. It’s best to outline what you want to say beforehand, as this is one of the most important questions to prepare for an interview. And preparing for this critical moment ahead of time means you can focus on other details during your introduction: speaking calmly and confidently and keeping an eye on your body language, so you appear positive and self-assured.

2. How to answer ‘tell me about yourself’

At this stage in the recruitment process, the interviewer has already looked through your résumé. They are looking to get a feel for your personality and have a better idea of your strengths. It’s pointless to tell your life story; stick to your professional experience that matches the job description.
So what’s the magic formula?

The present

Who are you? What made you apply? Start your pitch with the thing you know best: your current situation. Explain, briefly, who you are and the context for your application. For example: “I’m a recent graduate, and I’m applying to this company because it builds on what I was doing in my previous internship.”

The past

What career experience do you have that could apply specifically to this company? Be careful not to repeat your history chronologically – it’s already listed on your résumé. Only bring up experiences that are relevant to the position. Tell them what you liked about your previous jobs and how you think they are applicable for the company you’re applying to. You can prepare two or three points ahead of time to give your introduction some structure. For example: the subject you chose to study, a project in a previous position, or a volunteer activity.

The future

How do you see yourself in terms of this job? What struck you in the job description? How do you meet the requirements for this position? Why do you think you’ll like it? What can you bring to the company, and what will it bring you? This bit aims to determine if you are suited for the position and if your expectations match the recruiter’s expectations. Keep coming back to the links between your skills and personality and the specifics of the position.
Pay close attention to the final sentence of your introduction and try to finish in an open-ended way so the recruiter can use your answer as a jumping-off point. For example: talk about your management abilities, how you function within a team, or your ability to work under pressure.

Don’t forget that this part of the interview should be short: about 1 minute.

3. How to show personality in an interview

Beyond highlighting a candidate’s professional skills, a job interview is an opportunity for the recruiter to get to know your personality. So don’t come off as too scholarly by giving overly polished answers. You should absolutely be prepared and know what you’re going to say, but you’ve also got to be spontaneous and natural. Be sincere about your interest in the job and the company, share your short- and long-term plans, and talk about what you want for your future. They’ll appreciate your ability to project forward and not just talk about yourself in the past.

Showing your personality means not overdoing it. You might come across as dishonest and make a wrong impression. So there’s no need to blow your own trumpet or overstate how much you love the company. The more natural your answers sound, the more logical your arguments appear. Keep your language simple: explain as clearly as possible what drew you to the job description and why you think you meet the requirements.

4. Set the tone of your interview

Usually, the “Tell me about yourself” question comes at the beginning of the interview and the answer is your first big chance to speak. Be aware that this is likely to set the tone for the rest of the conversation. So it’s up to you to keep it dynamic and share your enthusiasm with the recruiter. Smile and be energetic, show that you’re happy to be there, try to stay confident, and keep the conversation open. You’ll have a better time that way, as will the recruiter, and you’ll stand a better chance of making a strong impression.

Finally, remember: there’s no reason to be overwhelmed by stress or to view this question as an insurmountable challenge. All that’s really required of you is “just” to talk about yourself, so be confident and relaxed without trying to perform. It’s in everyone’s best interests to know if you and the company have similar expectations.

Updated August 11, 2022

Translated by Kalin Linsberg

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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