How to answer common interview questions: 'Tell me about yourself'

Welcome to our blog series on how to answer the most common interview questions. Be prepared and make the most of every answer with our handy guide!

Tell me about yourself

It’s easy to get caught out by the casual nature of this opening question, but lots of interviews will begin in this way so it’s important to prepare.

This question could also be phrased as ‘talk me through your CV’, or ‘tell me a bit about your background’.

Why are they asking?

As with every interview question, think about why it’s being asked. What is the interviewer trying to find out about you? How can you get the most out of this answer?

The goal of this question is to firstly, break the ice, but ultimately, to allow the panel to begin to get to know you. They want to get a feel for your personality and assess how well you will fit into their existing team. So, asking you to talk freely about yourself is a great way to start this process.

With a well-crafted answer, the panel should begin to see why you might be right for this role, hear a little bit about your experience and skills, and witness your interpersonal skills first-hand.

How should you answer?

A simple formula for a thorough and detailed answer is to talk about your past, present and future. Explain how relevant parts of your education, extra-curricular activities and previous work experience led you to be qualified for this job (the past), how your current role puts you in a great position to thrive in it (the present), and what you want to achieve in the future in the role (the future).

The aim here is to map out what brought you to applying for this job, whilst noting the experience that makes you qualified for it.

While you want to tell the panel why you want their job, don’t speak poorly of your current employer. Try to phrase the reason you want to leave as a positive step forward, rather than leaving something negative behind. You’ll come across as ambitious and proactive rather than bitter and desperate.

It is important that your answer is tailored specifically to the job you’re applying for. During your preparation, read the Job Description and Person Specification thoroughly and make a note of a handful of key points that you’d like to hit. These could be the things that you excel the most at or have the strongest experience to back up.  Then, tie back points of your answer to these things.

Have they asked for a someone with strong analytical skills? Tell them how you developed those skills and why you’re passionate about progressing these skills in a new role.

Not only does this show your interviewer that you’re qualified for the job, it shows them you have done your research to really understand what their role will entail and are invested and genuinely interested in the position.

Aim to keep your answer succint and not too long, packed with relevant content that speaks to your suitability for the role. It will be so much easier to answer this question well if you know what you want your interviewer to learn about you from this in advance. So, pick out your strengths from the Person Specification, plan your answers around them, and get ready to impress!

How to answer common interview questions blog series:

Describe your current role
What are your weaknesses?
How did you handle a difficult situation?
Why do you want to work for this company?

For more help, advice, and interview coaching, give us a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at jobs@ajfoxcompliance.com, or message us on LinkedIn.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance