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Wondering how to answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question in an interview?
“So, tell us something about yourself.”
This is a question that most of us have heard and silently sweated over while trying to answer. It continues to be the most common, as well as one of the most integral parts of an interview. It is also the trickiest question for a lot of us in any interview. We’re always sceptical of how much to talk about ourselves. Knowing what to include when talking about ourselves is also not clear.
In over 90% of the cases, this is how the interviewer will begin the interview, with the question serving as an ice breaker between the candidate and the HR/Hiring manager. In order to have a fruitful interview, you can set the right tone for it in the beginning itself by answering this question well.
Candidates are always curious to know what the ideal answer to this question is, but one person’s ideal answer could be less than perfect for another. Everyone has a different set of expertise, qualification, personality etc. and you need to understand how best to sell them to the hiring manager.
Through your answer to this question, the hiring manager is not only interested in knowing more about you, but in a camouflaged way, is also gauging your other competencies like communication skills, language skills, clarity of thought, preparedness for a task etc.
They are testing you on several other aspects simultaneously. For example, in the future if they put you up for a presentation to a board, will you be able to deliver an effective one? If a project comes in, do you have a knack for chalking out a plan with clarity of thought? Do you prepare and plan well for tasks assigned to you?
So, the assessment clock starts ticking from this initial question itself. You can prepare an answer which is authentic, and at the same time has less risk attached to it.
Here’s how to answer “tell me about yourself” in an interview
Your answer should ideally get done within 1 or 1 and a half minutes. This is an assessment of your ability to choose the most important aspects of your candidature that highlight your fitness for the job, and communicate it within an acceptable duration of time.
What to include in the answer –
Name, total experience in the specific function/ domain/ industry, and education/certifications. You should not have more than a line for each head. You will get a chance to delve deeper about your experience in later parts of the interview. Take about 10 to 15 seconds for this. Steer clear of long stories on family, place of origin, or education.
Current and Past roles:
Key Result Area in the organisations you recently worked at, or are currently working at, should be the main focus. Highlight your responsibilities, special tasks and projects. Emphasise on how you added, or are adding, value to the business.
or proof that your performance in their organisation if hired will be good. Give examples of challenging projects, process improvements, cost savings, targets etc, that you spearheaded or helped achieve. This should be framed in a way that your experience matches the skills required by the organisation. It must come across as evidence of your potential.
Avoid mentioning details from your past experiences and achievements that are irrelevant to the job you are applying to. In this measure, ensure that you have carefully gone through the job description before you attend the interview to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the role. If you are a fresher, you can certainly talk about college projects and internship experience.
Talk about what made you apply for this job and why the company should hire you over others. Highlight why hiring you is mutually beneficial to the organisation and you. Read about the organisation (websites, blogs, annual report for finance roles, resource centre etc.) and its plans for the future, to highlight that your expertise and interests are in alignment with their vision. Prior homework on the company and job details might help you get some brownie points.
This is constantly noticed throughout the interview, so maintain your calm. Engage in eye contact – this is essential to exhibit confidence, ensure an interactive conversation, and not make your talking feel like a monologue. Subtle hand movements can make for engaging conversation, but they shouldn’t be distracting or make you look nervous.
A gentle handshake (or maybe not in the post COVID world) /greeting and a smile brimming with positive energy when you meet is a good start. Be enthusiastic and curious. Respect, empathy, humbleness, learning attitude, a listener – traits like these should flow in your conversations.
Dress neatly. Reach on time. Mobile phones should be on silent.
Sounding genuine and authentic is key, but knowing that this question is likely to be asked means that preparing for the same certainly makes sense. Jot down your answer and practice aloud, to hear how it sounds, beforehand.
More often than not, all of us do have an impressive and suitable answer to this question. We just need to learn to frame it in the best possible manner, that will help us stand out and increase our chances of getting hired.
So this was how to answer the dreaded ‘tell me about yourself’ in an interview.
So… Tell me about yourself!
Editor’s note: And if you are interviewing remotely, which is the most likely scenario in the coming months, then here is how to crack that interview remotely.
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