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How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question

Imagine that you’re on the hot seat at a job interview, and the interviewer has just made the famous request: tell me about yourself. He’s staring at you intently, waiting for your answer to begin rolling out. How would you respond?

Of course, it’s an ambiguous question. In fact, it’s deliberately designed to be ambiguous. What’s the point of an interview if the questions can’t sift the crowd of applicants by throwing some off and making others stand out? You might ask the interviewer to make his question a bit more understandable, but that’s not a good way to start an interview. They’ll probably assume that you’re either unserious or not very bright.

So you’ll have to bite the bullet straight away. How do you proceed?

You may be tempted to begin with a summary of your personal history. You tell the hiring manager that you’re from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State and that you’re smart, articulate and easy going. Then you finish with a catchy, almost rap-like line to crown your supposedly five-star introduction.

Don’t do that. It’s not what your interviewer wants to hear. They might be delighted to know that you’re from their hometown, but hometowns don’t write code, balance books, manage projects or do any specific tasks which your role will require of you. What they want to know is what skills you possess, how you’ve demonstrated those skills with your past accomplishments, and why you’re a perfect fit for the job.

Let’s get to giving an answer that’ll immediately capture your interviewer’s question.

How to Answer the Question

Here’s how you’ll begin:

1. Your Professional Self

Because you’re talking about your professional self (and not your personal life, as many poor answers tend to do), you’ll want to begin by introducing yourself accordingly. It could come out as something like this:

“I’m a graphics designer with over four years of experience working with creative agencies and digital marketing companies…”

It’s a small first step, but it’s an important one. With it, you immediately give the impression that you know what you’re at the interview for, and that you’re serious about it. A surprising fraction of interviewees don’t tick this box early enough. As a result, they leave too much room for negative opinions to be formed by their next few words or sentences.

Tip: Try to avoid sounding either too robotic or disorganized. This applies to all of your answer to this question, including the start.

2. Previous Experience and Accomplishment

Pick up from the first few words on your professional identity and dive straight into the jobs you’ve previously had, and what you accomplished while at them. Remember, the point of the question is to find out whether you could possibly fit into the role you’re being interviewed for. Here’s how this part of your response will look like:

“I’ve worked with ABC, JKL, XYZ in my time with them, I helped design brochures, magazines and company reports and online material for clients, and for in-house uses.”

You may go on to state a couple of your skills and qualities which make you great at what you do:

“I have an eye for aesthetics, and I consider myself quite good at creating visual concepts that appeal to specific audiences. I also love taking on new projects and delivering them in good time.”

By laying out these characteristics, you’re showing the interviewer that you know what it takes to consistently produce quality output. In this case, it’s an eye for aesthetics, an understanding of the relevance of the customer’s tastes, and an eagerness to get things done properly and under deadlines.

The next thing you’ll want to do is tell a story that illustrates these qualities. This makes your introduction more lively and less dull and monotonous. Your interviewer is human too, and like the rest of us, he or she is likely to be drawn to a story than they’ll be to a prolonged discourse on qualifications.

Here’s an example:

“When I was at XYZ, a company requested that we design a report for them. While adding designs to the document, I found that this client had plans to produce branded material. I noted the specific needs mentioned in the report, told the marketing department, and came up with sample designs which they then shared with the client company, along with the finished copy of the company report. All of this was done in three days.

“They said they were impressed with the samples, and we got the job. It doubled XYZ’s earnings from that initial transaction, made that company a permanent client, and brought in about five other high-value clients through referrals from that project.”

With short compelling stories like the one we’ve told above, you could bring to life what it’ll be like to have you on the hiring company’s team: a skilled, driven, goal-oriented staff who’s on the lookout for opportunities to add value to clients and generate same for the employer. Exactly what they’re hunting for.

Tip: When presenting your previous experience and accomplishments, be sure to use the best ones you have. They should also be proper for the company you’re being interviewed by, as well as the role you want to take up. This means you should research the company and job you’re applying to, and know what might (or might not) be appropriate to say at the interview.

3. What Makes You Fit for the Job

This is the last part of your answer. Here, your aim will be to point out why your particular qualities are a good fit for the job, and why you’ve decided to apply to that specific company. A sentence like this one could do:

“I believe that working with this company (use the actual name) will give me the opportunity to put my skills to use in ways that’ll benefit new markets. I’m aware that your clientele is predominantly small businesses. I have always wanted to work with them more regularly, so I’d be glad to get the chance to help build their brand.”

This bares out a few crucial things to the interviewer:

•Again, you’re a purpose-driven professional.

•Your application wasn’t done at random. You applied with them because they were what you were looking for.

•You researched their company (well enough to know who their typical clients are).

Conclusion

There you have it: a fairly detailed way to respond to the ‘tell me about yourself’ question. If you have an interview coming up, you’ll do well to prepare with the points we’ve laid out here in mind. With proper research and practice, you’ll impress the hiring personnel enough to consider you a bit more closely than most.

Featured image source: Pixabay

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Effie

    11th February 2019 at 10:44 am

    A very good read. I’ve learnt something new. Thank you.

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