How to answer the tell us about yourself question in a job interview?
It is 8:45am in the morning and I am seated in a cold air conditioned board room, my hands and legs shaking effortlessly, my body sweating profusely as I near the hour of my “torment”. I close my eyes to blind myself from the ticking of the clock. In a short while am awakened by a tall neatly dressed lady who appeared to be Human Resource officer. She politely greets me and takes her seat. Under the same breath, a short Indian gentleman comes in to join the interview board. I reorganize myself as if I had just arrived but I was simply nervous and could not stand the immense pressure of being in my very first job interview.
The HR lady who I will call “Jane” breaks the silence and asks me, “So XXXX, tell us about yourself”. The previous night I had done some research and actually recited my answers very well. Guess what, they all disappeared. Fortunately, I always have a way of evading disaster. I recollected my mind and gambled through the interview. You may be wondering if I got the job, YES I did.
Am pretty sure if I put you in the same situation, you would panic too. If you are in the majority who dread this question, I have written this post for you. From my previous observations, I have discovered that it is the most feared question in an interview. Unfortunately it is unavoidable. Every interviewer wants to start with it. Why?
There several reasons but mainly;
- To allow them time to settle in and organize themselves as you talk.
- To assess you initially and observe your confidence and ability to articulate your answers and personality from the word ‘go’.
You may be asking, how then do I attempt it? To help deal with question in a more organized, informed, prepared and professional manner, I did ,my research and also spoke to a couple of human resource consultants. from that I inter meddled their thoughts to make this post very detailed, a little brief and resourceful.
Rather than dread this question, a well-prepared candidate should welcome this inquiry. When properly answered, this question puts the candidate in the driver’s seat. It gives you an opportunity to sell yourself. It allows you to set the tone and direction for the rest of the interview, setting you up to answer the questions you most want to answer.
So we shall start with;
How to answer it wrongly?
Answering this question wrongly will end you interview prematurely. When faced with this question, do not use it to again mention the stuff you already have written down in your CV. That’s monotony. Give them something they would think on.
Also try not to ask them questions like “what exactly would you love to know?” It shows an unprepared applicant not worthy of the job. By the time you enter that interview, you must know exactly what the interviewer wants to know. You need to develop a good answer relevant to the job you are applying for.
Avoid mumble jumbling with long stories. Be as brief as possible giving rich answers, marketing yourself of course.
How to answer it correctly?
Always remember this for every interview you go for. The interview is about you but it is more about what your interviewer wants to hear. So do not consider yourself alone.
You must give the interviewer what they want to hear. They want to hear why you are the best candidate for the job. Desist from narrating endless stories. They want to be sure that you can do the job.
What have you accomplished in your previous positions and how is it going to help their organization? You need to customize your answers to fit into what the employer is looking for.
I recommend that you start with your most recent employment and elaborate how your experience there is an asset to them. The interviewer needs to know that you are the person they are looking for.
You are actually selling yourself. Your interviewer is the buyer. The interview is your platform.
For example; if you say that “you are proactive…” describe briefly from your previous experiences how your pro-activity has contributed to your previous employer’s success.
How did your stated skill “save the day”? How did it get the job done?
Since this is the first question, the employer needs only to know a little about you. Be BRIEF. Keep it short at least 1 minute long. Being brief is not about rushing through your answers. You can summarize and only relay the important valuable answers. Only speak of the things that will interest the interviewer.
It is a great skill if you are able to structure your answers in such a way that they portray a clear understanding of what the employer is looking for.
If you put your emphasis on the things the employer values a lot then you have passed the test.
Start by giving them a brief employment history and how you have ended up “here”? then transition into your qualities.
Given you were being interviewed for the job of Customer Care specialist for a software company, here is how it would go;
“Tell Me About Yourself…”
Well. I’ve been working for the past six years as a systems analyst and data manager. During that time I’ve been trained and certified on a number of different software platforms and systems.
Nice. You’re starting by answering the question directly, and keeping the answer business focused as well as targeted…and you’ve slipped in there that you’re trained on a variety of different programs which, depending on what they are, can make you an even more valuable candidate.
I’d really describe myself as a person with a versatile skill-set, a lot of integrity and a willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy a customer. Perhaps the best way to let you know what I’m about is to share with you a quick experience I had.
Recently while working at a location with a client, they mentioned that they had just purchased some software that I was familiar with but that their computer systems were having some difficulty installing the program. I offered to take a look at the installation and found that there was a step that had somehow been forgotten. I told him I would be happy to wipe the system and reinstall the software correctly. At first the client refused and when I asked him why, he told me that it was too expensive and that they were just going to learn to work around the problem. When I asked him further, he told me a different analyst had been in, looked at the problem, and told them that the files had corrupted their system overall and that it would be expensive to fix. When I told him it was a simple matter of wiping the previous version and reinstalling it, he was stunned. I did the whole project for a fraction of the cost the other “analyst” had quoted. My client was so happy he referred me to his friends and I’ve done similar work for several other companies in town as a result.
Now that’s Excellent. You’ve highlighted the Quality (underlined) that the company puts a lot of value in, and used a Success Story from your past to support your claim that you have the quality. Time to bring it home…
Now I’m looking to take my career to the next level and move out of contract work into a full time employee for a company where I can be a part of a team, but also allows me to focus my energy on my best strength, working directly with customers. I’d like to build a long term career that lets me focus on professional growth.
And there you have it…the perfect wrap up. You’ve brought your little story back around to where you are now and what you hope to accomplish with this job. You’ve kept your stories not only professional, but focused and tailored to help reinforce what you’re ultimately trying to do.
What if I am a fresh graduate?
Now probably you are saying, “I do not have any experience”. This next section is for you. Remember this website is
www.fresherjobsuganda.com because we want to help especially the job seekers with little or no working experience.
Just because you don’t have a super awesome story like the one above doesn’t mean you aren’t still a super awesome individual able to bring both professional and personal skills to the table that would make any employer sit up and take notice.
Here’s the deal…
More often than not, the company cares more about your ability to fulfill their needs than it does about what you did for another company.
Sure, it helps that your Success Story refers to practical on-job experience, but if you don’t have that option you can draw from a different place.
For example, if you are a fresh graduate you can reference your academic achievements, athletic endeavors and volunteer work.
If you had to work in any kind of group for any activity you can use these experiences as an example.
The fact of the matter is, the interviewer has seen your resume and would not have brought you in if they didn’t think you had at least some potential to do the job.
So reach back into your past and find some Success Stories to help answer the question.
What if I am changing Job industries and my experience does not apply?
You might be saying this to yourself, but it really doesn’t matter if you didn’t work in the same industry you are applying to and here’s why…
Through your research of the company you will discover what the Qualities are that they put a lot of value in. It could be leadership, it could be collaboration, or it could be literally any other Quality you come across.
The point is, once you discover what that Quality is, it will determine the success story that will support it.
So whether it is from your last job, or a previous job, or not from a work scenario at all (as stated above; your academics, your athletics, etc.), the Success Story you choose is not always based on work experience.
It’s up to you to find your own Success Story that best supports the Quality they desire.
So there you go! Look out for one quality you can build upon to bring the point home in the shortest time possible but please remain relevant to the employer’s need. With what I have shared here, I believe that you can now confidently express yourself and use that question to your advantage.
If you have any questions or additions please consider leaving a comment below and I will gladly reply.