This is likely to be the first thing asked of you at interview. Yet, amongst learning some facts about the company and bracing yourself for tough curveball questions, it’s an easy one to overlook.
This is your opportunity to pitch yourself as the best candidate for the role. So, keep your answer to a minute or so in length – they’ve seen your CV, this is your chance to show you can prioritise information, communicate it effectively, and add a bit of personality to what they already know about you as an applicant on paper.
Importantly, your answer should be tailored to each opportunity you go for in the same way as your cover letter is, so do your research before working out what you want to say.
Here are three simple steps you can take to prepare a response:
1. Summarise what you’re doing now.
“Tell me about yourself,” is very open-ended; it’s up to you to steer the conversation and the interviewer will certainly be looking to see how you approach it. The simplest place to start is in the now. For example, “I’m a recent graduate from the University of Manchester and am currently working as a Marketing Assistant at X company."
Remember, you’re telling the interviewer about yourself professionally. So, leave out where you grew up and your love of cute dog photos on Instagram; they don’t need your life story, but what you can tell them is the concise story of how you came to be interviewing at their company specifically.
2. Talk about relevant experience you have and the skills you can therefore bring to the job. Be sure to include specifics.
The next step is to flesh out your career story with details about why you’re a great candidate for this specific job at their company in particular. Mention work experience that lead you to pursue the career path you’re on and highlight something you do in your current job that is of interest.
If you’re struggling because you don’t yet have the wealth of experience you’d like, bring in something significant you achieved at university, such as running a society, leading a sports team or getting something you wrote published. The key is to link any examples you give to the job on offer.
Steer clear of vague answers and making sweeping statements about who you are as an individual without substantiating them – talk in facts about your employment history and what it demonstrates. So, rather than claiming to be very detail-oriented, it would be better to say you have experience in doing detail-oriented work and then elaborate as to what the role entailed.
The example we started with might continue, “I studied English Language and Linguistics at university, which confirmed for me that I have a passion for working with words. So, I pursued this and got experience editing and writing copy to quick deadlines. My current role has allowed me to develop my commercial awareness and I’ve now been given responsibility for helping represent companies across several social media platforms, which I really enjoy because...”
3. Finish by bringing your answer back to the opportunity at hand.
You should round off your answer by using what you’ve said so far to show you’re a good fit for the role. For example, “Now, I’m excited for this opportunity at your company, where I can further use the skills I’ve developed in the Marketing sector and take the next step.”
With all that in mind, before your interview, try writing out the bullet points you want to bring up and practice elaborating upon them aloud. A good answer to this question early on will give you the confidence boost you need to ace the rest of your interview.