Feeling the jitters and butterflies for your upcoming job interview? One way to make that nervousness go away would be to have a headstart on the interview questions.
Well, you are in luck! While you may not be able to predict all the questions - there isaquestion that will almost certainly be asked in your interview.
The classic "tell me about yourself". A simple, easy-sounding question - but easy to fumble and ramble endlessly.
Sure, it's an open-ended question with no “right” or “wrong” answer, but it can be difficult to navigate - especially if you're not prepared. To ‘err” is human, but you’d also want to come across as well-spoken and confident. If you can master answering this question, it can set the tone for the rest of the interview and help you make a good impression beyond dressing properly for the interview.
Ahead, we discuss how to answer this age-old interview question to make you stand out amongst the crowd and clinch that dream job.
Before you start crafting your answer in your mind, it's important to understand the purpose of the question. No, the interviewer is not asking for agrandfather storyof your childhood or romantic relationships, but rather they simply want to know if you are a good fit for the position. Your answer should focus on your skills, experiences, and career goals that are relevant to the job, all while still being personable.
Interviewers ask this question for 4 primary reasons -
To form initial impressions of the candidate.
Initial impressions matter immensely in job interviews. In a study done by Prof. Tricia Prickett and colleagues at the University of Toledo, Ohio,naive observers were able to predict the outcome of a 20-minute interview by just looking at the first 20 seconds of the interview.
Ease the candidate into the interview.
Tell me about yourself also acts as a conversation starter to begin the interview on a friendly note. Since candidates are expected to be comfortable talking about their professional experience and achievements, this question serves as a way to alleviate some pressure and transition into more specific questions related to the job.
Inform the direction of the interview.
Hiring managerswill often use your answer to figure out the next question. Depending upon your preparation, you can also nudge the interview in your favoured area.
Check how you handle open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are a very useful tool for evaluating your ability to communicate effectively. A clear and structured answer to this question will increase the interviewer's interest in your profile.
While many-a-times interviewers will exactly start with the phrase - "So, tell me about yourself", there will be occasions when this question is framed differently.
For example, they may start with:
To prepare for the question, you should identify the key skills and experiences that are relevant to the job. Keep in mind the job description and think about how your skills and experiences match the requirements of the position. Highlighting these key skills and experiences eloquently and succinctly will show the interviewer that you are the ideal person they’re looking for.
In addition to identifying your key skills and experiences, you should also research the company and the position you are applying for. This will help you tailor your answer to the specific needs of the company. For example, if the company values teamwork and is known for valuing internal collaborations, you can highlight your experience of working in a team environment.
Now comes the technical part. Try to have your opening statement be bold and powerful. While maintaining an upbeat tone, start by introducing yourself and your current position or education.
Then, mention your relevant skills and experiences that are related to the job. Think of it as introducing yourself to a new friend – don’t stress it!
Opening statement examples:
When highlighting your skills and experiences, it's important to have laser focus on the key points you want to touch on. The last thing you’d want is to bore the interviewer with a long list of outdated and irrelevant achievements. Instead, choose a few key skills and experiences that are most relevant to the position and discuss them in detail.
Even better? Citing specific examples will illustrate your strengths and elevate your response. For example, if you are applying for a customer service position, you can provide an example of a time when you went above and beyond to help a customer and personal testimonials that you might have received in the past.
In addition to discussing your skills and experiences, you should also mention your future career goals and how they align with the company's mission and values. Not only will this show the interviewer that you are passionate about the job and the company, but also showcase that you did the necessary research before the interview. Help them to envision you becoming a valuable part of the team!
Before wrapping up your answer, emphasise your enthusiasm and passion for the position. This will show the interviewer that you are not just looking for any job, but that you are genuinely interested in the position and the company. Of course, avoid overkill and unnecessary compliments or it might seem like you’re a bootlicker. Subtlety iskey.
Nobody likes a rambler. One of the most common mistakes when answering the "Tell me about yourself" question is being long winded or providing too much irrelevant information. Keep your answer concise and to the point.
Career and interview coach Leah Lambart, of Relaunch Me, cautions candidates against this. “Employers don’t want to hear your life story, and they’re not interested in every job you’ve ever had.”
“They want to hear a snapshot of your career history, highlighting any specific career changes that need some explanation, focusing on the most relevant or recent roles, key skills that you have developed, as well as some standout achievements that are a testament to the great work that you’ve done.”
Another thing to avoid is being too upfront with what you don’t enjoy doing at work or focusing on why you’re leaving your previous company – complaining will only put you in a bad light.
“Discussing problems that you’re having with your boss, or your team will only raise red flags to future employers,” Lambart says.
Another grave mistake is focusing solely on personal information or unrelated experiences. While it's okay to mention personal information if it's relevant to the job, your answer should primarily focus on your professional experience and skills.
Bringing in hobbies or pop culture references is completely acceptable as long as they relate back to the job or company. Example: “I learnt a lot about medical procedures from watching Grey’s Anatomy, which is why I want to pursue a career as a nurse”.
Especially if your answer is a lengthy one, make sure to tie your answer back to the position and the company so you don’t lose track of your points. Show the interviewer that you have a clear understanding of the role and how you can contribute to the company's success.
Just like for everything else, practice makes perfect. Rehearsing your answer is essential if you want to ensure a smooth delivery in your reply. This will also reflect that you’re well-prepared. Here are some tips and suggestions for practising effectively.
Even if you’re not well-versed in Instagram or TikTok, take a cue from the Gen Zs and record yourself. Familiarise yourself with answering the "Tell Me About Yourself" question and watch the video back to see how you come across. This will help you to identify areas where you can improve and refine your answer to reach your preferred delivery.
If you’re camera-shy, why not practise your answer with friends, family members or mentors and ask for feedback? This will help you to get an outside perspective on your answer and identify areas where you can improve. To add an element to the interview preparation process, you can even have a mock panel consisting of your friends and family to roleplay the entire interview process.
Alternatively, you can also access an online Interview Practice Tool via JobStreet to tackle various typical interview questions, get helpful professional advice and record yourself to make self-improvements.
Need a clearer guideline? Here are some “Tell me about yourself” sample answers you can refer to and adapt for your interview.
The main thing employers want to know is how your skills and experiences will benefit their company - especially if you are an experienced professional. You can start by giving a brief overview of your work experience and then diving into the specifics of how your skills and accomplishments make you an ideal candidate for the position.
Example: "Sure! I am a Marketing Manager with a specialisation in digital advertising campaigns, bringing over 5 years of experience leading successful campaigns across multiple industries. My expertise lies in leveraging digital channels such as SEO, SEM, social media, email marketing, and content marketing to drive brand awareness, lead generation, and conversion rates.
In my current role, I developed and executed a successful social media campaign that increased our brand's online engagement by 50%. In my previous role at XYZ e-Commerce Ltd., I spearheaded a number of successful campaigns that delivered significant growth in website traffic and revenue. For example - our digital paid search campaign in 2020 delivered 30% higher conversions at 20% lower cost compared to the previous year. To achieve this - we relied on a data-driven approach to keyword bidding to maximise high-intent traffic.
With ABC Inc. being one of the biggest digitally native start-ups in Malaysia, I believe my skills will be central to delivering on the company's objectives while presenting an opportunity to further learn and deepen my skills in this space."
If you don't have direct experience in the position you're interviewing for, highlighting your transferable skills can help demonstrate your value as a candidate. These skills are those that can be applied across various industries and positions.
Example: “Thank you for letting me share my background and transferable skills that make me a strong candidate for this position.
I have a diverse range of experiences and skills that have allowed me to develop valuable transferable skills applicable to various industries and roles. Starting with my educational background, I obtained a degree in Business Studies from University ABC, where I honed my critical thinking and analytical abilities. This foundation has been instrumental in my career, as it has enabled me to quickly grasp complex concepts and find innovative solutions to challenges.
In my previous roles, I've had the opportunity to work in different industries, including Retail and Hospitality, which has given me a well-rounded perspective. This exposure has helped me develop adaptability and versatility, allowing me to seamlessly transition between different projects, teams, and tasks.
One of my main transferable skills is effective communication. Throughout my career, I have honed my ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely to diverse audiences, including colleagues, clients, and customers. This skill has been invaluable in facilitating productive collaborations, managing client relationships, and leading successful team initiatives.
Furthermore, I am highly organized and detail-oriented. I have a proven ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality results. I am adept at prioritizing tasks, allocating resources efficiently, and maintaining meticulous attention to detail, ensuring accuracy and precision in all aspects of my work.
Lastly, I am a lifelong learner and always strive to enhance my skill set. I actively seek out new challenges and opportunities for professional development, which has enabled me to stay up-to-date with emerging industry trends and technologies. This adaptability and eagerness to learn ensure that I can quickly adjust to new environments and contribute effectively to the success of the organization.
In summary, my diverse background, effective communication, problem-solving abilities, leadership experience, organizational skills, and commitment to learning are transferable skills that make me a valuable asset to any team or organization. I am confident that I can leverage these skills to make a positive impact in this role and contribute to the continued growth and success of the company."
Passion speaks volumes, and is a vital factor that employers want to see. Expressing your enthusiasm for the job can help you stand out from other candidates, even if they might be more qualified than you on paper.
This is particularly useful forfresh graduates, who may not have experience working in a particular role but can highlight their passion for the particular industry through degrees and projects.
Example:“From a young age, I have been deeply passionate about the healthcare and medical industry. It has been a driving force in shaping my educational and professional choices. I pursued a degree in Healthcare Services from University XYZ to gain a solid foundation and formal knowledge in the subject. This educational background has not only provided me with a strong skill set but has also fueled my enthusiasm and dedication to excel in this field.
What truly excites me about the healthcare industry is its ability to create positive change and improve people's lives. The prospect of being part of a team that develops innovative solutions, tackles complex challenges, and makes a real difference motivates me every day. I am inspired by the opportunity to work in an environment where my skills and expertise can be utilized to create a lasting impact on individuals, communities, or even on a global scale.
My passion is not limited to the technical aspects of the job. I am also deeply invested in staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends, advancements, and best practices. I regularly engage in professional development activities such as participating in workshops and pursuing relevant certifications. This commitment to continuous learning allows me to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table.
Beyond my professional pursuits, my passion extends to being an advocate for charity and philanthropy. I actively engage in volunteer work, participate in community events, and support initiatives that align with my values and passion. This involvement allows me to contribute to the broader impact of healthcare and make a difference beyond the confines of my professional responsibilities."
Highlighting your personal background and interests can help you connect with the interviewer on a more personal level. It will make your answers sound more natural and conversational. However, be sure to keep it professional and relevant to the position.
A great way to incorporate personal background in your answer is by following the W.A.P. method:
Example:"I am a project manager at XYZ Software Inc. As a project manager, I oversee large-scale software development projects, including implementing new software systems and improving existing products. I have a proven track record of leading large cross-functional teams to deliver complex projects on time, within budget, and with high quality. Recently, I oversaw a $100m Super App development program involving a team of over 600 engineers.
I have a bachelor's degree in computer science from ABC University - where I was the recipient of the prestigious Science fellowship. I am also a PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner and am well-versed in both Agile and Waterfall methodologies of software development.
Outside of work, I enjoy volunteering at a local animal shelter. It's taught me the value of teamwork, communication, and empathy – skills that I believe are crucial for success in this role."
Alternatively - even if you don't have unique interests - it still might make sense to highlight hobbies that may seem commonplace. But do remember that it should portray you favorably for the role you are applying for.
For example:"In my free time, I enjoy practising yoga and meditation. It's helped me develop a strong sense of focus and discipline, which I believe have been instrumental in my success as a project manager. I'm excited about the opportunity to bring those same skills to this position."
After you've given your answer, you might want to pause on heaving a sigh of relief just yet. The interviewer will likely ask follow-up questions to clarify or expand on your response. It's important to be prepared for these questions and answer them effectively.
Common follow-up questions include:
To prepare for these questions, think about specific moments from your past experiences and how they relate to the position.
Another common yet sensitive follow-up question that might catch you by surprise is “Why did you leave your previous job?’.“How ah?”, you think to yourself while trying not to let the interviewer see you sweat. Well, the question is easier to handle than you might think. While this question may seem intimidating, it's important to answer it honestly and positively.
Start by focusing on the positive aspects of your previous job, highlighting what you learned and what you enjoyed. Then, explain the reasons why you left or are leaving, keeping in mind that honesty is key.
Perhaps you’re looking for a new challenge? Or you wanted to work in a different industry?
Even if the main reason is seeking a better work-life balance, you can share that too since some employers value utmost transparency. Whatever the reason, be sure to frame it in a positive light and emphasise how it led you to apply for the current position.
By taking a positive approach to answering this question, you can show the interviewer that you're capable of framing challenging situations in a positive light and that you're excited about the new opportunity in front of you. Remember to stay honest and positive, and focus on how your previous experiences have prepared you for success in the role you're applying for.
In conclusion, the "Tell Me About Yourself" question is an inevitable part of job interviews. It's essential to prepare a thoughtful and engaging answer that showcases your skills, experiences, and passion for the position.
By tailoring your answer to the company and position, highlighting your relevant experiences and skills, and including personal background and interests, you can make your answer stand out from other candidates.
As a final tip for success, it is essential to practise and rehearse your answer while building on feedback from others. Additionally, it is vital to stay positive and confident throughout the interview process.
Visit the Career Resources Hub for more job interview tips and job-seeking guides. Do not forget to update your JobStreet profile to get the latest notifications on exciting new opportunities. Good luck!
Now that we've covered the main aspects of answering the "Tell Me About Yourself" interview question, let's address some common questions that job seekers often have about this topic. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you feel more confident and prepared for your next job interview.