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How to answer the common interview question: ‘Tell me about yourself’?

How to best answer the Interview question-Tell me about yourself ?

Let us discuss one of the most common interview questions which all of you either have or will face sometime in your careers- Tell me about yourself?

In this article, we will cover the below topics-

Different variations: Tell me about yourself


The recruiter can ask this question-tell me about yourself ? in several different ways like:

1. Take me through your resume 
2. Walk or run me through your profile
3. I would love to know more about you and your journey

Why do interviewers ask this question?


You should understand that an interview is a discussion. More simply put, it is a conversation. A conversation between two people who are actually looking to work together. So the number one reason for the interviewer to ask this question is to get this conversation started (or we can say that he/she wants to break the ice). Another set of reasons can be that he/she wants to test your communication skills, check your level of confidence, or even want to assess if you can be a good cultural fit.

Whatever is the actual reason for your interviewer, one thing is certain- when you answer this question well, it makes a great first impression and sets a positive note for the rest of the interview.

The 3-step formula to answer the interview question: Tell me about yourself?


To make it easier for beginners to answer the interview question- ‘Tell me about yourself?’, below is a 3-step formula which can be followed to structure an effective answer-

Step 1- Summary of your most relevant experience and education

Step 2- Your past achievements + proof to support it

Step 3- Why are you fit for this job?

Watch the video below or read on to learn these 3 steps in more detail-

Step 1- Summary of your most relevant experience and education


It is important to note the words ‘most relevant’ here. Please understand that an interviewer will almost always be short of time, as there may be several candidates lined up for the same role. In this scenario, it is very important to grab the interviewer’s attention as quickly as possible. To do that, it is advisable to talk about only the most relevant education and experience in the answer ‘Tell me about yourself?’

For the same reason, it is advisable not to talk about your personal and family life as they are not relevant to the job. Mention them only if the interviewer asks you to.

You may have 2 degrees- an under-graduate and a post-graduate, or you may have worked at 3 different companies, but in this answer, you should mention only the most relevant ones to the job that you are applying to.

Let us take an example-
Suppose you have 2 degrees- An Engineering and an MBA. Post Engineering, you worked for 3 years and then started the MBA. After MBA you worked for 2 years each at 2 different companies in a marketing role. Now if the job that you are being interviewed for is of a marketing manager, where your engineering degree and that 3 years of experience are not very relevant, you can skip them in your answer.

You can say something like- ‘I am a management graduate with an MBA in marketing from XYZ college. I have worked as a marketing executive at ABC company for 2 years where I was responsible for executing online social media campaigns. Then I moved to DEF company where I worked for another 2 years as a senior marketing executive handling both offline retail and online e-commerce campaigns. This gave me good exposure to marketing for both offline and online platforms.’

See how this answer is so relevant to the marketing manager role that you are actually applying to.

Suppose you are a fresher and have done both Engineering and MBA, but have never worked before. If you are now sitting for an interview for a sales role, you should ideally talk about your degree, your projects, and the internships that you did as part of your MBA. The engineering period can be skipped. As that will be most relevant to the interviewer.

You can say something like- ‘I am a management graduate with an MBA in sales and marketing from XYZ college. I have done my internship with ABC company where I learned how to prepare effective sales proposals for banks and financial institutions.

The Engineering degree and work experience can be mentioned if the interviewer specifically asks about it or if it can be seen as an additional skill for the role that you are applying to. The interviewer already has your resume and will ask you if he/she feels the need to, so don’t think that you have missed anything.

Another advantage is that you are more likely to be asked further questions based on this answer. So, in the above example, it will reduce the chances of you being asked something from your Engineering days or your first job, which you may not remember properly.

Step 2- Your past achievements + proof to support it


This is the most important step of your answer- ‘Tell me about yourself ?’.

When we say achievements, we mean the ‘Results’ that you have produced. That is what the interviewers want to know. Recruiters want to know what YOU have done in your past experience or in your college. So you need to think over and prepare this part well.

If you say that you work very hard or you work for 18 hours every day, trust me, no one will be impressed! Why? Because interviewers are not interested in your approach or your way of working, they are only interested in the ‘Results’ that you have produced.

And they will believe you when you use numbers or data as proof to justify your results.

Eg. You should not say – I was very good at sales at my last job and was always appreciated by my colleagues.
Or
You should not say – I was part of the Placement committee in my college and I worked very hard, almost 16 hours every day.

Instead, you can say- In my last company, I got 2 big clients which gave a total sales of over USD 300,000 in the year. This helped me over-achieve my annual sales targets by 20% and I was recognized by the company for the same.
Or
You can say- I was part of the Placement committee in my college. After putting in months of hard work and personally reaching out to and meeting more than 75 companies, I was able to get 15 top companies to our college for the first time. This helped us in securing 95% placement for our batch.

As you can see both these statements mention the achievements in the form of specific results. And to justify the results, numbers have been used. By using numbers, these results and achievements sound more realistic and believable to the interviewer.

You can also share the same in the form of a small story. The same results can be put in the form of your personal story with your own experiences. You can mention all the difficulties you faced, what kept you going, and the final results you produced.

Example– Lets put the sales instance above in the form of a story:

You can say something likeIn my last company, my sales target in the second year was set very high, 50% higher than the previous year. It seemed very difficult in the beginning. I knew that I had to think out of the box. After a lot of thinking, I thought that maybe I can ask for references from our existing clients. But we had more than 3000 clients, it was impossible to call all of them. Then it struck me that we have the email database of all these 3000 clients. I sat with the marketing manager and we drafted a nice email thanking our clients for their business and requesting them for references. We showed it to our manager, who approved to send the email after making some minor changes.
We sent that email and received a great response. I got 50 references to work on from our clients. Out of them, I managed to convert 2 big clients which gave a total sales of over USD 300,000 that year. This helped me over-achieve my annual sales targets by 20% and I was recognized by the company for the same.

Joel Schwartzberg at Harvard Business Review talks about the same story-based approach and how to use it effectively in the interview.

The advantage of a story-based approach is that it will have a very high chance of catching the attention of the recruiter.

Step 3- Why are you fit for this job?


A lot of candidates skip this part.

In this step, you need to tell the recruiter that you understand the responsibilities of the role very well, you have the right experience, and are interested to get this job.

Interviewers always like candidates who are prepared and are really interested to get the job. And they try to connect every potential candidate to see if he/she can fit that role. If you can make their life easier by making this connection yourself, it will greatly increase your chances.

For example, you can sayI understand that you need a dynamic salesperson for this role as it involves a lot of traveling. In my current job, I visit all my customers every week and have developed very good relationships with them. I believe that my strong communication skills and my ability to develop long term relationships will help me succeed in this role.

In the above example, the candidate knows that extensive traveling and relationship building is what is important to the interviewer. How does he/she know? By reading the Job Description carefully. So then he/she emphasizes that in their answer and this will certainly catch the attention of the interviewer.

Sample answers: Tell me about yourself?


Let us look at 2 sample answers, one for a fresher and one for an experienced candidate. Both of them use the 3-step formula described above.

Sample answer 1- Fresher with no experience


Tip- Focus on your college projects, internships, events, or any social gatherings. Talk about them, since you don’t have formal work experience.

Good morning ma’am. My name is Neha Sharma. I have completed my BBA from XYZ college with a specialization in marketing and communications. Last year I got a chance to do an internship at an e-commerce company ABC for 2 months. This is where I developed a strong liking for Social media marketing. I was lucky to work directly under the Social media manager where I learned how to create effective marketing campaigns. This really excited me as I was able to use my creativity at work. There I worked on 4 different campaigns in 2 months and one of them became very popular with over 200,000 likes and 100,000 shares on Facebook.
I am aware that you are looking for a Social media executive who can engage and build trust with your customers. I am a quick learner and I strongly believe that my passion for social media marketing can bring excellent results in a very short period of time.

Sample answer 2- Experienced candidate


Good morning sir. My name is John Adams. I have done my MBA in Sales and marketing and have worked for 2 years as a Sales executive at XYZ company. In the last 2 years, I got 2 big clients which gave total sales of over USD 300,000. This helped me over-achieve my sales targets by 15% in the first year and 20% in the second year. To recognize my efforts, the company awarded me with the ‘salesman of the year’ award last year.
I understand that you need a dynamic salesperson for this role as it involves a lot of traveling. Let me tell you, sir, that in my current job I make it a point to visit all my customers every week and have developed very good relationships with them. I believe that my strong communication skills and my ability to develop long term relationships will help me succeed in this role.

Conclusion


The question Tell me about yourself? is the most important interview question, as a good answer will set a positive tone for the rest of the interview. Hence, you need to prepare it well. Really well!

Prepare your answer using the 3-step formula described above, as it will help you to structure a great sounding answer which will catch the interviewer’s attention. Let’s revisit these 3 steps below:

The 3-step formula to best answer the interview question: Tell me about yourself?

  1. Summary of your most relevant experience and education

  2. Your past achievements + proof to support it

  3. Telling the interviewer- Why are you fit for this job?

Do you have any other points to focus on while answering this question? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

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