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Tell Me about Yourself: a Key to Killer Pitching

If you think it’s easy to tell them about yourself, think again! Almost every job interview starts with this blunt, open-ended “Tell me about yourself” question, and make most candidates sweat. Why? Because it leaves them wondering what the interviewer is looking for and what information they should share at this point of the interview. You should not take this question too lightly; neither should you dread it. In fact, a well-prepared answer to this classic icebreaker can win half the battle for you, helping you make the first impression right and also setting the tone for the rest of the interview. Here are some useful tips on how to prepare for and answer this question.

Make a confident start

“Tell me about yourself” is a great starting point. Most interviewers ask this to see your level of confidence – how you get along with others. They care less about what you talk, and more about how you start talking. So make sure you don’t fumble, take a long pause, or look less confident at the start. Some candidates even go to the extent of asking a counter question, “What do you want to know about me?” That’s a disaster. This simply shows you did not prepare well for the interview. The best reply to “Tell me about yourself” is a prompt, intelligent, and well-thought-out answer. If possible, start with a bang. For instance, you can start by saying, “I can describe myself in five words….” Or maybe say, “People often appreciate three qualities of me….” This kind of start helps grab the attention right away.

Don’t lose focus

OK, so you have started well, but that’s not all. Now you need to say what your employer wants to hear from you. Tell them why you are a good fit for this job. Don’t lose your focus or turn in the wrong direction. Some candidates provide too much personal information, while they actually should talk more about their professional experience, skills and achievements. Here is an example of a wrong response.

“I was born in Manchester as the only child of John and Alice Gilbert and grew up on our family-owned farm. After completing my masters in journalism, I took a job in Leeds and left the job after two years. Last year I came to Birmingham with my husband Tom, who is a lawyer at DLA Piper. I am currently settled in this city and looking for a job opportunity here.”

The above answer gives an impression that the candidate is not serious about her job. She has no set goal; she can accept any job. She is not very focused, committed or reliable. Remember, your answer should focus only on your relevant skills, qualities, and what value you can bring to the company.

Prepare a script

It is always a good idea to prepare a script and follow that. Your script should touch upon your past, present, and future. Start by talking about your current situation – where you are currently working or studying. Then make a smooth transition to your past – talk about your previous jobs, relevant experience, etc. Finally, say a few words about your future plans and how this job will help you accomplish your long-term goals.

Do not memorise

Preparing a rough draft of your answer helps, but do not try to memorise it, word for word. You just need an outline, so that you can stay focused. If you memorise, you may sound fake and scripted.

Turn the tables

This is not for everyone. If you are smart, confident, and believe in two-way communication, you can try this. After giving a brief introduction of yourself, you can turn around and politely ask the interviewer some specific questions about the position you are interviewing for. That way, you can spin the table, and help turn the monologue into a meaningful conversation. Just because you are interviewed doesn’t mean you always should be on the receiving end. In fact, asking relevant questions can help to show you in a good light. This may help make you look more confident and serious about your work.

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