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Interview Tips on the Elusive "Tell me about yourself"

Updated: Jan 25, 2019

OK. A job interview might be some way off, but have you prepared for the questions? This one: "Tell me about yourself" seems innocent, huh? Instead of lamenting the woes and joys of your personal history, learn how to seamlessly get through this question at interview....


Be a rockstar at interviews!


"Tell me about yourself" means...?

Before we sweep into what this means, let's cover what it does NOT mean:


  • It does NOT mean 'tell me about your life story from birth till now'

  • It does NOT mean 'tell me about the difficulties you had in getting here today'

  • It does NOT mean 'tell me about your diagnosis and past trauma'

  • It does NOT mean 'tell me about your favourite subjects or hobbies'

  • It does NOT mean 'tell me about your resume'

  • It does NOT mean 'ask me what I mean'

  • It does NOT mean 'brag about how good you are'

  • It does NOT mean 'act all shy and modest and say nothing'


YIKES!


So, what does it mean?


"Tell me about yourself" is a way for the interviewer to learn more about WHY you do what you do.

The job* that you are applying for is hopefully something that inspires you, and hopefully is linked to your interests. What is it about doing that job, or using a certain skill of yours that appeals to you? Why do you do it?


*Note: It is advised you only take an interview if you actually like the job. I know, you may need money... but it's extremely challenging to convey genuineness as you LIE about your intentions. It is far easier (and less stressful) to talk calmly about what you love. So why not apply for a job you love?



What a good answer to this question looks like


Example 1


Job applied for: Head Gardener at Botanical Gardens


[Interviewer] "Tell me about yourself."


[Me] "Well, as you know I'm currently a landscaper at IE School, and this really inspires me. I have won awards for my gardens, but that's not why I do it. I grew up with this spirit of nature all around me. With my father showing me how to plant for the seasons, and it I really took to it right off the bat! I'm excited to lead and teach others now, to show them how to grow and landscape; I feel it's the right direction for me"


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Example 2


Job applied for: Junior Software Tester at 123Company


[Interviewer] "Tell me about yourself."


[Me] "I completed a certificate in IT as few years ago, but I really just learned about computers on my own. I love looking at a problem and seeing a solution or when I code, that there's something not working, so I go back and see I forgot to write the css with html. You know, I think growing up into a world of internet helped a lot to fuel my interests. I'm interested in getting more into the field now as I feel I can only learn so much at home and I want to contribute my skills to the wider community"


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Example 3


Job applied for: Retail casual at CharityStoreNearYou


[Interviewer] "Tell me about yourself."


[Me] "At the moment, I am studying part-time, so I have a few days free to work. I just want to give something back to the community. I love this store; I come in a lot to buy clothing and see what funky new things you guys have in. I also noticed you colour-code your clothing and that the books are mostly categorized. This kind of order is something I deeply enjoy"



Analysis---> All three examples showcase different styles to say the same thing: WHY. Here are 3-4 short sentences which provide an introduction to who you are and why you do what you do. It names your current situation and speaks to why you want a new job. It makes the person listening to you want to ask more, to know more... It conveys your passion, your spirit and your WHY.


Now you try!


Let's do an exercise to make this easier. I recommend you write your answers down on a sheet of paper, because we'll be referring to them at bit later on. You may even like to number them. Okay, let's start:


1) What are you doing at the moment, like for work? Describe what you do. If you are unemployed, what do you do at home? Do you write blogs? Sing? Do art? Do mechanics? Garden? Collect records? Read books? What do you do?

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2) Now, think about the new job you have applied for. What is it? What will you be doing? Do your activities undertaken in question 1 relate to this job?

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3) Consider why this is a good job for you. Why do you think you'd be good at it?

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4) What is inspiring about this new job for you? What appeals to you?

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5) And have you always been drawn to this profession, or did something happen to make you want to do this job?

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These five answers make up your entire response to "Tell me about yourself"...


Just shorten your answers for questions 1 to 5, and speak them aloud. Make sure to practice your answers OUT LOUD. Speak them, and hear what you sound like. You do not need to remember a script, but if you speak your answers aloud, it will help you resonate with the words and phrases that feel right for you.


Remember: Your entire response should be 3-4 sentences to convey your WHY.


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