3 Tips to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” In Interviews

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“When you’re interviewing for a job, you’re marketing yourself,” – William Vanderbloemen. 

The concept of marketing oneself is not new in the realm of job searching. The ‘marketing’ process often begins with your cover letter, resume and personal branding on social media platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn. Those are the first steps to brand yourself as a favourable and sought-after employee.

What follows after is the most crucial yet dreaded process for some: Interviews.

What constitutes ‘good’ interview skills?

Hallmarks of a good interview: 

  • Good understanding of self
  • Good knowledge of interviewer and company
  • Positive body language
  • Genuine dialogue with the interviewers 

In this current employer job market, it is increasingly hard to stand out with many people vying for the same positions, which means many more rounds of interviews to conquer. While you have ample time to craft a perfectly-written resume or LinkedIn page, you do not have the same luxury in an interview. When it comes to who will eventually emerge victorious, it might be down to how well you can handle the questions fired at you.

“Can you tell me more about yourself?” 

Have you ever been caught off-guard by this question during an interview and responded haphazardly by piecing together fragments of your personality and experiences? Perhaps you just responded with a few seconds of awkward silence and blank stares. With the few minutes that you have, how do you even begin to answer such a broad question?

Here are three tips to prepare you for this age-old interview question. 

1) Have a session of self-reflection about your strengths before the interview

We all have our unique strengths and skills, but not everyone can verbalise them, especially in the short span of an interview. In order to articulate your strengths well, you first need to know and become as familiar as you are with the back of your hand. That means plenty of preparation work before the interview! 

Firstly, list down your soft and hard skills. This includes what you are naturally good at and what you have grown to be good in. Map out appropriate talking points of your strengths based on the position you are applying for. It is important to be sure and confident of them! 

If you are uncertain of your strengths, consider taking a strengths profiling test to identify your natural talents. It is important to be real and honest with yourself while doing the self-assessment. This process will enhance your self-awareness and allow you to answer genuinely and confidently when asked. Follow our 5-step guide here to help you make sense of your strengths profile.

2) Highlight 1 or 2 ‘peak experiences’ 

Nailed down your strengths? Great! If you have done your due diligence in step one, you should have brief talking points of how your strengths are relevant to the position you are applying for. However, you need concrete examples to substantiate your points. This is where we introduce the concept of a ‘peak experience’. A ‘peak experience’ refers to a specific instance where you effectively leverage your strengths to bring performance and achieve success (and you enjoy doing so!).

It is a foolproof way to discuss relevant key experiences in your previous jobs and emphasise how you can value-add to the current one.

For instance, a peak experience may sound like: 

‘At my previous workplace, I had the opportunity to lead my team in a presentation for an important client. The client raised many questions on areas that are unfamiliar to the team. However, I was able to immediately generate new ideas to strategically address the needs of the client without coming off as unprepared. We managed to clinch the deal and establish a long-term partnership with them.’

Highlighting these peak experiences allow you to share ways you can value-add without boring your interviewers with a long-winded story. 

3) Keep things genuine, but professional 

When asked about yourself, another approach is to share your background and goals. This may lead to conversations about your previous job and reasons for the job or career switch. A key to talking about your past job experiences is that you should be transparent about the pull and push factors that led you to switch jobs. This may include incompatible leadership styles, personal and professional growth, wanting better remuneration and benefits, or alignment of values. 

Remember, your interviewers are not friends to gossip with over a cup of tea. You may share your honest experiences and lessons learnt, but remain professional and do not dwell on the negatives. This means no excessive talk about your ex-bosses in a negative way or indulging too much in self-pity. Be straightforward about what caused you to leave your previous role, and quickly bring the attention back to the current company you are applying for. With the right delivery, your employers will likely appreciate your tactful truths, and even admire your effective communication skills.

Lastly, perhaps you have built some rapport with your interviewers and the mood is right. You may share something fun or personal, such as your hobbies. Afterall, you are not just defined by your job or career. Sharing these snippets about your personal life can get rid of your nervous jitters while allowing potential colleagues to see the ‘fun’ side of you. You may also tie them to certain values that you stand for, such as being family-oriented or a team player. For example, you may say: 

“On the weekends, I enjoy playing board games with family and friends. I am a huge fan of strategic games like Catan and honestly, I can get quite competitive at times! But at the end of the day, it is meaningful time spent with my loved ones.”

Who knows, you might strike up a memorable conversation with a like-minded interviewer and earn some brownie points!

Now you are all set!

To recap our three tips in answering this question:

  1. Have a session of self-reflection before the interview
  2. Highlight 1 or 2 ‘peak experiences’
  3. Keep things genuine, but professional 

Be proud of what you can bring to the table, and be clear of your values. Do the necessary prep work to know more about yourself, and most importantly, be yourself. 

Wishing you all the best for your interview!