Tell me about yourself? - the most popular question at an interview

  | James Innes

Almost inevitably, if you are lucky to get an interview, you will be asked the question “tell me about yourself?” or, as an alternative, “can you walk me through your CV?"

This is just the kind of question that an interviewer might throw at you at the beginning of an interview so as to get the ball rolling. They are quite simply placing you centre stage and hoping you will open up to them.

However, the question is stated, carefully prepare your answer so that it showcases what you have to offer them. They are not asking for an autobiography. Focus on discussing major selling points that feature on your CV or application form – selling points that are directly relevant to the job for which you are applying. Don’t start telling your whole life history. Also, remember, whilst they do want you to open up and paint a picture of yourself, you’re not on the psychiatrist’s couch here! Keep it professional and avoid getting too personal.

Besides talking about your career, make sure that you have something to say about your education and qualifications – and even your hobbies and interests.

A well prepared and succinct answer can not only sum up your career history and experience, and highlight your skills – it can also demonstrate they you are a good fit for the company and the role.

In The Interview Book, James Innes, Founder and Chairman of the The CV Centre Ireland gives the following example:

“I’m a highly driven individual with extensive management experience acquired principally in the aviation sector. Following completion of my degree in International Business (which included a couple of years in Germany) I started my career in administration and have worked my way up to become an export sales manager. I believe I combine a high level of commercial awareness with a commitment to customer care – which helps me to achieve profitable growth in a competitive market. I enjoy being part of, as well as managing, motivating, training and developing, a successful and productive team and I thrive in highly pressurised and challenging working environments. I have strong IT skills, I’m fluent in German and I’m also a qualified First Aider. In my spare time I undertake a wide range of activities; I’m particularly keen on squash and I am also currently working towards my Private Pilot Licence.”

Prepare and practise your own answer for this in advance – and try to limit your answer to one minute. If you can’t successfully ‘pitch’ yourself in under a minute then you’re going to risk losing the interviewer’s attention.

How have you described yourself in the Professional profile at the top of your CV? A lot of this material can be recycled to help you draft your answer to this question.

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