‘So tell me about yourself.’
It’s one of the most common interview questions, if not the top one. And it usually comes at a time when you’re most nervous – the start of your interview.
But there is a way to effectively answer it, revealing a little of who you are as a person and most importantly, why you’re the right fit for the role.
The Recruiter’s Reason Behind Asking This Question
On the surface, ‘tell me about yourself’ seems like a simple icebreaker question to help ease you into the interview. But looking deeper, there are a few additional reasons.
The first is that it tests your communication skills, not just how you convey your answers but what you choose to highlight from an extensive work career.
The second is potentially a trick. There are a range of things employers are not legally allowed to ask you during an interview. If you choose to reveal sensitive information when answering ‘tell me about yourself’, then the interviewers haven’t done anything illegal.
Things To Avoid
When answering, try to steer clear of these four areas:
- Sharing A Rambling Personal Or Professional Life Story
Interviewers don’t have time to listen to a five minute monologue about your professional and personal life. It will eat into your interview time, potentially cutting it short before you have time to discuss your technical skills in more detail.
Don’t list core strengths and personal qualities if you can’t back them up with work examples.
This is not the space to discuss problems you’ve had in your previous (or current) role, or comment on how competitive the IT candidate industry is.
- Resume Repetition
A good interviewer will have studied your resume. Answering this question with a resume rehash means you lose a key opportunity to show your passion for your career and explain why you’re the perfect fit for their role.
How To Frame Your Answer
To help you choose what is most relevant to say, try mentally replacing the interview question ‘Tell me about yourself’ with ‘What should I remember about you?’
Next, consider using this loose structure:
- Where you are right now
- Your previous experience with examples relevant to this role
- What you hope to achieve
- How this role will help you do that
Before you brainstorm what to include in each section, review the job ad and position description. What qualities are they looking for (tip: look for the terms ‘essential/required’ and ‘highly desirable’)? Ensure you align your answers with these, demonstrating how you possess those skills and have successfully used them in the past.
Aim for an answer around the one to two minute mark.
To assist you, here is an example answer for a developer with a decade of industry experience:
I’ve been a programmer for the past decade and couldn’t think of a field that better suits my interests and personality. Like many coders, I started out coding personal projects and built a prototype for a local community group to help them connect and arrange cycling trips. That caught the attention of a small tech start up in a similar field and that’s where I got my professional start.
I worked for a range of large and small companies, but the commonality I found was that I’m really drawn to building interfaces that provided an easy and positive user experience. Things like shaving five seconds off a loading page. That’s why your job piqued my interest. I can see huge potential for improving the UI in your ABC project and the benefits it will bring your customers. I’m also really excited to see the innovative work your team shares on your company Github profile. I’d love to get involved.
Practise Your Pitch
Once you’ve written up your answer, share it with a trusted colleague or friend to see if they have any extra advice to help you refine it further. When you’re happy, spend some time practising your answer out loud. There’s no need to remember it word for word, as that may come off as stilted during the interview. Instead, aim to commit the key points to memory.
If you’re still a little stuck or would like some professional advice about the answer you’ve crafted, please let one of our IT hiring experts know. Good luck!