The “Tell me about yourself” question is an almost unavoidable one in most interviews. As easy as this question may seem though, it is nevertheless one that has left a lot of candidates shaky and disoriented.

What makes this question so tricky is that it has a myriad of answers, and knowing what type or level of information will make for an apt answer can be nerve-racking. We have therefore drawn up a list of a few things to consider when answering this question so as to help you narrow down your options to a most fitting response.

  1. Do NOT recite your resume

First thing to remember when answering this question is that they already have your CV or Resume. They do not want you to give them a powerpoint presentation on your accomplishments and experiences as listed in your resume. You will probably mention one or two things from that document but this time around, you are making it more personal. Your answer should show off your abilities and strengths as relevant to the role you are applying to.

  1. Customize your answer

In our last article about writing a cover letter, we mentioned the importance of making sure your letter is tailored to the company and role you are applying to, a lot of our tips for cover letters also apply to this question. Your answer should contain little details of character traits, past working experience and skills that would make you the perfect fit for this organization. Your answer is not just about you this time, it’s about you and why you’re right for them.

  1. Be Concise

Yes, you may enjoy talking about yourself, I mean who knows more about you than you eh? But you should make sure to keep your answer short and sweet. No 10-minute presentation of your life story.

Highlight the important points like we already mentioned and make it brief, two minutes at most. What your interviewer really wants to know is information that is pertinent to the job and not about how you like dodo,  I mean who doesn’t but we digress. Remember, short and relevant.

  1. Rehearse your answer

Really. We know this is not a play and you are not an actor. You do however need to practice how to answer this question before your interview. You cannot afford to “freestyle” your way through this one. You should already have some sort of template before going in. A valuable tip from The Muse’s Kathryn Minshew is to make use of something she calls the “Present-Past-Future” formula;

So, first you start with the present—where you are right now. Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.

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