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How to Answer ‘Tell me about yourself’

On15/ 02 /17
The question "tell me about yourself" is a common interview icebreaker.

Often candidates treat it as an easy starter, and a cue to recount their life story, which can lead to wasted interview time on irrelevant information.  Don’t underestimate this question, as your response will set the tone for the rest of the interview. It’s an opportunity to show how you will fit in with the company.


Now the important bit - our guide on how to answer ‘tell me about yourself’ clearly and confidently.

1. What does the interviewer want to know about you?


The hiring manager wants information that is relevant to how you would be the right fit for the job that you’re interviewing for. They won’t be expecting to hear your whole life story.

This is not the time to focus on personal details, such as your interests. If the hiring manager wants to know about these, they will ask you towards the end of the interview.

Divide this question into four sections to structure your answer; 
1. Experience
2. Motivations
3. Skills 
4. Aspirations. 

1. Experience 


Do not go through your entire work history.

Do provide an overview of your relevant experience. Start with how long you have been in the industry, and the organisations you have worked for. Then you can describe the range of your experience and the focus of your current role.

E.g. "I have been in customer service for the past 3 years, which has included time at X Company and X Company. My experience has included supporting the sales team and after sales care, whilst my most recent role has been focused on claim handling for X Company".

If you don’t have any relevant work experience or you’ve only just finished studying, focus on any related knowledge or experience, and why you feel this would transfer well to the role.

2. Motivations

Explain what you like about the industry or role, or what attracts you to work in this area. E.g.”I really enjoy the variety of each day, and the satisfaction of resolving customer issues”. 
Or “ I feel motivated by a role that makes use of the knowledge I have developed during my studies”.

Draw on the research you did on the company (we know you will have done that) to explain why you would like to work there.  Keeping it simple and realistic, no need to go overboard and fabricate reasons that don’t exist. For example; you are really interested in the products or service offering (or have been a happy customer), it is a large organisation so you hope there would be scope for personal development long term or, it is a small company and you enjoy working in a tight knit environment etc.

3. Skills

Move on to highlight your key skills and abilities and how they relate to the position. You may find it hard to ‘blow your own trumpet’, but if you mention your skills in context early on in the interview, it can make a great first impression.

Include at least 2 strengths that demonstrate your suitability for the role.

E.g. “I pride myself on my ability to organise my time and meet deadlines. This has enabled me to complete all projects on schedule in my current role”.

Or “My strengths are in my communication and attention to detail. I relate well to customers and enjoy helping them. I am equally comfortable with database management, ensuring that records are accurate and easily accessible”.

4. Aspirations

Finish with a statement about what you are looking for and your future aspirations.

E.g. “What I am looking for now is a company where I can have a positive impact on customer retention”.

Or “I am looking for a role, where I can build on my experience and skills and progress in my customer service career.”

The Delivery

You should learn your response to this question so it rolls off the tongue. Ideally, you should speak for no longer than a few minutes. Think about this as your elevator pitch. And remember - practice makes perfect!

A Quick Checklist

1. Keep it Short - The hiring manager doesn’t want to hear about your time at Primary school.

2. Summarise key experience – don’t describe what you did in detail for every role.

3. Think about what you like about your work or the job you are applying for – it conveys enthusiasm.

4. List at least 2 strengths that are relevant to the job – think about what you want the interviewer to remember about you when you leave.

5. Include your key aims – what difference would you like to make in your role, how would you like to grow? 

For more interview and CV tips, visit our dedicated area. Look out for our next blog in the series coming in March when we'll take the question "What are your weaknesses?"
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