Is there anything worse than being asked in an interview, “tell me about yourself?”
It is a question that strikes fear into the heart of many, and it can send even the most well-prepared candidate off into a panicked, free-form spiral, giving an answer that wraps up their hobbies, the mad weekend they’ve just had, and what they’re planning to have for their tea later on.
The rise of remote video interviews, popularised by the pandemic, has helped with this a little. It’s now possible to place some PostIt Notes around your monitor, with useful prompts so you’ve got a visual reminder if every thought suddenly rushes from your brain. A remote interview can remove that potential to freestyle, and allows you to communicate exactly what you mean to say.
The reason we are often so put off by this question during an interview is that we’re not sure what it means. But in fact its intent is clear – at least on the part of the hiring manager or recruiter. They are really asking, “tell me about yourself, in the context of this job”. What they want to hear is a snappy summary of your work experience as it relates to the job you’re applying for.
Keeping this in mind makes the question easier to answer from the get-go, but there are more nuances to consider too. Your answer should also be tailored to the specific job you’re interviewing for and the skills it requires. Aim to keep your answer precise, concise and avoid waffle – if you can answer this question in under a minute, you’ll be doing well.
If you’re going for a job at a fast-paced tech startup, your reply to “tell me about yourself?” could be something like, “I am a great multi-tasker, I love to be challenged, and I would relish the opportunity to work at your company, which I know has a great culture, and will offer me the chance to show you how I can contribute my skills in x, y and z to your future projects.”
If the role is results-based, you can think about emphasising the targets you’ve achieved previously, giving real examples. “I am results-oriented and I like to set myself ambitious goals. In my current role, I achieved my H1 target in the first quarter, enabling the entire business to adjust its targets for the whole year,” could be an answer you’d give here.
Another way to quickly and easily answer the “tell me about yourself” question is to choose three or four words you think best apply to your professional self, and explain why. They should be less generic than “hard working” – you could consider ambitious, focused, results-oriented or creative as good jumping off points to further illustrate how you’d be a great fit for this job.
Ready to start your job search? We’re highlighting three roles to check out below, and there are thousands more to discover on The London Economic Job Board too.
HR Compliance Lead – EMEA, ByteDance, London
The HR operations team endeavours to continuously build and deliver a seamless and positive employee experience across the whole employee lifecycle and is now hiring a HR Compliance Lead – EMEA. You’ll need to be current on the dynamic labour regulatory landscape and possess the knowledge to identify and take action on compliance issues as needed in the EMEA region. Among other tasks, you’ll also manage the scope and schedule for assigned compliance projects and programs; conduct compliance audits, identify risks, analyse results and generate reports for relevant functional areas, and potential policy recommendations to appropriate departments by working with the global HR compliance lead and other regional counterparts. Get the full job spec here.
Principal Software Engineer, Microsoft, London
Security Operations Analyst, GoCardless, London
As a Security Operations Analyst at GoCardless you will provide subject matter expertise on security detection and response capabilities and you will be involved in the end-to-end process of security operations, from defining security use cases through to incident response. Ideally, you will have a background in security operations and will be experienced using SIEM tools to develop security monitoring cases and writing scripts to automate tasks. You should have previous experience in incident response and threat management too. You’ll require experience using SIEM (ideally Splunk) tools to develop security monitoring cases and writing scripts to automate tasks, previous incident response experience and ability in using EDR or IDS/IPS tools. Get full information here.