The first question you are probably going to get in an interview is the much dreaded classic and universal, “Tell me about yourself.” A simple question that quickly turns daunting when asked in that setting. Most job seekers hate it because it is simply difficult to decipher what the interviewer is looking for. But, it does not have to be that hard. Infact, this is a great opportunity for you to take control of the interview and position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.Your answer and how well you tell your story will drive the rest of the interview. In our opinion, the better you start, the better you finish.
First, let’s understand a little bit about why do interviewers ask you this question. Do they really want to know you, that too on a personal level? Chances are, no. A FutureLab mentor summed it us up for us nicely, and said the reason for this question is:
1. To see how you respond to an unstructured question
2. To learn about what you deem important at that point in time
Next, how do you prepare for it?
To nail the question, think of it as a pitch.
1.Research and Practice: organise your information using a formula
Research and practice key is but also remember to never memorise. An interview is a dialogue, not a monologue. When digging for information, use the widely famous interview question formula to organise and link it with the company and its job description: past-present-future. Naturally, anyone would be to talk about the past first then the present. The Muse suggests mixing it up:
“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.”
2. Show relevance and highlight your selling points; your key strengths as they relate to the position you’re interviewing for
If you repeat details stated in your CV, cover letter and application, it is likely your interview will end prematurely. Instead, show the interviewer you understand the experiences, skills and abilities which are relevant to the position. Focus on things the company places value on. Highlight your unique skills, talents, leadership attributes and professional experiences which are most relevant to the position. Just like your cv and cover letter, tailor your answers to the company’s needs.
But what if you don’t have any professional experience? For someone who’s more entry-level and doesn’t really have a career to describe yet, the answer would be more forward-looking. Think academic achievements, voluntary and charity world.
3. Tell them why you are here
End by telling them why you are there and why you want the position. We advise you to think of yourself as a product that will be bought by a company. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to relax a little bit, tell stories and anecdotes—the interviewer already has your resume, so they also want to know a little more about you.
At FutureLab, we have career mentors to support you for your job interview preparation. Sign up here to speak with them now!
A special thanks to all the FutureLab mentors who contributed to this article:
M&A Manager at Ernst & Young (Malaysia) – Rishi Das || Former Strategy Advisor at Shell (Malaysia) – Vijay Kumar || Continuous Improvement Engineer at Morgan Advanced Material (United Kingdom)- Thatchu Selvarajan ||Teacher at Keningau Vocational College (Malaysia) – Sirhajwan Idek || Global Value Change Manager at Petronas (Malaysia) – Soham Basu || Partner at Grant Thornton (Malaysia) – Kishan Jasani