Most job interviews start with the “tell us about yourself” question but it’s the one that candidates struggle with most. It’s so general they often don’t know what to say.
Whatever form it takes – “tell us about yourself,” “talk to us about your experience to date” or “bring us through your CV” – this question is a golden opportunity to make a strong first impression.
Don’t let it go to waste. Have a concise and practised two-minute answer that crucially, is tailored to the role.
It needs to give a clear overview of your work and educational experience to date. It must be heavy on specific achievements and outcomes. And it must be relevant to the needs of the employer.
Top tip: Don’t approach the question chronologically. You have about 30 seconds to grab the employer’s attention. If you start with your first role – or primary school in some cases – and work upwards you’ll waste time detailing irrelevant experience.
If you’re lucky enough to be asked the question, you need to nail it.
Here’s five steps to help you do that:
- INTRODUCTORY LINE
If you only had one sentence to explain your career to date what would it be? Ideally, it should contain the number of years’ experience you have and the breadth of departments/sectors/roles you’ve worked in.
- START WITH YOUR CURRENT ROLE
Give the scale of the role in terms of staff reporting to you. For example, your level of responsibility, budget controlled.
Then list briefly the three to four key achievements you’ve had in the position. The essential projects you’ve been involved with. The key outcomes you’ve achieved. They should be specific, concise and objective.
- YOUR NEXT MOST RECENT ROLE AND ANY SUBSEQUENT RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
Then detail the remainder of your experience following a condensed version of the structure above. But make sure that every line is relevant to the role you are applying for.
- EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
In one section give a bullet-pointed overview of your educational background if it’s relevant. The course studied, the college attended and the major results and projects will suffice.
You need to end the answer by telling them why you are in front of them and why your experience is relevant to the role. Give a future focus to your answer and do the thinking for them. Detail briefly why your career achievements and educational background makes you a strong candidate for the role or promotion.