“Tell me more about yourself” has been one of the most commonly asked questions during an interview. Recruiters like asking this question as it allows them to get a deeper understanding of how the candidate thinks and what the candidate has to offer to the organisation. Since it is open-ended, it gives the candidate the space to pitch themselves to the organisation.
The dilemma arises when the candidate is unsure about what to say or how much to say about themselves when presented with this question. There is so much that one can say about themselves ranging from their birthplace to their favourite holiday destination to what kind of family they come from. Unfortunately, a lot of this information can be irrelevant to an interview and may not cater to the requirements of the organisation.
Here are some tips that I would recommend/ Here is a step-by-step guide to help you combat this confusion and identify what would be helpful for you to say. There are also a few suggestions for presenting yourself while saying it.
Step 1: List down your strengths and areas of improvement
You must be aware of the skills you possess. While skills can be learned, there are some that we develop through our years of education or work. They could be skill-based traits such as knowing how to code, marketing skills, and coherent and concise communication. You could
also have personality-based traits such as being an effective listener, empathy, and creativity that make you good at being a team member.
Take time out to brainstorm and write as many skills and traits as you can identify. Choose the skills that you would like to present to the recruiter.
Pro-tip: Ensure that you limit them to a maximum of 5 traits. This gives you ample time to elaborate on them and express yourself better.
Step 2: Provide an example to highlight your skills
Now that you have your traits ready, provide examples to highlight how you used these
skills to achieve success at work. For instance, you could talk about how you persuaded a difficult client to sign a contract with you, or how you came up with an effective way to deal with a challenge at work. Reflect on why these skills feel most important to you, especially at an
Pro tip: Be very specific with the examples you provide. Ensure that they are not long stories.
Keep them concise and to the point.
Step 3: Write out a script
Once you are clear with what you want to say, turn it into a script. Write it down so that your answer flows smoothly. Ensure that your answer showcases your traits and that you are authentically expressing yourself. Another point to remember is that the skills and achievements align with the values and goals of the organisation. For instance, if you highlight your content creation skills for a role that requires you to code well, there is going to be a mismatch.
However, if you highlight how you used your listening skills to help the team debug a code, it
would be more helpful for the recruiter to understand your skills and their usage better.
Divide your script into 3 parts: Success, Strength, What I am looking for
- Highlight your achievements in the first part of your script. “My background is in ____”. Here, you can highlight your educational background and/or your professional background. You can add information about how your skill-based traits make you a valuable member.
- In the second part of your script, focus on your strengths. “My strength is/ My real strength is ____.” Expand on how your personality-based skills have helped you grow or problem solve. You can highlight how being a good listener helped your company or your team and how this trait feels most comfortable for you.
- In the last part, elaborate on what made you choose this company. Read up on what the company does, its mission and vision, and the job description. Highlight how the values of the organisation align with your own.
Pro tip: Write the script the way you would speak. This is not a written piece of document that you need to submit. Write it in a manner that feels comfortable to you.
Step 4: Practice!
Now that you know what you want to say to the recruiter, practice saying it. Watch yourself in the mirror and/or record yourself speaking. It helps you get a better understanding of how you present yourself. It may feel awkward as we are often not used to seeing ourselves on screen. So, remember to be kind to yourself through the process.
The goal is to feel comfortable and confident with your reply and to allow your body language and voice to convey the same. Watching yourself helps you get a better understanding of how others view you. You can see what to modify and what you do well. Just as it is important to focus on areas of improvement, it is also important to focus on what is going well and which parts of your script make you feel comfortable.
Pro tip: This process can trigger body image issues. So, if the area of improvement is not something that can be modified within 5 minutes, let it go, and focus on your confidence.
Remember to put your best foot forward. While it is important to be authentic and confident in the interview, it is also important to remember that the recruiters are not looking for your life history alone.
It is okay to not know a few answers, but it can be helpful to have a clear understanding of what makes you an asset. Skills can be learned if we spend some time and effort in learning and practicing them.
I hope this helped you dig a little deeper, get to know yourself better, and that you had fun through this process. Good luck with your interview!
- Association for Psychological Science. (2009, September 8). Knowing Me, Myself And I: What Psychology Can Contribute To Self-knowledge. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090716113258.htm
- Half. (2022, February 4). How to Answer, ‘Tell Me About Yourself,’ in a Job Interview. Roberthalf.Com. https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/job-interview-tips/tell-me-about-yourself-how-to-answer-this-tricky-interview-question
- Dan Lok. (2019, December 25). Tell Me About Yourself – A Good Answer To This Interview Question [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v-wyR5emRw
About the Author:
Ms. Srinithi Sridhar is a counselling psychologist and a mental health advocate. She works with adults (ages 18+) to help them cope with interpersonal issues at work and at home, build self esteem and self compassion, and deepen their relationship with themselves. She enjoys collaborating with organisations for workshops, talks, and other projects that encourage people to reflect deeper, feel safe, and express themselves authentically. She is also a dancer, a writer, and a lover of all forms of art.