Being crowned county trampolining champion at nine or “finding yourself” trekking in Borneo are great life experiences, but they won’t convince a recruiter to give you a job. As an experienced interviewer, I freely admit “tell me about yourself” is one of the hardest questions to answer; you’ll be nervous at the start of the interview and the question couldn’t be more open.
To help you figure out what are the most important things to say, imagine you’ve only got an ad break to fill. You need to get across your unique selling points before it finishes, so you need to be ruthless.
Here are a few good places to start.
In which part of your career or during what educational experiences can you highlight some really interesting personal achievements? At this stage, don’t go into detail, the interviewer may pick up on them later if you spark their interest. Try to give them a flavour of your personal approach to work and what drives you.
Pick out areas that illustrate you have the skills detailed in the job description. What parts of the role would really motivate you and have you got any examples to prove that you are the right person for the job? You don’t need to go into detail, just a headline about what you have done.
Every employer wants to be wanted, so make sure you do your research on them! If you can tie in why you are interested in their company or what you know about them while answering this question, you’ll always impress.
In my 15 years of interviewing, the two most common mistakes are to go through the minutiae of your CV without demonstrating relevance to the job, or to sound as if you spout the same identikit story to every employer so your interest in the company seems insincere.
So, when you’ve figured out your personal advertisement, remember:
- Keep it short, no more than five minutes
- Don’t go into too much detail
- Drop in snippets of what you have picked up while doing your research.
If you haven’t done your research then don’t bother going for the interview!
Ruth Miller supports jobseekers with CV writing, advice on the job search, interview process and marketing your personal brand.