HR Series: How to answer “Tell me about yourself” during an interview

HR Series with Selina Buabeng: The 7 biggest resume mistakes to avoid

One of the crucial stages in the recruitment and selection cycle is an interview. Before you attend any interview, one of the critical things you need to do is to prepare adequately for the role you are being considered for. Though resumés give recruiters a fair idea about potential candidates, an interview provides recruiters the opportunity to get to know more about candidates and also for candidates to find out more about the role and the company.

A recruiter picks up an impression about you in the first three minutes through the interview so you need to ensure you are giving a good impression and be your best self. One of the most frequently asked questions during an interview is “Tell us about yourself.” This is your elevator pitch and you need to be able to sell yourself well. In answering this question, you need to take note of the following:

  • What your recruiter expects from you
  • What to include 
  • What not to include

In order to increase your chances of proceeding to the next stage, you need to start off right. Answering this question correctly can set the tone for the interview. Go straight to the point and answer the question in a succinct and concise manner.  When you are asked “tell me about yourself”, a recruiter wants to know these five key points:

  1. Your name 
  2. Educational background/Qualification
  3. Experience/Work History 
  4. Acknowledge to the recruiter what you know they need for the position they are hiring you for
  5. Tell the recruiter why you think you are the best fit for the position

Your name 

This informs the recruiter how you prefer to be called/addressed and it also affirms the pronunciation of your name. In some companies where the organizational culture is flexible where people relate on a first name basis, it is preferred to just stick to your name without the title. Mention your name as it is and avoid being intent on the titles.

Your educational background/qualification

It is best to start with your highest level of qualification or your latest qualification and work your way down. Arrange these mentally to afford you the time to say them without cramping them up.

Your experience/work history

This is the pitch you were waiting for. The “why” of your application, speaks to the reason you are the best candidate for the position. Sell yourself and give the recruiter the best insights into your professional journey. State the name of the company you worked for, your position, the number of years you spent in the role and your major responsibilities. It is important to make your work experiences achievement-oriented.

This informs the recruiter that you’re focused on getting the job done. Tip: In my role as a head of operations, I helped the company scale back on losses to the tune of 43% in my first two years or In this role, one of the major accomplishments I am most proud of is ………….

Acknowledge the requisite skillset and qualities they need for the position they are hiring you for 

This tells the recruiter you are not oblivious to the skills you must possess to qualify for the position. In doing this, not only are you telling the recruiter you are aware of your skills and abilities but rather, you are telling them you know what is needed and expected of you when you are hired.

Without sounding wordy, state the technical competencies and some other skillset you have including soft skills you possess. You can also highlight some of your major responsibilities/accomplishments and how some of these skills have come in handy. For example; In this role, I believe you need someone with strong expertise in local content management, strategic human resource management and Labour law which I possess. In my previous role, I was instrumental in developing various HR & Talent development policies which has increased productivity by and reduced staff turnover by 70%. 

Tell the recruiter why you think you are the best fit for the position

Go straight to the point and tell the recruiter why you are the best fit for the position. For example, you can say, due to my strong background in risk and compliance and achievement in successfully rolling out the company’s compliance monitoring program, I am confident that I will be able to succeed in this role you are hiring for. This projects your accomplishments and also portrays you as someone who is confident and assertive in the area of expertise they are interested in and is aware of their capacity to deliver above and beyond the requirements of the position.

What not to say 

Here are two things you don’t talk about unless you are asked by the recruiter:

  • Your personal life
  • Your age

Talking about your personal life especially your age tells the recruiter you are either too young or too old for the role. Remember, the recruiter is interested in your expertise and your ability to do the work you are interviewing for. Do not give them details of your personal life unless they are pivotal to the job title. Give them an in-depth perspective into your present, past and future professional development. This gives them a fair idea of the kind of person you are; your objectives, goals and interests. However, do not forget to align this with their vision for the role and the company’s values, goals and vision.

The writer is a Certified Human Resource Practitioner

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