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So, tell us about yourself…3 tips on how to answer that dreaded interview question

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​The big day has arrived and you are sitting in the interview room wearing your best suit. You feel ready, have done your research and you are then asked that dreaded interview question ‘So tell me about yourself…’Your palms start sweating, you shift uncomfortably in your seat and for a split second your mind goes blank as that is the one question that you have forgotten to prepare for. It is all too easy at this point to start waffling, saying something that you think they want to hear. By that point, the interviewer has probably started thinking about what they are having for dinner that night and you are quickly losing their attention.

So what can you do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you? Try following these 3 simple steps:

1. Keep it simple

Did you know that the average attention spans for humans can be as short as 8 seconds? Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 (around the time the mobile revolution began) to 8 seconds in the present day. Goldfish meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.  It goes without saying that 8 seconds is a very short space of time to make a lasting impression, so it’s important to be concise in delivering your USP and really ‘sell yourself’.

Start with a strong simple statement about yourself. You must ensure that you pay attention to the kinds of words that you use; make sure they relate to the job and type of person that the employer is looking for.  Some examples of key words to use are; motivated, ambitious, determined, and honest. Be sure to talk about what drives you, and what success in your role means to you.  You can expand further by talking about a scenario of when you have demonstrated one of those attributes you have listed, or how/why you have been motivated to succeed in a past project.

2. Use ‘story-telling’ to highlight your strengths

Be sure to talk about your strengths - any question about your strengths is an invitation to share your selling points. The interviewer may do this in quite a subtle way ‘Why do you feel you would be a good fit for this role?’ or they may ask you outright ‘Why should we hire you?’ Also, think about your previous role descriptions; any decent interviewer will ask you about your most recent role. Instead of just rattling off your duties, use a ‘story –telling’ approach to weave in examples that show off your skills and use past examples to make an impact. Most interviews will include some behavioural questions that require you dig out some specific examples from your past employment. I work with all of my clients to prepare at least 3-5 strong stories that showcase their strengths and achievements. These stories can be used to answer behavioural questions, but also to allow you to connect on a more personal level with the interviewers and give them a sense of your personality.

3. Be original

 Consider using one of the following prompts as an unconventional opener:

  • "Well, when I put my name into google this morning, this is what I found..."
    A little bit risqué but if said in the right tone then I am sure you will make a statement that won’t be forgotten about quickly.  Interviewers see so many people it is vital that you stand out and appear confident but not cocky!

  • "People who know me best would say..."
    This is almost like a testimonial and is a great way of marketing yourself. You can share what your colleagues admire most about you whether this is working well under pressure or your ability to deal with a difficult situation.  You could also mention what your friends and family think of you – this could be based around patience and determination. This kind of response shows self-awareness.

These are just some initial examples and whilst it can seem a little bit risky to give an unconventional answer, ultimately you want the interviewer to remember you in a positive way. Being asked ‘Tell me about yourself’ is pretty much a given in any interview, it’s a great platform to let your personality shine through, and it’s crucial to remember that your end goal is to be offered the job. The best advice I can give you is to focus on what you would like the interviewer to know about you before you leave, be as natural and forthcoming as you can but also prepare according and think about your strengths and abilities. Lastly, rope in a friend or family member to help you practice your delivery!