By Wilma Bedford
One of the seemingly easy questions at an interview until you begin to answer it, is “tell me about yourself” because you are not placed in an imaginary situation or asked how you would act in a real situation. Because you have no framework within which to answer, you will wonder whether to tell about your academic achievements, your life’s history or your hobbies. Unless the interviewer has not read your CV ─ in which case you would not want to work there ─ it is advisable not to repeat what is already in your CV. The interviewer should already know what is in your CV. Avoid elaborating too much about your private life and your family. Try to make yourself fit in with the requirements of the company rather than proving you’re your qualifications and experience.
The interviewer will also look for soft skills rather than academic achievements: how fast and creative can you think, can you work under pressure and will you fit in with the company?
Do your homework well: what is the specific requirement specified in the job description and prepare yourself as the best person for the job. Make a list of what is required in phrases such as required, must be able to, preferably, will be a strong recommendation. Also, read the advertisement carefully to catch the tone: is it a more formal place that is looking for more serious people or is it an informal work environment?
Look at the site’s About us. That will tell you what the company’s core values and culture are. Is it about service delivery to clients; are marketing and competition their goal, or is it supporting the community; is it a non-profit organisation?
What are the personality traits required, e.g. an independent worker or a team member. Fill those shortcomings and requirements; say, for example, “I am a person who finds it easy to communicate with strangers; my approach to problem-solving is… Take incidents from your previous job to confirm this but do not fabricate ─ you will be caught out.
You will be the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle the firm has been looking for; adapt who you are and your personal story to the company’s brand and needs.
Practise your reply aloud as if you are already in the interview ─ it will help to marshal your thoughts and will give you self-confidence. Start your reply with “I am a person who …”. In that way you will make it clear why the company needs you.
How to respond to “So tell me about yourself” in a Job Interview.
Schwartzberg, J. Ascend Harvard Business review. http://www.hbrasend.org