Tell us about yourself.
You may not think so but this is about the best question you can be asked at an interview. It is an excellent invitation to tell the interviewers exactly why you are the right person for the job!
Let’s look at the question in some detail. First, why are they asking it? What do they really want to know? The answer is they want to know how you would fit into their team. So this is what you need to tell them. Nothing else. Nothing about your schooling or education unless it is specifically relevant. Nothing about where you were born or grew up. It’s all about how you will fit into their team.
If it’s a marketing position that you are going for, you might start with something like this: ‘Well I have worked in marketing for the past three years and I have loved it.’
Now back that up with a bit more detail: ‘I was in the marketing team at Frogmore Widgets until they were bought up by Barnaby’s and the marketing function moved to Sydney.’
Then back that up with an achievement statement that gives a picture of your motivation, team work and determination. ‘Last year, I was asked to lead a team of three to plan the marketing campaign for Midgets, the smallest widgets. With my colleagues, I brainstormed an approach and we took that to management who were delighted. Then the three of us collaborated to put the plan into action and the result was that we almost doubled the expected sales volume.’
The aim is to get the interviewers interested in your answer. They are interested in finding someone for a marketing position. Talking about where you were born and brought up, or where you went to school is just not relevant whereas your marketing experience is. And your interviewers will be very interested in your marketing experiences.
Or if you were going for a job in a travel agency and they ask you ‘Tell us about yourself’. A good answer might be: ‘Well, I love travel. Last year, I was lucky enough to spend the year in Europe and I made the most of it. I visited many historic sites, I went to museums and I backpacked. In the winter, I skied in the Alps and in June I saw the midnight sun in Norway. It was a wonderful experience and I would love to be able to share my knowledge with other people. To be better able to do this, I have just completed my Certificate IV in Tourism.’
The first answer is 100 words and the second is less. Both would take less than a minute to give. And that might be the right length. On the other hand, you could tell a second story to demonstrate another facet of your skills. Probably the maximum length of your answer should not exceed 250 words, which takes about two minutes to give and this is generally accepted as the right length. However, there may be times when you need to give a much longer answer so don’t feel constrained by the 250-word ‘rule’. Just use it as a guide. If you are confident that you can hold their interest, you can really make the answer as long as you want. But you must be able to hold that interest.
The important thing is to make your answer demonstrate how you would fit into their team and your motivation for the work. Impress them with this and you’re on your way to a job offer.