One of the most common interview questions is ‘tell me a bit about yourself’. Sounds simple enough, right? If this were a social setting, answering this question would be a breeze, but during an interview, there are more factors to consider. How personal do you get - does the interviewer want to know about your recent pub crawl, or your favourite pizza topping? Probably not. But you can’t just talk about your career path, as that will come up in later questions. 

Essentially, the question is too open ended, and it’s unclear whether you’re expected to ramble on for a while about your life so far, or give a succinct summary of your interests. So, what is the interviewer looking for? The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is designed to get you talking, easing you into the interview. It will often set the tone for the rest of your interview, so it’s important to get this question right. 

What to Include

First things first, what sort of things should you talk about when asked about yourself? You’ll want to give a brief overview of your hobbies and interests, hopefully linking some of this back to your career. Aim to speak for around two minutes, and practice beforehand! Preparing for this question should save you a lot of stress during the interview.

Do Show You’d Be a Good Culture Fit

The main purpose of a lot of interviews is to find out whether you’d fit in with the company culture. The interviewer already knows about your qualifications through your CV and cover letter, so they’re trying to determine how well you’d mesh with the rest of the team.

Do Mention Your Strengths 

It can be tricky linking facts about yourself to your strengths at work, but the trick is thinking creatively. For example, if you’re a member of a choir or on a local football team, you can demonstrate that you’re good at working as part of a team. 

Do Give Examples 

Just like when you wrote your cover letter and tailored your CV, it can be helpful to refer back to the job description for this part of the interview. Pick out a few specifications, and come up with examples of how you meet these outside of work. 

What to Avoid

Now you know what things you need to cover when answering this question, let’s go through a few things to avoid. As mentioned above, you don’t want to ramble, discussing all sorts of topics your interviewer won’t be interested in. But what are the other common pitfalls you should try to stay away from?

Don’t Regurgitate Your CV

It’s likely that your interviewer will have your CV in front of them, and will refer to it throughout the interview. So don’t waste their time going through these details when asked to say a bit about yourself. Focus on things that are not mentioned in your CV, but nonetheless showcase skills relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Don't Exaggerate 

This is good advice for any interview question - stretching the truth may make you sound like a more suitable candidate, but it will catch up with you later down the line. And if you are making claims about yourself, make sure you back them up with examples!

Don’t Veer Off Topic

A lot of people try to think of something they can say that’s truly unique. An interesting experience can be a great conversation starter, but if you can’t naturally weave it into your answer, it’s best to avoid such topics. You don’t want to spend half the interview talking about your hobbies and interests! Culture fit is important, but you also need to get across your suitability for the role in terms of your qualifications and experience. 

It’s also good to steer clear of topics that are too personal or contentious. For example, even if you have strong religious or political views, that doesn’t mean that you should bring them up in an interview. Try to avoid any details about your relationship status and family life too - your interviewer doesn’t need to know this information!

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