'Tell me about yourself'

‘Tell me about yourself’ is generally asked at every job interview.  Why? Well, first of all, it’s an ice-breaker and starts the conversation and it also gives the interviewing panel to check out your: Verbal/conversation skills and how you convey information | Experience and career flow | The skill-set you have obtained to this point in time and how this correlates with the advertised position you are being interviewed for | and importantly, your enthusiasm for the advertised position.  Essentially, it  is also your ‘pitch’ and this is probably the most important question you will be asked during a job interview.

Your responses will give the interview panel the information to ask deeper questions relevant to the advertised position.  Whilst most people scheduled for an interview dread this question – and we are often asked how to respond it – this article will provide you with the information you need to plan, prepare and deliver a tailored response that will put you in the front-running for the position.  Remember, they have your resume and your application – they know what your skill-set is – this is a behavioural interview, they want to know how you will fit in with their organisation.  So, to cut to the chase – expect this question to be asked and plan for it.

What should be included in your responses

PRESENT – current or most recent position summary:

Provide a (very) brief overview of the company you currently or recently worked for and what its core products or services are/were including:

  • What the core purpose of your role is/was – in other words, why you were hired – detail any career progression/advancement/promotions with the organisation; 
  • Highlight any core activities in your current or most recent role which relate to the position you are now being interviewed for; and
  • Highlight any achievements which contributed to: generating revenue for your employer; and/or saving money for your employer by improving processes and/or procedures and QUANTIFY this – i.e. what did you do – what was the motivation behind your initiative – and what were the RESULTS of this initiative.

At this point the interview panel may ask you “so, why do you want to leave Company ABC?”  Remember to never ‘bag’ your current/most recent employer and/or your immediate boss.  If you do so, it will not impress the panel and will probably cost you the opportunity to achieve the job.  Some appropriate responses you could consider are:

  • “I feel that there are very limited opportunities for me to advance my career – I’ve been in the same role for 6-years now and there really aren’t any higher duty positions available for me at this time or in the foreseeable future”
  • “I am looking for new career challenges and there aren’t any upcoming opportunities with Company ABC”
  • “I’ve just completed this (name of training or qualification) and really want to advance my career in that direction now”
  • “to be totally honest, the one and a half hour commute each way was having an effect on my personal life, I want to spend more time with my family”
  • “to tell you the truth, I wasn’t really looking for a new position, I just saw your advertisement and thought it would be a great opportunity to really develop my career with a progressive organisation”.

PAST – other positions summary:

Provide a brief summary of your career progression (previous positions) – it may be that you initially started out in a totally unrelated profession/industry sector, i.e. you are now an IT Senior Systems Analyst but commenced as a telemarketer or in customer service or in aged care services or as a Crew Member at MacDonald’s – whatever – it’s all about conveying how you got to this point in your career and what the motivation was behind it – but remember, keep it brief and also remember that even if you worked as a Crew Member for MacDonald’s – every position has transferable skills.  In summarising your current or most recent position, you should include: What the core purpose of your role was in each of these position – in other words, why you were hired; and, as per your responses to current position summary (above) highlight any core activities that relate to the position you are being interviewed for and any (meaningful) career achievementsDon’t skip overseas experience – experience is experience.

FUTUREwhy you want this job:

At this point, the interview panel may ask “so why do you want to work with us?” – this is your opportunity to tell the interview panel what excited you about the advertised position and what motivated you to apply – if you are not excited at the prospect of joining their organisation, they will not be excited about you.  Hopefully, you have done your homework on the organisation (researched them on the Internet) and made notes before the interview.

  • Was it because it is a national or global organisation and there may be opportunities for professional advancement?
  • Was it because it is an organisation that talks strongly about the value of its employees in the advertised position and on/their website?
  • Was it because it is a community service organisation, i.e. perhaps a local, state or federal government agency that provides broad or specialised services to the community?
  • Was is it because it is a new business start-up and you want to get involved on the ground floor?
  • Was is it because you have a new qualification and you want to utilise it and develop your career in this pathway?
  • Was is it because you are just starting out your career and you would be excited to develop it with this organisation?

Talk about what can you bring to our organisation if you are selected for the position
Summarise your skill-set and experience and how it aligns to the advertised position including reinforcing your strong learning abilities (maybe by way of your qualifications and/or further professional development, training courses, accreditations and certifications) which will enable you to rapidly acquire a strong knowledge of the organisation and any specific systems and applications that may be required to perform the role; and, importantly, express your enthusiasm for the position – enthusiasm is contagious – the interview panel want to know that you want the advertised position and are not merely looking for a job.


If you think the above is a lot to take in for a 4 – 5 minute ‘Elevator Pitch’ – it’s not.  It’s powerful knowledge that will enable you to prepare and plan for the interview itself and your response to ‘Tell me about yourself’ will set the stage for the questions that the interview panel will then ask you and as previously said, it is probably the most important question of the interview.

The final word: Remember the saying, ‘failure to plan – is planning to fail’ – plan your response. 

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