Sunday, May 12, 2019

Answering Interview Q's: Tell me about yourself

Facing job interviews: What are you assessed for?

You can expect a wide variety of questions during your interview session which assess your overall personality, evaluate your soft skills, attitude and motivations as well as  technically intricate questions relevant to the job applied for. Questions are designed around specific competencies essential for the position you have applied for. As such, nearly all interview questions fall into these 4 major categories:

Can you do the job well?
This tests your competency and knowledge for the job.

Will you do the job well?
This probes if you have the correct attitude and motivation to perform the job.

Do you fit in well?  
This is to judge how well you will get along with the others in the organization.

Are you affordable?
Are your current salary expectations in alignment with the compensation policy of the company.  

The whole point of the interview is for the interviewer is to establish four basic things about you - to determine if you have the skills and competencies to perform the job effectively, if you are willing to perform the job well and equally important, how well do you fit into their organization - if you are someone they would like to work with, whether your overall personality are in sync with their corporate culture and values, and lastly, if they can afford you. Before going for the interview, research the current salary structure pertaining to that job profile in that specific sector and quote accordingly in case you are asked about your salary expectations.

Facing job interviews: Answering the basic question:

Tell me about yourself: This is usually one of the first and most important questions asked during the interview. The way you answer it creates a strong initial impression on the interviewer and sets the tone for the rest of your interview. Make sure you prepare the answer to this question well and practice speaking it aloud a few times in front of a mirror, or in front of someone who can give you an honest, critical appraisal. However, your answer should not come out as rehearsed, but appear to be spontaneous. 

What's the purpose of asking this question?

The interviewers already have your CV in front of them which contains all the relevant information about you. So why do they ask you to tell them about yourself? Not only is this question an ice breaker, but it is asked to assess you on three important things: 
  • How well you can market yourself as the most qualified person for the position.
  • What you consider more important about yourself.
  • Test your communication skills. 

How to answer?

This question can be asked in various ways such as - 'Walk me through your resume', 'How would you describe yourself?', or simply 'Can you present yourself to us?'. Before attempting to answer the question you need to keep in mind the following things:  

A. Prioritize & structure your information:
Consider what information about yourself you would like to tell your interviewers first of all, after introducing your name. The first piece of information has to be relevant and interesting enough to raise the interviewers interest in you and become willing enough to hear out your entire answer.

What should I convey about myself?

Your current pursuit:
- what you're currently doing or where you are presently engaged.
Your career objective & goals:
- align them with the corporate objectives & goals. (If possible, give your specific short term goal, followed by your long term objectives)
Your work experience highlights
- highlight responsibilities & achievements.
Training sessions attended /projects completed:
- highlight the work profile & your contribution to the company during that period, and the experience and practical learning you gained.
Your key skills and qualities:
- mention those relevant to the job profile.
Your special achievements:
- Prizes, positions held, participation in events & competitions, research papers presented, projects, etc.
Professional /Technical qualifications:
- something apart from your academics, which can also include relevant seminars and workshops attended.
Your hobbies & extra-curricular activities:
- It is important to mention appropriate extra-curricular activities which add to your suitability for the job. For example, if you are applying for a position which involves your working in a team, it would be a good idea to mention that you enjoy playing or watching team games like football or cricket instead of individual playing games like badminton or table tennis.   

It is absolutely not essential to mention all the above in your answer. You should prioritize and highlight areas which you're strong in, and downplay or omit areas where you're not. For example, if you don't have any special achievements to speak on, it would be best to omit them from your answer.  

B. Use sound scripting
Sound scripting is the technique of using voice modulation, word stress, pace control and deliberate pauses in your communication in order to not only avoid being monotonous and flat in your delivery but enhance your verbal communication effectively to make it sound intriguing and pleasant to listen to. For more tips on verbal communication enhancement techniques, please refer to my earlier article on Verbal Communication Skills published here on this blog.  
C. Use action verbs to create a positive impact 
Use of action verbs in your answer greatly impacts what you wish to convey. There are different set of action verbs for different job profiles, skills and specializations. The action verbs should be used in your career objective and for describing you achievements, skills, work experience or project work. You can refer to my uploaded video for an extensive list of which actions verbs to use for which job profile. 

D. Be aware of the competencies required for performing the job
Given below is a Job Profile–Competency Chart depicting what skills and attitudes are
essential for which job profile:

Job Profile
Skills & Attitudes
Communication, Interpersonal, Persuasive, Assertive, Persistence, Patience, Optimistic, Enthusiastic, Result oriented, team working.  
Communication, Interpersonal, Team working, Organizing & planning, Persuasive, Innovative, Analytical, Decisive, Trouble shooting, Optimistic, Enthusiastic.
Analytical, Innovative, Methodical, Precise, Rational, Detail Oriented, Critical, Broad vision and foresightedness, planning and structuring, intuitive.   
Communicative, Interpersonal, Judgmental, Negotiating skills, Keen insight of human character, Motivating, non-discriminating, Compassionate, Good listening skills.
Technical Research
Creative, Analytical, Detail Oriented, Methodical, Precise, Persistent, Critical, Optimistic, Intuitive, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Software Development
Analytical, Detail Oriented, Methodical, Innovative, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Technical Support
Analytical, Methodical, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Customer care / Hospitality / Client Interaction
Communication, Interpersonal skills, patience, team working, empathy.

Note: Other skills may also be required for a particular job profile, but are secondary. For example, for a Finance job, analytical ability is essential, but it is also good to have a positive and optimistic attitude.

It is important while answering this question; you phrase your answer in such a way that brings out the relevant competencies appropriate for that job profile. Make use of specific action verbs and phrases in your answer in order to create a better impact.

Here are some examples to give you an idea:

Question: "Tell me about yourself?"
Response for a finance job profile:  
"I have achieved success so far by making well-thought-out decisions based on careful analysis of all factors. I'm a person who approaches problems with logic and sound reasoning. I would enjoy developing appropriate systems and procedures to streamline and automate the financial functioning of a company in an effective manner, and my goal is to gain expertise in all finance related procedures and systems. My finance specialization in MBA and relevant summer internship in XYZ Bank has provided me the technical knowledge which I can built upon, and I am looking forward to joining a company which can provide me a platform to build a career in finance."
Response for a marketing job profile:
"I thrive on seeking out innovative solutions to challenging problems to maximize results. Regardless of the task or challenge, I always like to give my best performance in anything I do. I think my main strength is my ability to work well with diverse teams. I seek out opportunities to involve  and collaborate with others to perform a job effectively. This ability, combined with my effective communication skills has always led me to success in extra curricular activities. My marketing specialization and summer training project in identifying and developing new market segments at ABC Corp has groomed me well for a professional career in marketing. I believe that an organization that does not change and grow will die. I would enjoy working with your company to help define new market opportunities and evolve innovative strategies in order to maximize the overall profitability of the organization.”


  1. Awesome!This will be so very helpful

  2. Thanks for the tips, makes me feel more confident

  3. very useful article with good examples

  4. good tips for answering the question

  5. useful info here for practical application

  6. Thanks for posting. I find this very helpful

  7. very informative thanks for posting
    would also love write up on what's your dream job

  8. Very useful tips on such an important question

  9. Great info. This will help me to prepare my answer

  10. Very helpful tips for preparing such important question

  11. Very well explained - the competency chart is great

  12. good examples. All skills very matched

  13. very important info for interview preparation

  14. This is useful but what if interviewer interrupts in between

  15. This actually brings out we can be flexible in our answer to show our strong areas

  16. Was looking for answer to this question. Thanks for posting. Look forward to more on interview q's

  17. It's true answer should not look rehearsed from before

  18. This is the most complete answer tip I've seen. Thanks for posting