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“Tell me about yourself”: How to reply

Published by Espresso-Jobs, December 10th, 2015

You’ve prepared your responses to the most common interview questions, you’ve done your homework on the company and you feel ready for the interview. The recruiter is across from you and asks you the first question, one that you weren’t expecting: “So, tell me about yourself…” You freeze up. How to reply to such a vague question? What exactly does the person want to know? We understand your distress; it’s completely normal. However, the “question” isn’t meant to throw you off; it’s just a way to start the conversation, to break the ice – basically, the interviewer wants to learn a bit more about you and build from this  in the questions to come.
Whether the interview takes place by phone or in person, this is likely the first question you’ll be asked. Don’t be taken by surprise! Take advantage of this opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the interview and boost your confidence. Follow this advice to make a positive impression on the recruiter:

1. Stay on topic.

Don’t introduce yourself without making a direct link to the company or the position. It’s not necessarily relevant to go too far back in time, either. You want to make a first impression that represents who you are today as a professional. Make your introduction appropriate for the position and mention only the most relevant details of your CV.

2. Have an underlying theme.

If you don’t have an underlying theme, you might lose track of your ideas – and this will undermine your confidence. You can organize your introduction in a chronological order, or reverse chronological order, according to logic or by skill, etc. Any method is fine, as long as you’re coherent.
Here are two similar examples, but the order in which the information is presented changes:
“I’ve been a freelance web designer for three years. Before going freelance, I worked for two years in a small web agency, where I gained expertise in user experience. I studied graphic design in Montreal…” (reverse chronological order) 
“I studied graphic design in Montreal. Then I worked for two years in a small web agency, where I gained expertise in user experience. I’ve been a freelance web designer for three years now.” (chronological order)

3. Identify the key skills needed for the position.

Think about your strengths and how they correspond to the desired position. What do you want the recruiter to know about you as an applicant? When introducing yourself, make sure to mention five of your skills. You can even organize your response around these five pillars. Don’t forget to include concrete examples that illustrate your points.

4. Keep it short.

The recruiter asks you to introduce yourself as a way to break the ice. This is not the time to launch into a long, rambling, incoherent speech. By all means, introduce yourself – just keep it short. A few sentences are enough. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to synthesize information.

5. Practice makes perfect!

Write down a short text outlining your main points. This preparation will improve the chances that you express your ideas clearly. Just make sure you don’t seem like you’re reciting a text learned by heart. Follow your intuition in the moment. You want to be yourself!