“Tell me about yourself”
By Zimasa Qolohle
Founder & Editor of The Corporate Canvas
“Tell me about yourself” – the most guaranteed question you will be required to answer in almost any interview you attend, yet it remains a question that many still struggle to master. This question is a staple in almost every interview, regardless of job sector or industry, and can often be the hardest answer because let’s face it, there is so much to you! If you don’t select the right information, you stand the risk of the interviewer losing interest in you from the onset. As someone who has had their fair share of interviews, I have found that a winning formula is to craft an answer based on the points below, and memorize it:
A) “Well, in my final years in High School I…” – start off by mentioning your most notable achievements such as holding leadership positions/prefectships/Head of House and one or two other notable clubs or societies such as Debating or Toastmasters. But don’t just end there – be sure to link these achievements to the person you have become today, for example:
“Becoming prefect and Head of House in high school taught me that I am an influential individual who has the gift of empowering or motivating people” or
“Being a member of the debating club really highlighted the fact that I was passionate about society’s problems and that I am able to assert myself without offending.”
It’s best to not merely state what your Matric/Final high school year achievements were, but to also mention how they framed the person you are today.
B) “I then went on to study my Law degree and thereafter my Master’s degree…” – similar to above, state your qualifications and the reasons you chose the subject matter. If you studied further after your undergrad, mention why you chose to do this before they ask you –
“I then went on to study my Law degree and thereafter my Master’s degree as I wanted to broaden my thinking, open other opportunities for myself, network with people of distinction and have a deeper understanding of my subject matter”
As always, link your degree to the person you are. Everything you have done in your life should lead to the reasons you are applying for the role and ultimately sell yourself as a person of distinction. You should show that you have been deliberate in all your life decisions, that you have direction and know what you want, rather than merely having fallen into a certain career path.
C) “Upon completing my degree I…” This the most important part of your answer. Once you have spoken about your qualifications, the interviewer has an opportunity to get a glimpse of who you are as an individual and employee. Mention the job and positions you have held and what skills they all taught you. In this section of your answer you need to sell yourself and the skills you possess.
“Upon completing my degree I applied to the ABSA Graduate Programme where I later received a permanent position as a Finance consultant for the Home Loans Division. In this role I have learned how to conduct thorough due diligence, perform financial analysis and reviews and deepen my knowledge of home loans.”
In summary I would suggest the following:
– Write down a summary for yourself following the template above of about 5-6 lines.
– Learn this summary, and tailor it per every interview you attend.
– By learn, I do not mean parrot phrase, as you may risk coming across as too rehearsed and therefore, inauthentic.
– Always tie back your past experiences to the skills you currently possess, and ensure that the set of skills that you mention are relevant to the position you are interviewing for.
Commit yourself to crafting a dazzling response to this notorious interview staple, and 2017 is sure to be a year filled with much career success.
The Corporate Canvas Team wishes you a bright and successful year!