Job Interviews: Tell Me About Yourself

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Job Interviews: Tell Me About Yourself

Communicate U Blog

Have you ever felt like a deer in headlights in a job interview?

Your interviewer has just said, “So, tell me about yourself” and you freeze, not sure how to respond.

During my long career in recruitment and management, I have interviewed thousands of people. I often used “tell me about yourself” as an opener as it can set the tone for the conversation, especially in a less formal interview. 

As simple as this question is, it can be challenging to respond to.

  • What does the interviewer want to know?
  • Where do I start?
  • Should I tell them my life story in chronological order?
  • Are they asking about my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What information is relevant for the job they are considering me for?

A simple framework

Think about these things in your response – where you are now; where you have been; and, where you want to go.

Apply this simple framework and rehearse your response.

Past – present – future


Present – past – future

Let me give you some simple examples:

Past – present – future

“When I was a child, my mother spent a lot of time in hospital. I saw first-hand how important and dedicated the nurses were which is why I chose to study nursing. In my current role, I’m working across general wards but I’ve completed specialist trauma training and that is why I’m so interested in your Emergency Department position.”

This response shows my:

Past – when I was a child… then, my studies and specialist training.

Present – I’m currently working on general wards.

Future – I want to work in your ED.

Present – past – future

“I’m currently working as an accountant in a small family business. When I studied for my MBA I loved the leadership units. There are no opportunities to lead a team with my current employer which is why I’ve been looking for new opportunities like this one. I’ve heard so much about the positive culture here and I’m keen to be part of it.”

This response shows my:

Present – I’m currently an accountant.

Past – I studied for an MBA and loved the leadership units.

Future – There are opportunities to lead and I’m impressed by your organisational culture.

What this approach does…

What this approach does is provide a starting point. Keep your response succinct and don’t go into too much detail. Have a solid endpoint. Put a full stop there and stay silent. Your interviewer can then pick up on any of the points you made and ask further probing questions. 

Work versus personal

Whilst many career experts advise you to keep your “tell me about yourself” purely on the professional level, I like to see some personality shine through as well. 

I love it when someone adds, “When I’m not working, I enjoy going for long beach walks with my dog Jack” or “In my spare time, I volunteer at a local aged care facility, teaching the residents how to play word games on their iPads”. This gives me a glimpse into who you are when you’re not at work.

The final word

Research and preparation is a vital part of your job search. Ensure you find out all you can about the role and the organisation you are interviewing for. You know your past and your present well – you have lived that. If you want this role and organisation to be part of your future, work it into your response so the interviewer can also see you being part of their team.

With this in mind, when your next interviewer says, “So, tell me about yourself” you can now respond confidently with a well thought out statement.

Good luck!

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One Response

  1. […] Interviews often start with a simple, “tell me about yourself” question. If you’re asked to talk about yourself, remember the past – present – future or the present – past – future framework. (Check out this article for more detail – Job Interviews: Tell Me About Yourself) […]

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