How to answer "Tell Me About Yourself"
In most job interviews, there's one game-changing question that hands you an open mic on a silver platter.
"Tell me about yourself?"
Those memey 4 words probably elicit some groans, but straight up, learning how to smash an answer to them can change a hire/no hire decision.
And yet, so many smart, ambitious students/grads I've talked to still have a casual, conversational, approach of just listing their degree, jobs, hobbies. Bruh…
- Storytelling, not summarising.
A storytelling approach is a no-brainer when it comes to interview questions. Rather than reciting a resume, stories stick in people's minds and help interviewers to understand you on a deeper level. A less typical approach I take here is using a story to define one of my core values (curiosity) using a past anecdote. I'm a firm believer that this accelerates the interviewer's understanding of why you do what you do, and increases empathy & understanding for the candidate. If they 'get' you, the best interviews end up becoming conversations.
- Demonstrate intentionality in your past decision-making.
Your resume should not just be a smattering of random stuff that you happened to fall into. Talk the interviewer through your hypotheses of why you chose the degree and job(s) that you have, so they understand your fundamental decision-making drivers and already start to connect the dots on the obvious fit between you and the role.
- Talk through what you did, what you learned, and why it's relevant.
One super cool framework I learned from my former manager Hugh Dixson at Ofload is leveraging this 3-part framework when talking through your work and educational experience. This simultaneously shows strong self-awareness/growth mindset whilst selling your value-add in an easy-to-remember format.
- Signposting is magic: learn it and love it.
Two keys factors. Three key reasons. This sort of framing is brilliant because it demonstrates structured thinking, shows assuredness in one's answers, and helps what you say to stick in the interviewer's memory.
- Ultimately answer why you're in the interviewee seat today.
Your answer to "Tell me about yourself should pre-empt" the why X company/Y role followup questions to the point where the interviewer sometimes decides to skip those questions (I've had this happen in several interviews now). By the end of this question, the interviewer should be very confident on 2 things: 1. You have the right skills for the job. 2. You specifically want this job over other options out there.
Tell Me About Yourself Example
An example of how I've answered this question previously. Most of the core tips are present here, but I would improve this answer by incorporating tip #3 to better structure my experiences.
For sure! My name is Dan. I’m a final year Computer Science/Marketing student at UNSW currently working as an Operations Associate at Ofload, which is an early stage startup building out a platform to reduce waste and inefficiency in the freight industry.
To give you some context to my story, I’ll wind the clock back a fair few years. So back when I was 5 years old, one day I sat down at my desk, pulled out a pencil and pulled out a piece of paper. At the top of the paper, I wrote the word ‘Problems’
I then began asking my Mum "Hey Mum, what problem does this person have", and she would tell me the medical problem that a family friend was suffering. One-by-one, I wrote each one down, and though probably horribly misspelled, the key takeaway here is that from a young age, I’ve had a deep, innate curiosity in identifying and understanding problems in the world around me. So in choosing my degree for university, I decided on the combination of Computer Science/Marketing combination for 2 key reasons:
1. I wanted to build the technical skills to solve a lot of emerging problems in today’s landscape.
2. On the more qualitative side, I wanted to understand what problems people wanted solved for them.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve been deliberate in testing different skillsets across both startups and mature companies like Amazon, Uber, Deloitte Digital & IBM, covering operations, project management, UX design, marketing, sales and web development. Though I’ve really enjoyed working across these diverse functions, I consistently found I was fascinated with understanding how each function fit into solving the underlying problem more holistically. As I approach graduation, the 3 key things I’m looking for at this stage of my career are:
Leveraging an interdisciplinary skillset
Solving difficult problems at scale
Working in a fast-paced, collaborative environment
The APM role at Atlassian seemed like a really strong intersection of these 3 factors, and so I wanted to give it my best shot.