Next in our series of “How to Actually Answer” blogs, I’ve decided to cover one of the most commonly asked introductory interview questions:
“Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
It’s funny because lot of us don’t usually have an issue talking about our lives to our friends and family.
However, doing so in front of a potential employer often feels like you’ve been asked to solve a Rubik’s Cube!
Well, it all stems from our brains’ ability to process these situations.
Understanding self-awareness and why we struggle with this question
In 1972, psychologists Shelly Duval and Robert Wicklund developed the theory of self-awareness:
“when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values.
We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.”
In theory, this refers to your ability to consider self-awareness as a major mechanism or trigger of self-control.
However, to come to grips with the way your brain works and is able to discard self-judgment and negative thoughts of yourself and the world, it can take time.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman pinpoints self-awareness as being able to monitor our inner world, our thoughts and emotions as they arise.
As a result, questions that involve talking about yourself can be rather challenging to a lot of people. Particularly if it’s telling someone you want to make a positive impression to.
If you find yourself being negative about something or too harsh on yourself, this could easily come out in your answering of this question.
This also causes a lot of panic in candidates.
As a result you may be deterred from being able to promptly gather the right thoughts to construct an answer.
Ideally, your interviewer will be looking for a positive response which oozes wisdom, confidence and intelligence.
What shouldn’t you say?
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of candidates make is giving the interviewer a highlights reel of their career so far.
While it’s essential to keep this answer on topic and work-related, simply informing them of your previous jobs isn’t really providing them with a fresh insight – they can read that on your CV!
Similarly, waffling on about your love of Game of Thrones or favourite dish you like to cook isn’t really hitting the mark either.
To break it down for you, an employer is looking for an answer which gives them a positive outlook of why you’ve decided to attend the interview.
So for example, you’re looking for a new challenge or you’ve always loved this particular company.
How to answer “Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
In an ideal world, you should treat this question like a pitch.
As I previously mentioned, the interviewer wants to see confidence, a positive approach, wisdom and intelligence all wrapped up in one precise answer.
(Yikes, I know.)
To do this, it’s vitally important to write down keywords highlighted in the job spec.
For instance, if you’re going for a copywriting role, you’ll often see terms like “creative”, “attention to detail” and “SEO”.
In this particular case, think of it like a tick box exercise where you flow from point to point highlighting these keywords as areas you have experience in or possess (if applicable).
Here’s an example answer:
“Over the past five years, I’ve been fortunate to work with an array of businesses, agencies and publishers.
During this time, I’ve held roles where I was able to express my creative side and others that required an expert level of attention to detail and analytical thinking to successfully enhance their content’s SEO.”
Once you’ve covered these keywords, you should then move onto the company itself.
“I think this has made me well-rounded as a copywriter and perfectly positioned to take this role.
I believe this is the perfect opportunity to help me continue progressing, learn new things and grow for many years to come.
I’ve been a great admirer of [business name] for a long time, so it was only a matter of time until I put myself forward for a position with you guys.”
You see, while this kind of answer may not seem like it tells an employer about your hobbies and overall career per se, it does highlight all the positives about the role, the company and your ambitions to fulfil it.
This example answer also lightly touches on the achievements of the individual, stating what they’ve learned and how it’s made them more “well-rounded”.
Again, this is another plus point in how to answer this particular interview question.
Telling an interviewer about yourself is an invitation to highlight the positives in your career.
Plus, don’t forget to demonstrate your willingness to get this particular role.
Always remember to:
– Cover the keywords
– Keep it precise and touch upon your achievements
– Bring it back to why you’re ready to take this job and work for this company
Ultimately, work on your self-awareness to successfully identify your strengths and discard your self-judgement tendencies and you’ll answer this question positively.
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