By Liam Horan, Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
Q: Virtually every interview I attend, the first question is ‘can you tell us about yourself”? I never know what to say. I could go off in a thousand different directions. Any advice? (LD, email).
A: We put this question to four of our career coaches, LD, and here is what they said.
DEIRDRE MAY, LIMERICK: The most important part of this question is the part they omit to ask which is “tell me about yourself in relation to this role”, because every answer you give in an interview must always be in relation to the role.
If you tell them about your pet cat, or that you were born under the sign of Scorpio, does any of this information sell you for the role you are going for? No, so leave it out.
First and foremost look at the role, understand what they need and give it to them in your answer.
Talk about your education / qualifications / training. Talk about your work experience and talk about a couple of skills you have that are necessary in the role. Keep it snappy and use strong, emotive words: a three-minute party political broadcast on behalf of yourself and it’s all in relation to the role.
MARY O’BRIEN-KILLEEN, CLAREMORRIS: When preparing, I use the cheese wheel. The first segment is small – my name is and thank you for bringing me here today for this interview. I come from A and reside in B. The next segment is much bigger and focuses on education and results. The third segment is the largest focussing on professional experience – while working in the hospitality industry during my school and college years I learned C. The last tiny segment is outside of the workplace. If you are an active volunteer, devote a line to this.
FINTAN DUNNE, SLIGO: All interviewers know that a certain amount of tension and nervousness is brought on by the interview. This initial question is designed to allow you give a prepared answer to relax and focus you. Everybody going for interview puts in time and resources in preparation and no matter how much you do, life has a habit of getting in the way, so little issues can impact and play their part on the very day: a puncture, a traffic jam, a sick child and so on. The “tell me about yourself” question was created to settle you. Your reply should be short and based on the key milestones that got you to your present position.
MARK MCDONALD, DUBLIN NORTH: The key to success at interview is to use every opportunity you get to reinforce your suitability for the role by matching your skills and experience to the requirements of the role. The “tell us about yourself” question is no different. This should not be a detailed biopic of your life, but rather a short and concise account of your career and education up to this point. Structure your answer around a format of outlining your previous responsibilities and achievements and make direct reference, where possible, to the way in which your experience matches some of the criteria outlined within the job specification. Don’t bore the interviewers with too much detail and keep your delivery focused on the job for which you’re interviewing.
If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches mentioned above, see HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.