How To Answer The Hardest Interview Question Ever (Your 5 Step Guide)
If there’s one question you’re bound to be asked in every interview it’s this. And it’s also one of the hardest to answer…
Tell me about yourself
This used to be my least favourite interview question of all time. Where do you even start with answering that? How can you tell someone about yourself, your career, what makes you a good fit for the job and show off your personality? In just a few minutes?
If you weren't prepared for this question in an interview, this is what would happen.
You’d go blank, you’d get hot, your palms would start to sweat, you’d start to fidget and then say, “um…”.
But here’s the thing – in every interview I've had, I've been asked this question. Which means it’s 99.9% likely that you’ll be asked it in your interviews too.
And employers have got a good reason for asking it too.
You see, your interviewer can learn a lot about you from the way you answer this question. Plus, with it usually being the first question, your answer can shape how the rest of the interview is going to go.
Luckily for you, I have a five step, bullet proof answer for this that will make you stand out. If the question “tell me about yourself” scares you, this post is for you. Follow these steps and for your next interview, you’ll be more than ready.
Plus, I've even created a free template for you to download so you can fill your answer in as you go along.
Before we begin, I'm going to tell you a really easy way to remember your answer to this question.
All you need to do is remember five letters - C, S, A, P, N. If you can think of a rhyme to make it easier then great! You could do something like:
Cats Spin Around Purring Noisily
I love that one ;)
Step One: C - Start With What You’re Currently Doing
The best way to start the answer to 'tell me about yourself is to start off with what you're currently doing. Now I don't mean in the sense of "My name's Holly, I've got brown eyes and brown curly hair" - I mean it in another way.
The secret to answering this question is this:
Talk about yourself in relation to the job that you're applying for.
So you start with what you're doing right now. Are you a student? Are you taking a gap year doing some freelancing work? Or are you in a job?
For instance, this would be what I'd say to open my answer:
"I currently work as a Marketing Coordinator for a local sixth form College where I'm responsible for marketing the whole college to prospective students and producing various marketing materials."
It's that simple.
So if you're applying for a job straight out of university, you could say:
"I'm currently in my final year studying for an English degree at Lancaster University, and I'm also serving on the student union."
All you need is one sentence to describe what you're currently doing.
Step two: S - pick out your three biggest skills
You all know about triplets, and the power of three, right? Whenever you describe something or you're listing things, always do it in threes. It's the same for the second step of this question. You want to list your three strongest skills, in relation to the job that you're interviewing for.
For instance, you wouldn't say one of your skills was numerical analysis if you were applying for a writing job.
Or, you could just pick three skills that are suited to any job. So you could say something like:
"I believe some of my strongest skills are my organisation, communication and creativity."
I always go with those skills. They're applicable to any job I apply for in my industry and three essential skills that an employer wants to see.
Don't pick the skills you think your interviewer wants to know. Pick the ones you know you're best at. That's something that will come across in your interview.
Step three: A - highlight your biggest achievements
The whole interview process gives you a chance to show off and talk about the proudest moments of your life. So something crucial to mention in your answer is your biggest achievement. Here's what I usually say:
"Some of my biggest achievements include achieving a distinction in my final Masters degree project and achieving the qualification of 100 words per minute in shorthand."
I use these as my biggest achievements because they look impressive and I put so much hard work in to achieve them.
The achievements you choose show a lot about what you think is important. You pick anything you want. But again, don't pick something you think your interviewer will want to hear. Choose to talk about an achievement that means the most to you.
Step four: P - list three of your strongest personal traits
Your characteristics. Your strengths. The words that people would use to describe you. For instance:
"I'm a self-starter and I'm proud of my motivation and honesty."
What are the three things you admire most about yourself? Are you a great listener? Do you create a good balance in your life? Are you a positive and optimistic person? These are things you want to say here.
Step 5: N - end with where you want to go next
If your interviewer wants to take only one thing away from your interview it's this:
Why should they hire you and no one else?
Why do you want to work for this company more than the other candidates?
That's what they're looking for. As much as an interview is about you, it's also about the company you want to work for too.
Recently, I shared a post about how you should relate every answer to an interview question back to the job you're applying for. That's just as true for this first question. You want to end it by talking about you and the company as a whole. Here's how I end my answer:
"Now I'm ready to take on the challenge and further my career at [insert company name] that holds the same high standards and expectations as I hold for myself."
Notice how many great things this sentence has in it. It talks about yourself in relation to the company, how you want to grow and how both of your outlooks are similar.
When you end your answer with this, your interviewers won't be able to wait to dig even deeper into who you are and why they should hire you.
And that's it! So if we put all the steps together, we get this full answer to the interview question "tell me about yourself":
"I currently work as a Marketing Coordinator for a local sixth form College where I'm responsible for marketing the whole college to prospective students and producing various marketing materials. I believe some of my strongest skills are my organisation, communication and creativity.
Some of my biggest achievements include achieving a distinction in my final Masters degree project and achieving the qualification of 100 words per minute in shorthand. I'm a self-starter, I'm proud of my motivation and honesty, and I'm now ready to take on the challenge and further my career at [insert company name] that holds the same high standards and expectations as I hold for myself."
So, friends, there you have it! The easiest and best way to answer the hardest interview question ever. I hope this was helpful for you. I really do swear by the format of this answer. In every interview I've had, I've always got really positive feedback for my answers and I want to pass on that goodness to you. So if you've got an interview coming up or you feel like you might need this in the future, bookmark it, get the free template and keep it somewhere safe. Then go and absolutely boss your interview.
If there any other parts of interviews your need help with, just let me know.
How do you feel about answering this interview question? Do you have any tips to share? Let's chat in the comments!