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How To Answer – Tell Me About Yourself
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Considered as an interviewer's nuclear weapon and an interviewee's trigger for a heart attack.The question Tell me about yourself is the oldest and one of the most asked questions throughout the history of humankind and its professional journey. With its inventor unknown (for obvious reasons), it remains one of the biggest unsolved puzzles for several reasons.
One, there is no wrong or right answer to it, Two, it is usually not asked with any intention at all (except to get things going and possibly, to check communication skills as well), Three, it is almost always the one to give away more negative vibes than positive, Four, there is not even a proper template to lay over some content for it.
So, taking the three points in consideration here is a quick guide to the fourth problem. But first, take a look at the variations of the question itself, and a general comment to understand them.
Tell me about the variations!
• What should I know about you?
• How was your journey so far? or How did you reach where you are?
• Summarise your life till date!
• And with recent trends in consideration, What would you write in your Social Media Account bio?
And so on...
Tell me about the answer!
Ah, the answer! It has been a long time since I've been answering the question. And it was into a job once, that I personally approached the interviewer who interviewed me, and asked, What did you wanna know? What did you expect? and he said, Whatever gets you on the job?
And what gets you the job are three factors: Skills and Knowledge, Approach and Practice, Results and Analytics. And based on it is a template devised to segregate content and deliver it in the right order, making a total of three kinds of answers.
Start off unconventionally, really! Any job over the world requires thinking, quick thinking. You can start off with a quote you like to work on, or what your friends/colleagues call you and the reason for it; in short, bring in an interesting element and start off by explaining it with you and your past as examples or data points of any kind. It helps give a direction to tread on towards a good answer. A few opening lines to look into are:
Greetings, my name is ABC XYZ
• but my colleagues like to call me PQRS while friends call me LMNOP because back in school... (and you start off on your past)
• and was brought up among/in/with/by DEF who, combined with my schooling, triggered... (start off on your developmental journey)
• and am an inquisitive reader since my school time, reading HIJ in class... (explain how your hobby/habit/skill shaped you)
• and I like to live based on the saying... (explaining how it defines you and your past)
Once you have gained the flow using an opening, you need to deliver the required details of the above-mentioned nature within the story. Depending on the job profile, previous experience, and your personality, there are three ways to deliver it. The opening can also be chosen or formulated accordingly.
• Skill-First Approach is when you start to highlight your skills and how you developed them through your journey. Can be enhanced with an overview of the knowledge acquired. Also, this leads the interview towards topics that one knows of further down the line, and can be helpful. Example: ...triggered an interest in writing while in school, which aided by the communicative nature and reading habits of mine, went on to get me a job in content writing, my first job. As the content was related to marketing endeavors, I read and developed skills related to SEO, affiliate networking, etc which were sharpened with the help of my manager. Later... (and so on) and is recommended for freshers, low-experience individuals, ones transitioning industries, and good for everyone too.
• Experience-First Approach is the one where basic skills are sorted in out initially, and then, short story-like descriptions of work are given out. It is to highlight the approach you use and the practice you have had in your work. This often leads interviews to instant planning and tests and are a good way to highlight such skills. Example: ...saying "Efficiency lies in the little grey area between perfection and deadlines." Which has driven my schooling and higher-level academics with good grades alongside extensive co-curricular activities! And I practiced the same in my previous jobs like we had these print material to be delivered every weekend and we used to finish it on a basic level by Wednesday noon, grilling it further for a day to make it the best possible version of it. This lead to impressive designs with timely completion which is what matters to me... and is recommended for intermediate experienced individuals, fresher with intern/co-curricular/volunteering experience, and anyone with experience, especially in newer or unconventional jobs.
• Result-First Approach is for those who have achievements to speak of or the work profile is output oriented like sales jobs. It can be used to highlight either or both the results and the analytics around it like profits, lead generation, rank improvement, resources saved, etc. This doesn't give out much direction to the interview a little further but gives out impressive data for discussion during that. Example: ...back in school, I maintained very good relations with my seniors and teachers, which often helped my friends hide behind me and thus, the nickname. Also, the same skill, when I used professionally, led to better client relations and gave us much more freedom and flexibility to work that led to overall improvement in everyone's work and reputation gain, both online and offline bringing XYZ organic leads... and is recommended for sales and marketing experienced individuals, individuals with analytical profiles like accounts, legal, etc, technical operations job, etc.
To reach conclusion is often the most difficult part of the answer, and also, one that gets tested very less as well. Also, if the answer is leading on to questions that can be asked or details that can be interviewed upon, it generally gets interrupted and gives a continuity to the process, eliminating the conclusion. Still, it is essential to have a clear conclusion in mind. Conclusions can range from an ambition statement, a vision and/or mission statement, or just a marginally smaller goal or next step you look forward to. A well-drawn conclusion reflects a lot of good traits in an individual. A conclusion can look something in the lines of:
• ...with the prospectus I am here for, I intend to move forward with data analytics as my expertise, along with acquiring certification in it.
• ...working with XYZ opens up the prospectus of growing in the industry in which I plan to do an MBA and further my career.
• ...with my current understanding of the organization's goals, the new verticals that they are looking into are also the ones I intend to grow myself with further experience and guidance.
The final form should be a content along the lines of above points or any other approach as may deems fit, but must maintain a flow and integrity. The overall speaking time should be no less than a minute and no more than three. Recommended speaking time for an answer is around two to two and a half minute. Give the opening and initial introduction 10-20 seconds, the conclusion should take another 10-15 seconds, rest must be managed and engaged with the main content.
Remember, a storytelling format will always tend to impress and give the benefit against small mistakes and casualness of information. Since, it is about the past, its best to begin mid-way from school and move quickly to college/professional life. It is, however, not negative while using a mixed content approach, fixing emphasis on a certain set leaves a better impact for most. However, it varies from person and profiles as well.
Lastly, remember the interview is not about you, neither the interviewer is there to bring you down or something like that, nor it is just about just the job. It is about You doing the Job for and with the Organization. And that is what you need to project.
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