What interviewers really want to know when they say ‘tell me about you’

Have you ever been in an interview where they have opened with world’s broadest question ‘can you tell me a bit about you?’

Where do you start? You probably shouldn’t reply with ‘well what do you want to know?’ tempting though it sounds.

Instead, in such situations, you’d find it super helpful to have a pre-prepared overview about yourself that you can draw on.

Also known as a Personal Statement, you can use written versions of this when applying for a role or submitting your details for a project, and present it verbally in an interview or if you are called on to give a brief overview of yourself at a formal networking event or similar.

This is different to your Elevator Pitch, a short sharp introduction you would use as an opener when you meet someone for the first time. For more on that, see my earlier blog Why you should pimp your elevator pitch.

Your Personal Statement will likely evolve over time and according to the specific situation, but will probably include some of the following:

  • What you do
  • Why you do it / your purpose
  • A brief snapshot of your career journey so far (a couple of lines, not a CV run through)
  • Your strengths
  • Your values
  • A bit about your non-work interests
  • Your current situation / why you are here.

Here is mine as an example:

I am a Career Coach. I help leaders land their perfect role and be brilliant in it by playing to their strengths. As well as one-to-one coaching I deliver group development sessions and career keynotes for organisations.

I am at my happiest when I see my clients achieving their goals. That’s why I do what I do.

I started my career 25 years ago in HR in the retail industry and then moved into fee-earning consultancy as a head-hunter of HR leaders before founding my business in 2016.

I have studied at Durham and Oxford Universities and am a ICF ‘PCC’ level Executive Coach. In 2022 I was named by LinkedIn as a Top Voice for Careers.

I’ve lived and worked in the UK, Germany, Chile and Singapore. I am a relationship builder, a connector and an organiser. I love hosting an event (or party!) and keeping in touch with my friends around the world.

Outside of work I am an Ambassador for the Girls Friendly Society and a mentor for Protégé Business Mentoring.

This opener doesn’t need to tell them everything about you. Think of it as ‘you in a nutshell’ to set the scene and build on throughout the interview.

Separately, I recommend preparing a five minute overview of your career to date and a blog will follow on that.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about working with me, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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