I used to want to roll up into a ball and die when people asked me “tell me about yourself”. If you are looking for work this question opens up the chance to pitch yourself for a job or contacts.
After a career break especially, it can be counterintuitive to showcase your own skills. It can be easy just to respond reflexively to “tell me about yourself”.
This could mean, however, that you miss a chance to say you’re in the job market.
“Tell me about yourself” is an invitation.
You may get unexpected opportunities to pitch at a social event or conference. The question may masquerade as: What should I know about you? What’s your background? Do you work? You never really know what connections your audience has. The key is to always be ready with a practiced response.
It’s helpful to frame your response starting with the present—where you are right now. Then briefly what in your past experience qualifies you. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited to get into a job.
How to make your answer memorable
Prepare by recording yourself on your phone. An assured manner is as important as your words.
First, determine what you want the other person to know about you: your expertise or about a piece of work. Mention it. (Just because it was not recent does not mean it’s irrelevant.)
Next, decide the action do you want your audience to take? Introduce a contact? Set up an interview? Adapt accordingly, even with friends.
Third: keep it brief: highlight who you are now and what your strengths, ‘value adds’ and/or career relaunch plans are.
Fourth: Talk about how you are going to solve problems not about the problems you have. (“The kids are driving me nuts I need to work to get out of the house”)!!
Finally: focus on work, not family or hobbies. Remember throughout your answer to focus on the experiences and skills that are going to be most relevant.
“At the moment I am volunteering with a charity that helps 16-24 year olds find work. I’m coming to the end of a break that I took with my pre-school children. Before that I set up and ran recruiting teams for a global headhunting firm. Now I am looking to take my senior stakeholder management skills in-house to a talent acquisition function. I’m being considered for a number of roles with corporates who like my blend of headhunting and in-house experience”
An example of what not to say
“I’m just a mum, I’m trying to get my CV out a bit now. I think I want a job in recruitment as I think I need to get out of the house”.
In this statement I provide no compelling reason to hire me or introduce me to your best friend who is looking to hire someone with my skills, for my dream job. See the difference?
Preparing your response to the “Tell Me About Yourself Question” is a back-to-work power move. Start practising yours today.