The team at First Base undertake hundreds of recruitment interviews on behalf of employers every year.  Well qualified people too often let themselves down by failing to prepare for the questions they should expect to be asked. Often the most stumbled over and feared question in the recruitment process comes right at the start with the classic ice breaker ”Tell me about yourself”; especially when asked to talk about what isn’t on your CV. Here’s a few tips to help.

Getting personal

As well as an ice breaker, this question is a way for the interviewer to gain some insight into your personality. They also want to determine your fit for the job and the organisation. The interviewer doesn’t want to know everything about you – your answer needs to be a careful balance between declaring too much and making them wonder why you aren’t being more open with your answer. The interviewer wants to know that you have the sort of well-rounded personality and outlook that will fit well with their culture. Your research should, of course, include finding out about the culture of the organisation that you are hoping to join.

Remember that the early stages of a recruitment interview are about establishing rapport so avoid the temptation to start by giving a long list of qualifications for the job. You are being asked about the you beyond your career and work experience – so share something about what makes you tick and be authentic, don’t make things up or over exaggerate because you think it will impress – there will be follow up questions!

An option is to share some of your personal interests that don’t directly relate to your career but demonstrate your attitudes to life and work. For example, fitness related hobbies can help to emphasise a healthy energetic and positive outlook. If you mention more sedate pursuits such as reading or the theatre to demonstrate a thoughtful or creative edge, be prepared to be asked who your favourite author is or which genre’s you enjoy.  Voluntary work you are involved in can demonstrate your community and social values as well as highlight any skills you use, such as communication, that are relevant to the job you are applying for. On the other hand, do take care not to sound so enthusiastic about interests that you might suggest they could interfere with your career.

From Personal to Professional

Once you have shared a few interesting aspects of your background you can transition to speaking about key professional skills that would benefit your potential employer if you were taken on. A good transition might be to say “As well as my outside passions, my career is very important to me” and then move on to speak about the positive attributes that you would bring to the job you are being interviewed for. Prepare to share a few of the personal qualities and areas of expertise that would help you to deliver high performance in the job. Over the course of the interview, you should build on these three of four areas to help reassure the interviewer that you are the right person for the job. Your advance research into the organisation and the job description will help you to emphasise your relevant strengths and skills, without overwhelming the interviewer with too much information at the start.

When you answer the ‘Tell me about you” question you are providing a brief summary of evidence that supports your application. For instance, you might say how much you enjoy networking and getting to know people if the job you are applying for includes interacting with clients and customers. You don’t need to share information about your family, your partners, children or any other strictly personal information and we suggest avoiding potentially contentious subjects such as politics and religions unless you are absolutely sure that your personal opinions are being sought and will be well received.

Remember, the more you research the organisation and job role, the more you can prepare for the questions you are likely to be asked.

Employers and candidates tell us that First Base is their first choice for help with their recruitment requirements and their personal career progression. If you would like to know more about how the First Base team could help you, contact us on 01453 755330.