Tell Me About Yourself
“Tell me about yourself” is the most important and frequently asked question across all job interviews. It is asked so many times, some could even say, it is standard procedure. It is usually asked within the first three questions posed to you and sets the tone for the rest of your interview. So what is the best way to answer this question?
What you do NOT do is present a chronological catalogue of all your achievements and experiences from the time you were born up until now. In this article, you will find the best approach to answering this question and this will be demonstrated to you in two scenarios using a mock interview for the position of a digital marketing manager.
The first is the wrong way to answer that question; Here you will see everything you need to avoid when answering this question. The second, however, will be the best way to approach that question and answer it almost perfectly.
Let us call our first candidate John Smith and let us see how he answers the question; “Tell me about yourself”.
“Thank you very much. My name is John Smith. I was born in 1995 in a city in Ghana called Kumasi. I went to both primary and middle school at Methodist Primary school. Then I went to secondary school at Achimota College. From there, I went to the University of Ghana where I got my Bachelor’s Degree in business administration and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
I then went to further my education at the University of Manchester in the UK, where I got my Master’s Degree in business administration, majoring in marketing, completing my education in 2011.
I had my first internship opportunity with Standard Chartered Bank in Accra, Ghana, working as a marketing executive and did that job for two and a half years. In 2015, I got promoted to become the lead marketer in my division and from there, I moved to Barclays Bank, where I worked for five years with their executive managing group. Now, I am looking for an opportunity to explore and improve myself.”
This is someone who has got a great background full of great achievements but because he was so traditional, he was extremely boring and easily forgotten. Sadly, this is the case for about 95% of job applicants.
Our second candidate, we will call Joanna Smith and she is also presented with the same opportunity. Let us see how she answers the same question.
“Thank you very much, sir. My name as you mentioned, is Joanna Smith. I was born in a village in the Upper West region of Ghana, which is quite a deprived area and I am the first of three girls. It so happens that after I completed middle school, my father fell ill and passed away.
The process was so excruciating for us that we ended up poverty-stricken. I did all my best and scraped my way through high school and luckily enough, I was able to finish with very good grades. When it was time for me to enter the university though, my mother fell so ill that she was bedridden for almost two and a half years. As I was the eldest of my siblings, I just could not go to college because I did not have the resources to further my education and I had to be around to take care of my younger siblings. So I hung around, doing all sorts of odd jobs here and there to survive and take care of my ailing mother and my siblings.
It got to a point, the only opening I was fortunate enough to get was a job as a receptionist at a local milling company so I offered to do that. The pay was not great but I really loved it because I met different kinds of people every day and I really enjoyed that. Along the line though, I noticed that I had no internet at home but the company did and since I was an intern at the office, I would typically ask for permission to stay between an hour and an hour and a half every day after work so that I would be able to self-study.
YouTube became my go-to teaching platform. I was like my Bible, basically. I fell in love with marketing at the time and the little I got to know about it got me intrigued. So every day after work, I would stay an hour to an hour and a half and depending on what I was learning on YouTube at that time, I could even stay as long as two hours and I will self-study digital marketing. I would learn anything on Facebook advertising, Twitter marketing, LinkedIn marketing, and setting up YouTube channels.
Then I began to volunteer over the weekends as well and do all of the office work for free so that I would get the chance to continue my self-education as well. I did this for about a full year and right after that, I realized I needed to get some work experience, more importantly, so that I could attend to the family since my mother’s situation was getting graver and graver.
So I set out looking for jobs everywhere I could find and because I did not have a university degree, finding a job was difficult. I then had the idea that I would approach three companies and offer them my digital marketing services for free for 90 days. That was what I wanted to do because I had nothing else to lose. My whole family was also on board with me taking that risk. I finally got an opening at a local advertising agency in the town I was living in. Within 60 out of the 90 days, I was able to set up all their social media platforms. I set up an Instagram business account, Facebook business accounts, and a YouTube channel.
Within the first 60 days, I was able to get the number of their YouTube subscribers from 0 to 8000 because I was always going around with a camera, capturing some of the things that we were doing and it was very engaging to the client base. As a result of this, our business revenue grew from about $10,000 per year to about $25,000 per year within the space of time I worked there because they got two high paying clients within that same 60-day window.
In no time, before the end of the 90 days, they brought me on as a full-time employee where they paid me, which was awesome. I did everything in my power to expand the social media reach. So we went from almost zero likes to fifteen thousand likes on our Facebook pages in less than six months. When I started working with them, I was the only employee at that time in marketing but by one year, I had three people working for me because our functions had expanded so much, the company began to see the value in investing in marketing.
From there, I moved to work for the biggest advertising agency in Accra – the capital city of Ghana. There, I managed a team of fifteen people made up of designers, content creators, Facebook ad experts and SEO experts and we did a phenomenal job, increasing the client base of the company when we started from twenty-five to well over two hundred clients.
We have been able to help some clients grow their ideas and even business sales, some of them from just a meager $20,000 to well over $200,000 a year and we have about fifteen to twenty of such clients with such remarkable stories. Also, to make sure I’m not disadvantaged moving forward, I enrolled in a degree program while I work. As of now, I am in my third year, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing at the University of Ghana but I am doing it remotely and I am very glad to bring my experience on board to your company as far as this position is concerned.”
What do We Learn?
Looking at the two candidates, one was chronologically stating their achievements. The other was relating experiences, skillsets, difficulties, joys and problems they faced in their lifetime, relevant to the job opening. So then, based on the two scenarios, between John and Joanna Smith, who would you have employed? The answer is quite obvious. Most employers would not care about John Smith with his many degrees but rather someone who has actually done something; someone with a compelling background story.
The lesson here is to rehearse well for that question, take a very good look at your background and come up with a compelling story with skills and experiences relevant to the job opening you are applying for; one of integrity. Lying must be out of the question because you will be found out. Do not underestimate your background no matter where you are from because it is going to be one of your most valuable assets in answering this question. The main aim here is to be memorable so that even a week after an interview, the interviewers would still remember you because of the compelling story you gave.
Next, tell it in the form of a story because everyone loves a good story. Capture your experiences, strengths, and even vulnerabilities. When you do this – tell great, true stories anchored in integrity – it may surprise you that the rest of the interview will turn into a panel discussing your life story!
Finally, your story must be interwoven with results. For example, we see this in the case of the second scenario, She talked about how when she got a job with the first digital agency, how she moved from managing three people to managing fifteen people, how she helped them from zero subscribers to over eight thousands subscribers on YouTube. That is a powerful result-driven story. So you need to have a story that is not only impactful but also has some results to prove that you really know what you are talking about in the context of the job opening that you are applying for.
If you’re able to craft your answer to the question “tell me about yourself” within this context, you will be on track to a wonderful job interview.