Why do employers ask "tell me about yourself"?

Answering the question “Tell me about yourself” can be a minefield, because it is so broad. We’ve found that the best way to tackle this classic graduate interview question, is to first understand - why does an employer ask it?

  1. To get up to speed
    While the hours spent poring over your graduate CV means you know it like the back of your hand, keep in mind that an employer won’t be so clued up.

Remember, in the time between first reviewing your graduate CV and inviting you to interview, your interviewer has most probably had a hundred and one other things to consider.

It’s your job to focus their attention back to why they invited you to interview in the first place.

What you should do: Think of it as a short refresher - give an overview of your graduate CV, including a summary of your degree with any key skills learnt, what you’ve been up to since, and what has brought you to the point of wanting this graduate job.

  1. To get you talking
    The key to interview success is not just down what you say, but how you say it. Whatever graduate job you go for, you’ll need to be ready to interact with a range of different people.

This could be anything from presenting new ideas to clients and explaining difficult concepts, to chasing up your colleagues on a project or persuading customers to buy.

All of these situations require you to be confident, clear and concise - and an interview is the perfect opportunity to show it. The word ‘concise’ is key here, be careful not to ramble when answering this interview question, you need to keep the employer’s attention the whole time. For tips check out our blog on how not to ramble in an interview.

What you should do: when asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, keep in mind the most important qualities for the job from your employer research - then keep yourself in check throughout the interview. Are you talking too quickly? Are you mumbling? Do your points flow? If you find yourself getting off track, pause, collect your thoughts and continue - it will make all the difference to an employer’s ears! This is a key part of answering all graduate interview questions successfully.

  1. To understand why you’re the best
    You made it to the job interview - now it’s time to really shine. You need to grab the interviewer’s attention by dropping in all of your key achievements. When you’re asked the question “Tell me about yourself”, it really is your chance to say as much as you can about your achievements.

The interviewer will often use your response as a springboard for the next question i.e. ask you to elaborate on some of the points you just mentioned - this is a great chance to steer the interview in the direction you want. When you’re doing your prep for graduate interview questions, make sure that you can talk professionally and in detail about yourself.

What you should do: Highlight your key strengths and achievements - especially the areas you’d like to expand on during the interview. You can add emphasis to these points by having a slight pause after each one, before continuing onto the next. Focus on your skills and attributes that match the job description