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Given “tell me about yourself” is one of the most popular interview ice-breakers, you’d think it would be an easy question for you to answer, right?

Nope, not so.

Many people struggle because they quite rightly assume the interviewer would have read their application before inviting them in. And if that’s the case, what’s left to say?

“I like breeding cats, drinking coffee and line dancing – but not at the same time!”

Seriously though, it’s a real problem.

Our research of 1883 job seekers across the globe says that almost 40% of people stumble when faced with this question. This probably means that the same proportion of interviewers are sitting scratching their heads!

But your answer to “tell me about yourself” does not need to be so embarrassing.

Here are six tips to help you master the questions: “tell me about yourself” at interviews or “so, what do you do?” at networking events so you can propel these conversations in a way that you’d like to take them.

Tip 1 – Keep your answer short.

You don’t have 30 minutes to win over the interviewer.

Research from Accountemps last year revealed that almost one in five HR Managers admitted to making up their minds within five minutes or less of the interview. 60% of HR Managers surveyed, took under 10 minutes.

That’s not a lot of time.

Tip 2 – Be genuine.

Research from Princeton University shows people are hard-wired to make snap judgments.

Researchers found that when people see a new face their brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within one tenth of a second.

Yes, you read that correctly – one tenth of a second!

So how can you apply this finding in an interview?

While saying “be genuine” implies that you can fake it, I don’t mean that at all. Being genuine covers things such as making an effort to look the part of the role, applying to roles that you genuinely want and being excited about the opportunity that the role presents.

Presentation in particular is very important.

Not just from the point of view that you want to show the interviewer you have made an effort. Remember we are all very visual people. So if you look the part, the interviewer will be able to imagine you in the role.

Tip 3 – Make “tell me about yourself” be more about the interviewer.

This isn’t meant to be a play on words.

The quickest way to get someone’s attention is to make the topic about the other person. For interviews this means what you might be able to do for the interviewer or the company.

So in your answer talk about something that the interviewer can relate to. Provide quantifiable achievements that support your claim for that role and build credibility with the interviewer.

Tip 4 – Use emotions and show empathy

You want the interviewer to relate personally to what you are saying. You can do this by including empathy and emotion.

In every role you will have people whom you support or assist. In your answer to “tell me about yourself” use language that shows you understand your impact on the people whom you support, provide a service to or lead.

Tip 5 – Use a simple structure

I suggest a three part structure to keep you focussed.

“I am……” [describe the role, or the role you would like to perform]

“I work with……” [tell the interviewer whom you support and why they need your support – use this statement to show you understand why people might need your help]

“In fact……” [provide a quantifiable achievement to support your claim and allow the interviewer to understand what you can do for them. This statement needs to be relevant to the role]

If I was pitching myself as a career consultant I would structure my answer like this.

Q: Tell me about yourself?

A: I am a Career Consultant. [my role]

I work with people who often struggle to sell themselves in interview as they don’t know what makes them unique. [this shows whom I support and demonstrates empathy. I also show that I understand why people need my support]

In fact, over the past five years I have personally helped over 1000 people find their next job. [this is quantifiable achievement that supports my claim and allows the interviewer to understand what I can do for them]

Tip 6 – Use tools like our new iPhone app myPitch

Practice, get feedback and practice some more.

The only way to truly master something is to practice. If it feels like “you” it becomes you.

To help with this we’ve just launched a new iPhone app myPitch. In this you’ll find heaps more examples, along with some videos to help you prepare. But most importantly, the app will let you film and share your pitch with friends and colleagues for feedback.

Check out here for more information

About Karalyn Brown

Karalyn Brown is Founder of She has a background as a recruitment and HR consultant and is a proud to describe herself as a corporate refugee. After working for one of Australia’s largest insurance companies she decided she wanted to be fully responsible for her own destiny, and fast track her management skills by starting her own business. She found her first client the day after she designed her own website, and since then through her consultancy and blog she has helped over 20,000 people position themselves powerfully to find jobs and business opportunities.

Karalyn has pioneered the use of social media in Australia as a branding tool for job seekers, executives and entrepreneurs and is the most connected Australian woman on LinkedIn. Her blog now receives thousands of visitors a month, and she has a Twitter following of almost 30,000 people.

Karalyn frequently talks jobs, business and social media on ABC radio. She has appeared on Sky TV, in the Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Smart Company, Anthill Online, Latte Magazine, Women’s Agenda and MX. Karalyn’s writing on careers and business has appeared in the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Punch, Management Today and Recruitment Extra.

Introducing myPitch – the “sell yourself in 30 seconds” app from InterviewIQ

Uploaded by Karalyn Brown on 2013-09-03.

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