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So tell us about yourself…


27 May 2022 at 10:00 am
Jonathan Alley
Sometimes a simple invitation to talk about ourselves can tangle us up in a job interview. But a straightforward story can smooth things in the interview room beautifully. 


Jonathan Alley | 27 May 2022 at 10:00 am


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So tell us about yourself…
27 May 2022 at 10:00 am

Sometimes a simple invitation to talk about ourselves can tangle us up in a job interview. But a straightforward story can smooth things in the interview room beautifully. 

It’s a seemingly innocuous, well-intended question: “Can you tell us about yourself?” 

In an everyday setting, it’s a no-brainer; you tell people your name, what you do, where you live, the things you enjoy. The conversation often flows easily.

However, when a prospective employer fires that question at you, it’s not unusual to suddenly go to water. Why? Sometimes it’s over-thinking, a suspicion the employer is using the broad question to probe deeper than our comfort level. At other times it can be just good old fashioned job interview nerves. 

If you do happen to find your brain and mouth uncharacteristically disconnected, there’s a simple fall back. Think of it like a story: give it a beginning, middle and end, and tell it through a professional lens. Because when it comes to your story, you are the expert narrator: nobody knows the highlights better than you do. Don’t embellish or over-share, but turn the question into an opportunity.

Remember, the people asking you questions are human beings. They got up this morning, had breakfast, took their kids to school, took the train, or got stuck in traffic just as you may have done. They feel emotions, have experiences – good and bad – that partially form their attitudes, and register natural human responses. They’ve read your resume: they’ve got “information”; but only you can communicate the character of your work and achievements, and why they’re a good fit for the role. 

Make no mistake, interviewers want to know why you’re best for the role, and will absolutely note how well you sell your professional sizzle, but they also want to know who they’re prospectively employing; not just your job history. 

A great way to formulate this response is to make the beginning of the story something rooted in the past, the middle of the story your present, and the culmination of the story your future. 

All it takes is a few sentences to let an interviewer know you’re qualified, tell them what you want and why, and show them you have a life outside of work.

A few final tips: vary the tone of your voice, smile, maintain eye contact, respond to social cues positively and remember to breathe. The well-dressed people sitting across from you seemingly deciding your future are just that – people. Talk to them that way.


Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

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