What do You Say When You are Asked: “Tell Me Something about Yourself?”

Many people are caught off guard during an interview when the interviewer starts the interview with the request, “Tell me something about yourself.” While this opener is intended to ‘break the ice’ and put you at ease, it is an opportunity to market your strong points. Interviewer will also use this tactic to gauge your personality, social and speaking skills.


Since this is a common question, you should always be prepared. The best way to approach this is to think of what you would say to a friendly stranger who is getting to know you. Most interviewers use this question to size up your personality and confidence level.

They want to see and hear how you present yourself, what are your interests, the way you speak, your choice of words, the way you look as you describe yourself.

If you hesitate, don’t know what to say or pause for too long, you will not come across impressively.

This is a good opportunity to market yourself in line with what the job requires and to cite examples, hobbies, projects or previous work experience to support your case. For example, let’s say the position is for marketing which requires perserverance and self-confidence. Let’s also assume that you are confident that you can do the job and that you have some previous experience. If you prepare yourself and have “rehearsed”, you may say something like:

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“I believe that I am a determined, independent and creative person. I supplemented my university expenses by giving tuition even while juggling a heavy course load and extra-curricula activities. I organised serveral events successfully for the … society … I enjoy challenges and solving problems such as … (a project you undertook which turned out well).”

“To balance off, include glimpses of people, travelling and reading.”

(Make sure you are sincere and can give examples of where you have travelled to, what have you read recently … what did you find interesting / boring etc. Why?)

There is no need to go into family and a lot of personal details unless the interviewer asks you for these details.

Remember, it is not just WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. Be natural, be yourself, but be prepared. Ask yourself, how you do present an INTERESTING summary of yourself (snapshot) which will interest the interviewer to RELATE you to the qualities needed for the job?</span

There is no ideal length as to how much to say and for how long. About 3 to 4 sentences will do. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer and watch out for clues as to whether he/she wants to change subject or dwell deeper into some of the things you say. Remember, it is an INTERACTIVE, two-way flow of communication. It is better for you to LISTEN carefully and respond with relevance, rather than ramble on and on about yourself. Sometimes the interviewer will pick on what you have said to test your response or to test if you can substantiate an experience or example that you have mentioned.

But never lie and over-sell yourself. Always be humble and friendly and LISTEN carefully to the interviewer for clues about what he is REALLY getting at. SMILE sincerely, and be ATTENTIVE

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Harold Tan, our featured consultant, has 18 years of sales, marketing and executive management experience. Prior to setting up Vista Associates, he was the senior Vice President (Property Development & Marketing) of Asia Food & Properties (AFP). Through the years, Harold is experienced in managing several different projects in the Asia Pacific region worth $1,800 million across Asia. This gave him the opportunity to groom managers, particularly in the areas of business development, sales and marketing.

Before that, he was with Centrepoint properties, Liang Court and Jurong Town Corporation expanding their property development activities, in Singapore, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. Harold obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Georgia (USA) in 1985. He has lectured at the National University of Singapore, and was a guest lecturer at the University of Georgia – Terry School of Business postgraduate classes in Strategic Marketing and Real Estate.


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