Tell me about yourself. This is one of the most frequently asked opening interview questions but for many interviewees it is their nightmare question.

Why? Because, regardless of the level you are operating at, most people lose sight of the real reason for the question and instead of grasping the opportunity to shine they ramble on and meander off course or cover irrelevant facts about themselves. For example, “I am 42 and married with two children…”

Aim to intrigue not inform. Ensure you give the main headlines and some interesting top level detail

But by answering “tell me about yourself” effectively you have a golden opportunity to make a really positive impact and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

“Tell me about yourself” helps the interviewers assess you as a person, gauge how confidently you can talk about yourself, how clearly focused you are about your career aspirations and how you relate to the prescribed job role and the organisation.

What is the best way to tackle the question? You will need to practise your answer repeatedly and refine it until it feels right so it becomes second nature and comes across in your own style, rather than scripted and robotic.

Aim to intrigue not inform. Ensure you give the main headlines and some interesting top level detail, rather than firing all your bullets at once. Keep to a two minute answer at most, as that is the maximum attention span for most people.

What is a good answer? First, it is useful to build the picture of the type of person you are and your key personality traits, as in addition to technical skills the “fit” is important in most roles, and then give a brief overview of your career.

Depending on the nature of the interview, it can help you with your interview flow to structure your answer along these lines: “I will tell you a bit about myself first and then give you a brief overview of my career to date”.

This is where third party endorsement, which I spoke of in my last column, can really help. For example: “My boss always tells me that I am a real asset to the team as I am very self motivated, positive and highly passionate about my job and my enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the team.

“My main strength is the ability to motivate teams and lead them to deliver targets and I am at my best while working under pressure and faced with challenges.

“What I am most proud of is my record for consistently delivering against required targets.

“Before I got promoted, my role was mainly focused on… and I worked hard to gain my…qualification.”

Planning your approach, practising answers, especially to “tell me about yourself”, in the most effective way gives you a greater chance of success.

You can take control of the interview and wow the interviewers by really selling yourself effectively. Bring out your personality, highlight your strengths, skills, achievements, motivation, qualifications and value added for the position and show off your personal brand.

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