Interview question series: Tell me about yourself?

One of the most frequent questions asked in any interview is: Tell me something about yourself. This question is asked generally at the beginning of the interview and sets the tone of the interview. It is believed that interviewers form a perception in the first few minutes of an interview. This would imply that since this question is asked at the beginning of the interview, it could be a make or break question that would play a a crucial role in determining the outcome of the interview process. Let’s discuss on how to excel while answering this question.

Before we start to discuss strategies to answer this question it is imperative to understand what the interviewer is expecting from this question. The interviewer has shortlisted you based on the resume. But now he wants to meet the person behind the resume. As he hears you talk, he visualises on know how this person communicates, how can he be the best fit and how will this person handle the relevant stakeholders and situations based on his past experience.

With this background, the interviewee needs to carefully plan for this question. The best tip is to consider this question as an elevator pitch This question should be answered in approximately 3 to 5 minutes. At this moment, the interviewee needs to draft a response to this question. The important stages of answering this question are planning, mapping and designing. Let’s discuss on each of these phases in detail.

“Consider this question as an elevator pitch”

The first phase in answering this question is to research on the company’s background, industry outlook, promoters, KMP (key management people), the job profile, company specific events such as mergers, divestiture, new product launches etc. The Management Discussion and Analysis section in Annual report, transcript of earnings call, glassdoor reviews, wikipedia or simply a google search on Company can be a good source for such information. For privately held companies, financial statements can be easily downloaded from MCA site in India Similarly, company employees, current or past, can be a good source to research. A vital tip is to research on the interviewer – look up on his interests, past employers, key projects etc. It is acceptable now-a-days to ask HR the names of the interviewers.

The next stage is mapping. In this stage, the candidate has to map the knowledge gathered in the planning process with his profile and experiences. In this step the candidate curates his skill, experience to the role requirements.

Instance 1, The Company is going through a divestiture process and the candidate has relevant experience in the past organisation. In this case, the candidate should highlight this in his initial brief.

Instance 2, The interviewer and the interviewee share a common employer / Grad school / hobby. It makes sense to highlight this link subtly to establish a talking point and build rapport.

Instance 3, The interviewee has handled roles of similar size, complexity and has relevant people management experiences. This should be highlighted as part of career story.

The final stage of the process is designing the structure of the answer. The answer need not be a chronological sequence of events starting from grad school to the last role. One way of answering this question is to start from first employment and highlight one critical project (maximum upto 3 as identified in mapping stage) in each employment / role change in the STAR approach (Refer separate article on STAR approach), follow up with synopsis and end with a line on personal interests. The synopsis could be at the beginning or the end to accentuate the impact.

A pictorial representation of this layout could be as follows

Job A: Role 1 and key achievement in STAR FORMAT
Job B: Role 1 and key achievement in STAR FORMAT
Job B: Role 2 and key achievement in STAR FORMAT
Personal Interests

A sample: Tell me about yourself answer could be as follows:

I pursued Company secretary and a gold medalist.

After completing my company secretary, I worked in Grant Thormton, one of the big 5 accounting firms, in public accounting as an executive. In a fast paced environment, I led a team of 2 to complete the audited of a listed entity with $260 MM revenue and with 18 subsidiaries. This project helped me work extensively on client communication as I helped to manage an internal change of auditors with a critical client.

I moved to Amazon, one of the top e-commerce companies of the world, as I was to explore opportunities in other areas of finance. I started as the AM and single handedly managed a $58 MM Prime entity. I also took a leadership role and worked with Global director to identify the best practices to set up the $ 10 MM utensils business in India for the first time.

I excelled in my role and was given the responsibility of complex $ 1 billion flagship Amazon Web services entity with people management responsibilities of a team of 7 people. I got an opportunity to go to Shanghai to do a UAT on the SAP ERP implementation. This project not only gave me opportunity to be exposed to different cultures but also got a view of how cross functional projects are led.

In 2015, after completing my MBA, with a short span of 6 months, I got the responsibilities Finance Controller of the start up Joint Venture of Amazon with Reliance. I got to work in the entire gamut of finance beyond my core domain of accountancy and work in teams with senior management. One of my key achievements is that I was recognized as the employee of the quarter.

Over a period of 7 years In Dow, I excelled moved from an Assistant Manager to a Manager and now to a Senior Manager. I lead a team of 10 people and am I have been ranked as an outperformer in 3 consecutive years and the employee of the quarter.
I am go getter and have a proven record for project management. I have a natural flair for leadership and I can collaborate with others for superior results. I am adept at conflict management. Finally, I am high on ethics and pride on being a continuous learner.

Outside work, I like to collecting coins and travelling.

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