One of the most common interview questions you will ever be asked is, "Tell me about yourself ..." While this seems a rather innocuous and simple query, so many candidates struggle, as they overthink and worry about the hidden motivation of this type of question so early in the interview.

The good news is that, on most occasions, this is designed as a "gimme" question. One that helps break the ice between the interviewer and the candidate and develops a positive rapport before the tough questions start.

A great way to answer this seemingly tricky question, is using the "4P" approach:

Past

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Start your answer by detailing a linear journey of your qualifications and career over the past 20 odd years, remembering to focus on skills and expertise that are relevant to the position you're applying for. Usually you mention key qualifications first, then briefly run through your career up to your last position for about 30-45 seconds. Use the "funnel" approach, providing a small amount of detail for earlier experience, building this up for more recent positions.


Present

Talk positively about your current position, remembering again to focus on skills and expertise relevant to the vacancy. Also highlight any examples of recent achievements, including challenges you have successfully met and targets you exceeded.


Personal

If you choose, you can add any personal information that is relevant, including details such as family, personal interests (relevant to the role), voluntary experience or anything else strange that may not fit into the traditional employment model. For example, if you are a boatie and you are applying for a position in the marine industry, you can talk in detail about your passion for boats and the experience you have gained through your (non-work based) real-life experience.

Plan

Finally (using the role you are seeking as a guide), talk about why you are looking to leave your current role, what you're looking to do next in your career, and why you're interested in this position relevant to your goals.

How long do I take to answer this question?

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You want this answer to be relatively full so this would take about two to three minutes. Don't try to oversell the answer as you want it to come across naturally. Practising this with a family member or friend is always beneficial as it gives you the opportunity to get the flow right and practise the timing so it's not too brief or drags on for ages and ages.

If you nail this question, you will have started on a high, building the foundation for a successful interview.

Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV assessment or to be your personal career coach. Visit CV.CO.NZ (0800) 282 669 or CareerCoach.nz to find out more.