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It’s a question which stumps many graduates, but all of us at some point will face the classic interview question “why don’t you start by telling me a little bit about yourself?”
It seems simple, but when it comes down to it graduates often find themselves wondering, what does the interviewer really want to know and how much should I be ‘telling’?
Planning your answer to this question is important to ensure you are fully prepared on the day. Write your answer down and practice reading over it a few times, adding any key points as you go.
It is a good idea to ask your parents, a sibling or a friend to test you afterwards and give you tips on areas for improvement. Read our complete guide to Interview Questions!
We’ve found that the best way to tackle this classic graduate interview question, is to first understand, why does an employer ask it?
While the hours spent poring over your CV means you know it like the back of your hand, keep in mind that an employer won’t be so clued up.
Remember, in the time between first reviewing your CV and inviting you to interview, your interviewer has most probably had a hundred and one other things to consider.
It’s your job to focus their attention back to why they invited you to interview in the first place.
What you should do: Think of it as a short refresher – give an overview of your CV, including a summary of your degree, what you’ve been up to since, and what has brought you to the point of wanting this graduate job.
The key to interview success is not just down what you say, but how you say it. Whatever graduate job you go for, you’ll need to be ready to interact with a range of different people.
This could be anything from presenting new ideas to clients and explaining difficult concepts, to chasing up your colleagues on a project or persuading customers to buy.
All of these situations require you to be confident, clear and concise – and an interview is the perfect opportunity to show it. The word 'concise' is key here, be careful not to ramble when answering this interview question, you need to keep the employer's attention the whole time. For tips check out our blog on how not to ramble in an interview.
What you should do: Keep in mind the most important qualities for the job from your employer research – then keep yourself in check. Are you talking too quickly? Are you mumbling? Do your points flow? If you find yourself getting off track, pause, collect your thoughts and continue – it will make all the difference to an employer’s ears!
You made it to interview – now it’s time to really shine. You want to grab the interviewer’s attention by dropping in all of your key achievements.
The interviewer will often use your response as a springboard for the next question i.e. ask you to elaborate on some of the points you just mentioned – this is a great chance to steer the interview in the direction you want.
What you should do: Highlight your key achievements – especially the areas you’d like to expand on during the interview. You can add emphasis to these points by having a slight pause after each one, before continuing onto the next. Focus on your skills and attributes that match the job description.
Grad student applying for a Digital Marketing Assistant role:
"I'm [first name] from [area], I studied Marketing Communications at Bournemouth University and have recently graduated with a 2.1.
I am keen to pursue a career in digital marketing, having completed my dissertation on 'The Impact of Digital Marketing on Businesses Today', for which I analysed the digital marketing strategies of 10 businesses, giving me a sound understanding of key digital marketing tools and the importance of getting your strategy right.
As well as being part of the marketing society at Uni, I also write a blog in my spare time, educating people about ways in which social media can be used effectively. Juggling this with my university work has strengthened my organisation skills, I always plan my week's work in advance, prioritising tasks to ensure that I work efficiently to complete everything on time.
Last year I gained work experience within a digital marketing agency which reinforced my desire to get a job in this sector. I love maths and have a very analytical mindset so I am keen to build on my SEO and digital analytics knowledge. I think I would really enjoy the job role and I believe I could bring significant value to your team; it's always easy to market something you're passionate about!"
The employer does not need to know that you went to beavers, cubs and scouts when you were younger - try to only talk about skills and experience gained within the last 5 years.
Don't just read from your CV, you don't want to send the employer to sleep! Make sure you explain key points clearly, demonstrating your passion and enthusiasm.
The interviewer doesn’t need to know your partner just moved to the area and you want to as well. This might suggest you’re not committed to the job itself. Concentrate on telling them about your work-related skills as opposed to your home life.
Your response should follow a clear structure. Having your points all over the place suggests you have a muddled brain and doesn’t set you up well for the rest of the interview.
Focus on the experience which is directly relevant to the job you’re going for. Don’t lead by saying you’re a shoe maker if you’re sat in an interview for investment banking!
Next up, find out what graduate employers are really asking for in the job description. Ready to put it all into practice? Search the latest jobs over on our Graduate Jobs board.
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