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How to answer: "Tell me about yourself" if you're a fresh graduate

"Tell me about yourself?" is, more often than not, the first question you get asked during an interview. Your answer to this question determines the rest of your interview. Answer it well and you can take control of the interview. Answer it poorly and you're at the mercy of the interviewer, whose job is to help expose your gaps and weaknesses, sometimes with the goal of trying to make you crack.

When you're asked this question and you already have some job experience, it's more straightforward — you talk about your career and experiences and why you're making the move to this company or industry now.

But what if you're a fresh graduate and you don't have much to talk about? In fact, you've never actually worked before. What do you say?

Here are some tips on what you should say and what you shouldn't do when answering the question "Tell me about yourself?" from the perspective of me: the interviewer.

What you should be saying or doing:

  • Where did you just graduate from and what course did you study?
  • Why did you study that course?
  • Did you have any leadership or organizations you were active with in school that showed your character, resilience or ambition?
  • Why are you applying to my company - what is it about what you studied, where you studied, and what we do that you find alignment? Tell me how you fit in our company.

What you shouldn't be saying or doing:

  • That you don't have a clear reason to why you chose to study that course or major
  • Talking about how much you hated school
  • All the classes you've failed
  • Making no connection between what you've done and why you've chosen to apply here

The best way to prepare for this question is to prepare for it before the interview. Have a solid framework for the major points about yourself that you want to cover. This shouldn't come off as something scripted or memorized, but rather a calm and confident perspective on who you are and what you're aiming to be. Write it down and rehearse it in front of others — let them judge how good you've become.

If you really want that job, spend time to nail this question, especially since you're a fresh graduate. Impress me and pique my curiosity so that I would want to know even more about you.