How to secure an interview by nailing your resume and answering “Tell me about yourself”
As students, we understand that the application process can be quite intimidating. That’s why we’re bringing you some comprehensive advice to help you make the most of every opportunity you apply for. This article concentrates on two core aspects of the application process — how to effectively answer the most common interview question “Tell me about yourself,” and how to craft a solid resume.
PART 1: So how do you really answer the question “Tell me about yourself?”
The most stressful question known to mankind — “Tell me about yourself?”. How does one answer this question? Where do you start? And what exactly do recruiters want to know when they ask this question?
This question is actually a great opportunity for you to present yourself how you want. Follow the formula below to make sure you use this question to your advantage and make a lasting impact on the recruiter.
Craft a story
Recruiters are people too, and so they’ll respond better to responses that evoke emotion. Use this to your advantage to craft a story — personalised and specific to the company — and stand out amongst other applications.
How do you structure your story?
→ Talk about your background
Give a quick overview of yourself, mentioning who you are and what you do.
→ Understand the company’s values and how they align with yours
Research the company you are applying for. Understand the company’s values and find specific ones that resonate with you, and talk about how these values align with yours using relevant examples.
→ Why that company? Why that specific team/area within that company?
Reflect on what it is about the company, or the team, that you really like — what about them stands out to you?
Are you a fan of their products or services? Talk about that and highlight how their product has impacted you. Or are you passionate about the people who run the organisation — perhaps their CEO has been one of your biggest inspirations?
→ Mention hobbies and interests relevant to the role
Talk about what hobbies or interests you have that are relevant to the role. This can be more subtle as well — some of the skills involved in the position might be interesting to you or help you with something you are passionate about. Make sure to use examples when discussing this.
→ Be passionate
Passion is the most important factor. Reflect on the organisation and its values, culture, and services, and demonstrate your passion for these aspects using personal examples.
A sample response
Jasmine is applying for a Marketing Officer role at MAC. She really likes the idea of making a positive impact on other people and helping them to achieve their goals. She attended a MAC event in the past and found that the committee members she talked to were very helpful.
Hi there, I’m Jasmine and I’m currently a third year IT student studying software development with a keen interest in design and marketing!
When I started my degree, I didn’t know much about the tech industry and was just kind of going with the flow with what was happening around me. However in my 2nd year I joined MAC and started attending events to become more involved in my community. It helped me discover a love for all things tech and it even opened me up to opportunities that I didn’t know existed!
My career ambition is to become a UX designer and at the moment I am spending a lot of my spare time trying to learn as much as I can about it. I try to keep up with what’s happening in this field by following some famous UX people on LinkedIn and attending various online meet-ups and conferences. I am also currently working on a redesign for the Moodle Dashboard and although it is a WIP, you can view what I’ve done so far here.
I’m also passionate about helping others and so I was deeply inspired by MAC. Since I am further in my degree and have had some internships in the past, I would really love to have the opportunity to use what I’ve learned and share them with others. In the past I have worked with children aged 5–14 and taught them the basics of coding and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had! I would love nothing more than to be able to do the same thing and share with my peers the knowledge that I’ve acquired throughout the years.
- First paragraph → your background
- Second paragraph → why you are interested in that specific company
- Third paragraph → your passion for the role and evidence to demonstrate it
- Fourth paragraph → show how the company’s values are important to you, with evidence
PART 2: Make sure your resume is on point!
Part of MAC’s application process is submitting your resume regardless of the role you apply for. Even though we are a student club, resumes are a very useful tool for us for recruitment — they reveal how a person presents themselves, what they care about, and provide insight into their work experiences and level of professionalism. Resumes are also a great tool for you as an applicant, and with the right content, detail, and presentation, you can optimise your resume to effectively present yourself as a professional and passionate individual.
Submit a PDF
Always submit your resume as a PDF — never as a Word document. Word documents are not only unprofessional, but they can also distort the formatting of your resume on certain browsers and devices. Saving and submitting your resume as a PDF will ensure that your resume displays exactly like you made it.
Ensure your writing and formatting is correct. Check for spelling and grammar issues. Format your resume with appropriate headings and bold certain parts for legibility — and make sure you don’t have a blank page at the end of your resume (a surprisingly common practice, and a very unprofessional look).
GPA or no GPA?
Include your GPA or WAM if you’re proud of it. If you’re not proud of it, don’t worry — you can leave it out. More mature companies generally determine whether you’re qualified or not based on your work experience and projects rather than your grade.
Show your passion
Demonstrate your interest and skills by including the following content:
- Work experience
- Volunteering experience
- Side projects/competitions/etc.
In talking about these experiences, keep your descriptions of each role direct and concise. Ensure you are using recent and relevant content — definitely nothing from primary school, and high school experiences are acceptable for first years only.
You can also showcase projects you’ve made for university, but ensure you build on your submission and highlight what changes you’ve made and features you’ve added to the project. Remember to link any projects you discuss!
Include relevant links in your resume
Include links to your GitHub, portfolio, projects, or anything else you’ve created that is relevant to the role to demonstrate your interest and skills. Link them. This is particularly important if you’ve listed your projects, otherwise who’s to say it actually exists?
Follow the 6-second rule
A good rule of thumb is to look at your resume for 6 seconds and see what stands out to you. Ask somebody else to do the same and let you know what they understood in those 6 seconds. If you’re not able to see everything you wanted to showcase — cut it down.
Stick to 1 page
Following up with the previous point, because recruiters scan your resume in such a short time it’s important to keep it to 1 page, unless you’re someone with 20 years of experience in which case a 2 page resume is okay.
Don’t add extra half pages because they get ignored and it’s not a very professional look.
Keep it concise
One major source of unnecessary fluff in resumes is the personal objective statement. This information is essentially useless in a resume, and can be better utilised in a cover letter.
Another way to keep descriptions concise is the use the XYZ rule to describe your previous roles — “I achieved X by doing Y and so Z happened.” Include what you achieved, how exactly you achieved it, and what was the outcome — did you improve a certain situation? Did you learn something?
Percentage and progress bars are meaningless
Those progress bars that are supposed to show your aptitude for a certain skill? They don’t mean anything to recruiters, and instead you should demonstrate your skills through your experience. So if you want show your teamwork skills, you should be detailing, for example, a volunteering role in which you worked within a team. Or say you wanted to demonstrate your skills in a certain programming language, then you should link a project in which you used that language.
Need extra help? We’re here for you!
If you are confused about any of these points, or want to discuss other steps in the application process such as interviews, we’re here to help! Join our Discord server for a support network of fellow IT students who can help you through each step of the way. Some of our friendly committee members are also happy to organise a time to meet up with you and provide direct feedback on your resume, projects, and more!
We hope you found these tips useful! Hopefully they will help you land your next role… which could be as a MAC officer? We’re currently recruiting within our Marketing, Events, and Design teams. Applications are open for various roles so visit this page to find out more about the positions available and how you can apply!
Also, check out our last article on MAC’s culture and values to find out if this could be the club for you! Applications are open until Saturday 21st May or until the roles are filled — we look forward to hearing from you!