Tell us about yourself - dream or nightmare question?

29th April 2015 at 01:00

Tell us about yourself - dream or nightmare question?


(This article is an expansion of just one part of the blog article called: Help, I've got an interview!  Read it all  )


In that article I talk about Interview by USPs – your Unique Selling Points.  


And we look at the question that many of you fear: Tell us about yourself – which is not a nightmare but the Dream Question to have in an interview.




Your USPs    Your Unique Selling Points are very important.  This is how you show that you are what they are looking for. 


 Prepare these very seriously


You need to get clear in your mind exactly why you are the person for the job, so that you can put this across to the panel interviewing you.


 So it’s good to prepare for interview by identifying three or four key points or USPs.  They have to be about YOU, not USPs that someone else has suggested, because they have to want YOU, because it’s YOU that’s going to have to do the job, fit in with the rest of the school, etc, so giving them answers that don’t show YOU but someone else is plain daft.


 So think of your USPs; here are the sort of thing that I mean:


  • I have good communication skills with parents.
  • I am very committed to the pastoral side of teaching.
  • I am prepared to work my socks off for the children. 
  • I am very analytical and clear-headed.
  •  I am very caring about the whole child.
  • I think academic success for all students must be our aim.  


This is too many, of course, and anyway you should not copy any of these if they are not exactly who and what you are.


I will say that it is very hard to think of your USPs; it almost seems like boasting, on the one hand, and also you are probably not used to doing this kind of self-analysis, on the other.  But do persevere as it is very important to have these clearly in your mind.


 Here are my USPs, me, TheoGriff:


  • Committed and hard-working 
  • High levels of analytical intelligence, you can’t pull the wool over my eyes 
  • Passionate about children, their education and their success. 


This is me now, not as the School Leader that I was, but as an Education Consultant.  If I were still a School Leader I would have different USPs to give, and if I were still a teacher my USPs would be different again. 


USPs and BBs

Another important point about your USPs is that they should match the school’s BBs – their Buying Buttons, what it is that they are looking for.  Frankly if there isn’t a pretty good match between your USPs and their BBs, it might not be the job for you, and you might not be the candidate for them.


Let’s suppose that one of your USPs is:


  •   I have experience in three inner-city schools with high percentage of pupils from varied ethnic backgrounds.


 That might well be a good match for the BBs of a school in Walthamstow, but not for a school in rural Denbighshire.


 So be careful to identify what are the school’s BBs and check the USPs that you choose to discuss in the interview to ensure that there is a good overlap.  And, of course, although you should read their documentation and website, remember that there are hidden BBs, or at least BBs that are taken for granted.  Standard BBs might be Raising achievement, whole child etc.  


Having identified your USPs, you then draw up a mind map with the examples of things that you’ve done that show off these key points.


 Look at the article on mind maps to remind you how to do this, if necessary.


Using mind-mapping for interviews  


 Whatever your USPs are - and it’s unlikely anyone would have the variety I have given as examples! - when you get a question, ask yourself: Is there one of my USPs that I can illustrate here?


The absolute Dream Question!

It is one many of you fear:  Tell us about yourself.  


You don’t know where to start.  Should you say: Well, I studied Geography at Hull University, then did my PGCE at Leeds, and have been teaching at John Smeaton High School for the last three years now, as a Geography teacher and Form Tutor. 


No, you shouldn’t say that. 


You might just as well tell them your shoe size, height and weight, for all the good that it would do you in getting this job.


Instead, you say:  There are three main things I’d like to tell you about myself.  Firstly X, secondly Y, and then Z.  Would you like me to give you an example for one of these?


Obviously X,Y and Z are your three USPs.  You have now done the equivalent of a 30-second advert at half time in the Cup Final on the telly.  An advert about you, setting out clearly your strengths and why you are right for the job.  Right at the beginning of the interview.


Another very common question is: Why have you applied for this post? And, unfortunately, a very common answer is how it is all to your advantage – people actually DO say because it’s convenient for dropping off their children!  But even more common is people saying things like Because it would help me develop my management skills in a new context or : It would be a new challenge that I would relish.  


Your advantage or the Panel's?


Being frank again, a panel is not in the least interested in the advantages to you of this post; they are interested in the advantages for them of appointing you.  But cleverly prepared, this is another Dream Question, enabling you to get over clearly and succinctly to the panel how it is in their interest to appoint you. 


So think now of what you would do for them if appointed.   I have applied for this post because (Or: This post interests me because – you may have a slightly different wording) I believe that I can contribute to A, B and C.


 Where A, B and C are slightly differently-worded versions of your USPs.


Off you go and start writing those USPs and the accompanying mindmaps!


Best wishes