‘Tell us an interesting fact about yourself’: How to deal with interview icebreakers

Interview icebreakers like 'Tell us an interesting fact about yourself' are the worst. But Debut's here to tell you how to craft the perfect response.
Jessica Murray
Jessica Murray
interview chairs

Are there any words more terrifying than ‘Tell us an interesting fact about yourself’? Icebreakers like this are the worst; the ones which put you on the spot and challenge you to be the most fantastically interesting and cool person possible in 0.2 seconds flat.

There’s two likely scenarios these can crop up in: Firstly, during freshers week when you’re being initiated into university life and trying to make as many friends as possible. This is when it’s ideal to have a fun skill, like the ability to say the alphabet backwards or do a back flip to pull out and wow the crowd. Or if all else fails, the time you successfully ate 20 chicken nuggets in one sitting or won the gold cup on Mario Kart will do.

But if this question is thrown in during an interview, it’s a whole different ball game. Often you’re so caught up in showing off your knowledge of the company and your previous experience, that a curveball question asking you to talk about yourself can leave you flummoxed. So what do you do? How do you respond questions like this on the spot and keep your cool? Debut are here to save the day, with our top tips

Be prepared

For every interview you go into you should prepare for all eventualities. And that includes these icebreaker questions about yourself. Obviously, not every single employer is going to go down this route during an interview, but you should be prepared for when they do. Use our ideas below to craft the perfect answer about why you’re an interesting and well-rounded candidate, and practice answering the questions with a friend or family member. Just try not to make it too over rehearsed, you want it to come across natural and authentic after all.

Also, take some time to think about the company you’re applying to and its culture. A very corporate and formal company would be expecting a very different answer to say, a small start-up business or a charity. Think about your audience and aim for the right tone.

Think about your hobbies

interview icebreakers hobbies

This is the most obvious route to go down, but a hobby which might not seem that interesting to yourself, might actually be really unique to someone else. Whether you’re involved in the performing arts, ride horses, are a Judo black belt or a national chess champion, showing that you have interests and hobbies outside your academic studies and career will prove to your employer you’re a more rounded person.

Try and keep it light-hearted and fun; they’re asking you this question to try and get a better idea of your personality remember. But also try and pick an example which shows off some skills at the same time. So for example, if your Quidditch team (yes, this is an actual thing) made it to the final round of the British Quidditch Cup (also an actual thing), talk about some of the teamwork and strategy planning you were involved with. If you’ve performed in a show or organised a campaign, these are things which will be both interesting to an employer, but also help exemplify the skills you have.

Travel tales

interview icebreakers travelling

Now I’m not talking about your family holiday to Spain here. But if you’ve done some really interesting travelling, perhaps by going to an unusual destination, or carrying out some volunteering while abroad, then this is definitely something you could bring up. Don’t say that you got really drunk at the Full Moon Party and woke up on the beach at 7am. But do tell them that you stayed with a Berber tribe in the Sahara who introduced you to their traditional food and music. You could talk about how interacting with other cultures changed your perception of society and how you dealt with the challenging climate.

The only pitfall here is that you risk sounding like one of those ‘gap yah’ types, and that could rub the interviewer up the wrong way. But as long as you don’t exaggerate and keep your answer precise and to the point, your travel tales are potentially a really interesting way to show an employer who you really are.

Achievements big and small

interview icebreakers achievements

You might think that you haven’t achieved anything particularly noteworthy during your short time on this earth, and that is totally ok. You have your whole life ahead of you to make waves, and you should never compare yourself to others. However, if you sat down and thought about it, there’s bound to have been a time when you achieved something – won a football game, wrote an exclusive for the student newspaper, got a super high mark in an essay or were elected to a committee position in your society.

If you’ve got something impressive to whip out, great! But even a small achievement can be transformed into something interesting if you phrase it right and focus on how it helped develop your skills and change you as a person. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Charity work

Any form of volunteering or charity work is instantly going to get you extra brownie points in an interview. If you’ve done something that’s made a difference to someone else’s life, talk about what you learnt from the experience and how it challenged you. Whether you’ve spent time working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, or volunteered at your local animal shelter, helped provide food for homeless people or ran a marathon to raise money for Cancer Research, these are the kind of interesting facts that will show an employer what kind of person you are.

Just remember to keep things specific. They’re asking for an interesting ‘fact’ which means one particular example, not a vague ‘I’ve done charity work before’. You need to single out an example that is going to wow and think about exactly how you’re going to phrase it. Do that, take a deep breath and stay calm, and you’ll be absolutely fine.

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