Tell me about yourself
The question sounds easy on paper, sure. After all, we talk about ourselves all the time.
But when you think about it, it’s a really open-ended question.
Do you start with your background? Do you go through whatever’s on your resume? Or do you introduce yourself more as a person than a professional?
Worried and unsure of how to answer?
Relax, you’re not the only one!
Most people struggle with this question.
Here’s some good news, though: there’s a very easy way to answer the dreaded interview question.
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Questions
To better answer the question, you first need to understand why they ask it in the first place.
Hint: the interviewer isn’t looking for your life story, or what you had for dinner last night.
Rather, the question is a way for them to ease into the actual interview and get a general idea of what you’re all about.
It acts as an introduction and depending on how you answer, it’s going to help the interviewer decide what to ask next.
This is your opportunity to leave a lasting first impression.
Give a good answer, and the interviewer will enthusiastically bombard you with more questions.
Answer wrong, though, you’ll instantly be labeled as the “OK Candidate.”
So, what’s a “good answer?”
Well, it’s actually pretty straightforward. A good answer should be
Tailored – Applying for an accounting job? The recruiter doesn’t care about your work experience as a real estate agent. Your answer should be tailored to the job you’re applying for.
Based on Experience & Achievements – Your answer should be super-specific. Don’t just say “so um, my name’s Mike and I’m a sales manager.” Your answer should consist of background (what did you study?), top achievements (how do you stand out from the other candidates), and interests (why are you applying for this job?).
Structured – Your answer should follow a simple, easy-to-follow format. We’d recommend sticking to the tried-and-tested “Past-Present-Future” formula. Meaning, structure you answer as follows:
- The past – what is your background and relevant work experience? How did you get to where you are now?
- The present – what is your current role? What do you do and what are your top accomplishments?
- The future – what are you looking to do next? Why are you interested in the position?
Keeping these tips in mind, here’s what a good answer to “tell me about yourself” would look like:
“Sure, so, my name is Joe and I am 27 years old.
For the past 5 years, I’ve been working as a business analyst at Company X and Y.
I have some background in data analysis, with a degree from University XY. What really got me into the field, though, is the internship I did at Company Z.
Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that I’ve always been good with numbers and handling data.
For example, when I was working at Company X, I led a project for migrating all operations data to a new data warehousing system to cut down on costs. The new solution was a much better fit for our business, which eventually led to savings of up to $200,000 annually.
Moving forward, I hope to expand my experience across different industries. Particularly fintech, which is why I’m interested in your company..”
Here’s what’s done right:
- The answer is tailored. Joe doesn’t stray off-topic, he talks about his experience as a business analyst, and his past achievements in working with data.
- The answer is based on experiences and achievements. Joe talks about his work experience as a business analyst, and covers some of his top achievements.
- The answer is structured right – past, present, future.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Now that we’ve covered the basics on how to answer “tell me about yourself,” we’re going to cover several essential tips that can help you stand out even more.
So, let’s get started.
4 Essential Tips on Answering “Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question”
1) Keep It Professional and Brief
When answering, try to keep it under 1-2 minutes, at most.
No, the HR manager doesn’t want to know your entire life story.
They don’t care about which kindergarten you went to, how your first internship went, or what you studied in high school.
You want to stick to your main selling points that are relevant for the job.
Pro tip: If you can see that the interviewer is getting distracted, you should take that as a sign that it might be time to wrap up.
2) Practice, But Don’t Memorize
You’re bound to hear “tell me about yourself” on just about every interview.
So, all you have to do is practice your answer a bit!
Grab a friend and do a quick mock interview.
Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t memorize your answer. Sure, it might seem like the safer option, but if you end up forgetting something on the interview, you might mess up your entire answer.
Instead, come up with a general idea of what you’re going to talk about, memorize the structure, and just wing the rest on the interview.
Remember W.A.P. (Work, Academic, Personal)
Every good answer to “tell me about yourself” should consist of:
- Work – This should make up about 80% of your answer. Focus on your previous experience and accomplishments here.
- Academic – 10-15% of your answer should then be about your academic background (university, academic achievements, etc.).
- Personal – Finally the last 5-10% should be about you as a person, while still keeping it relevant to the company.
Keep in mind, though, that the W.A.P. rule isn’t set in stone.
If you’re a student, for example, your entire answer could be about your academic career and personal interests.
Sample Answer for Experienced Professionals
Sample answer for an experienced professional:
Sure, I’d be glad to. I’m an tech-focused project manager for up to 8 years now.
I graduated from University X, where I made the Dean’s List, with a major in business administration and a minor in computer science. After that, I first got into the industry working as an administrative assistant at Company X. There I provided clerical support with interdepartmental communication, helped in managing schedules, and maintained the digital filing system.
After that, I was working as a project manager for Company Y that provided cloud computing solutions for about 6 years. There, I personally managed 5+ teams of software projects, and made sure everything went smoothly in terms of business goals, deadlines, budget, and more.
In my downtime, I enjoy reading about AI, tech, and robotics. Since you guys do all 3, I thought I’d apply.
Sample answer for fresh graduates:
My name is Jane Doe, I’m 22 years old and I recently graduated from University X with a B.A. in international business. While there, I learned a lot of theory in subjects like corporate communication, international economics, corporate governance, and more. I was also part of the student government, and maintained a GPA of 3.6.
I’ve worked hard in my education and now I’m ready to apply my knowledge into practice.
While I don’t have any real-life work experience, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the business environment. A lot of my courses involved working with real companies to solve real problems.
Now, I’m looking to leverage everything I’ve learned in uni and get some hands-on work experience.
Why do employers ask, “Tell me a little bit about yourself?”
“Tell me about yourself” or similar questions are frequently asked at the start of interviews to acclimate both you and the interviewer to the session. It provides the interviewer with a concise summary of your history and talents and insight into the experience and qualifications you believe are most relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
Employers are also well aware that, despite its prevalence, this interview topic has a propensity to fluster or stump candidates. By answering this question briefly, you establish the tone for the interview by demonstrating your confidence, ability to work under pressure, and awareness of the position’s requirements.
Some interviewers may use this question as an icebreaker, utilizing your response to initiate informal discussion to learn more about you. In contrast, others may immediately go to other interview questions once you respond.
Prepare your response in advance
It might be challenging to begin writing your response, even with standard interview questions.
To help you stay on track, the following are a few questions to ponder while you brainstorm possible answers and arrange your answer:
What characteristics make you an ideal candidate for this position?
Consider what makes you unique as a job application for this position. Perhaps it’s your years of experience or a highly sought-after specialty, training, or technical talent. Sift through the job description and note the instances in which you surpass the standards.
What drew you to the role?
Consider why you’re excited about this position, how it fits into your bigger career ambitions, and why you believe it’s the ideal next step.
What drew you to the firm or industry?
After investigating the company and industry, you should better understand the mission, goals, and industry trends. Are these aims consistent with the professional objectives you’ve established for yourself? What about the firm as a whole do you admire and respect? What excites you about the industry’s future? As you begin to craft your story, connect the dots between your professional objectives, the company’s future vision, and any industry trends you believe are particularly significant.
How to respond to the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Your response to the “Tell me about yourself” question has the potential to set the tone for the remainder of the interview. In general, when you rehearse your response, you want to be able to deliver a compelling tale about yourself in no more than two minutes. Include the following in your response:
1. Discuss prior experiences and shown achievement concerning the role.
Reread the job description to begin. Take note of the necessary talents you possess and recent examples that show them (review the STAR method to practice telling great stories in your interviews). While you should ideally draw on recent professional experience, volunteer activity may supplement your story while also displaying a dedication to your community.
2. Consider how your present position connects to the job you are applying for.
Is this a more senior position? If yes, describe how your current role requires you to take on more duties. If you’re making a lateral move to a role that requires a different set of talents, explain how your existing abilities translate into the new position.
3. Concentrate on your talents and abilities that you can demonstrate through examples.
When writing the script for each example, keep an eye out for specifics and quantifiable effects. For instance, claiming that you “enhanced customer service” has a more negligible effect than expressing that you “raised customer service response rates by 10–15 percent each quarter.” If you lack precise knowledge, make an educated guess.
4. Emphasize your individuality to establish rapport.
Given that the “Tell me about yourself” interview question is intended to learn about you, it’s a good idea to share your personality with your interviewer—but refrain from sharing personal information. Discussing personal hobbies is an effective technique to conclude your response while remaining professional. You may choose to discuss briefly activities that exhibit intellectual growth and community participation (e.g., reading, music, sports league, volunteering), as well as those that demonstrate personal discipline and success (e.g., learning a new skill, training for a half marathon).
5. Present your response professionally.
To ensure that your response is clear and concise, you should structure it according to a framework or formula. There are two often-used formulae to consider:
- Present, Previous, and Future
- Previous, Present, and Future
Both of these formulae are valid for your response. Still, you may choose one over the other depending on the positions in your experience that are most relevant to the job you are interviewing. For instance, if your most recent role demonstrates a number of the abilities and qualities necessary for the position you are interviewing for, you may wish to begin with the present. On the other hand, if you’re making a job change and your prior experience is more closely tied to the role than your present position, you may want to begin with your history.