“Tell me about yourself.” is often one of the first questions asked in a job interview. As a result, what you say in response to this question will have a big impact on how an employer perceives you for the rest of the interview.
The trouble with this interview question is that it’s so open-ended, which may leave you wondering: what exactly is it that I need to share with the employer? Do they want to know about my hard skills? My last job? My educational background?
In this guide, we’re going to talk through why interviewers ask this question. We will then explore a few tips you can use to answer the question “Tell me about yourself.” in an interview, with reference to an example.
Why Do Interviewers Ask “Tell Me About Yourself”?
This interview question is so common because it’s a good transition into the rest of a job interview. When you start a job interview, it can feel quite tense—you’re sitting there, waiting to be asked dozens of questions by someone you may never have met.
This question “breaks the ice,” and helps to ease into some of the more difficult questions that you may be asked further down the line.
In addition, asking this question gives interviewers and hiring managers the ability to learn more about who you are, both as a person and as a professional. Because there are no specific points that you need to mention to respond to this question, you can choose to mention whatever features and experience you think an employer should know about.
What to Include in Your Answer to “Tell Me About Yourself”
“Tell me about yourself,” as we mentioned earlier, is a broad question. Instead of thinking about how to craft an answer to this exact question, you may find it helpful to consider a few more specific questions that relate to who you are as a worker.
Here are the main points you should make in answering this question:
- Where are you today? Start by talking about what your current role is, and mention an impressive goal that you have recently reached.
- Where have you been? Then, spend some time discussing the past experience you have acquired that you think qualifies you for the job for which you are applying.
- Where do you want to go? Finally, talk about what you want to do next in your career, and why you are interested in the job for which you have applied.
There is no “right” way to answer this question. For instance, if you have a particular skill that you want to highlight in depth, you may want to spend more time discussing where you have been, and spend less time talking about where you want to go. It’s up to you!
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Like any interview question, before you commence an interview, it is best to take some time to prepare for how you intend to respond. With this question, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you are crafting your response.
Your main goal in answering this question is to start crafting a narrative about yourself. Your response should be kept short and sweet—no longer than two minutes—and give an employer a brief summary of who you are.
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind when responding to this question:
#1: Discuss past experiences related to the job
When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they don’t want to hear a list of facts about who you are and what experience you have. Rather, they want to learn about the specific experiences you have had that qualify you for the position you are applying for.
Before you go into an interview read over the job description again and figure out what the company is looking for in a candidate for the position. What qualities does the job description mention? Which of those qualities do you have?
If you can anchor your response to the needs of a company, you can make it easier for the hiring manager or interviewer to piece together how your skills align with the needs of the company. The earlier the interviewer starts to hear how you can provide value to the company, the more likely they are to want to keep engaging with you as a candidate.
#2: Focus on your strengths
This question is an excellent opportunity to talk about the strengths and skills you have, and how they make you a unique candidate for the job.
As you start preparing to answer this question, you should think about the main strengths that you have. Are you good at creative thinking? Do you thrive in fast-paced working environments? Mentioning these qualities in your answer will both impress an employer, and help them learn more about what you consider to be your main features.
Ideally, you should back up your strengths with an example. For instance, if you exercised team working skills in your last job, you should give an example of when you were an effective contributor on a team project.
#3: Talk about your passions and goals
One way to catch the attention of an employer is to discuss your passions and goals in your answer to this question.
The average candidate may list their core strengths and make links between those strengths and the position for which they have applied. But if you want to go above and beyond, you can spend some time discussing your passions and goals.
You don’t need to go into too much depth—you only have a limited amount of time—but giving some brief context on why you are passionate about a field or industry can help make a more positive impression on an interviewer. After all, the more passionate you are, the more likely you are to be a dedicated and hard worker.
#4: Keep it short
This is not an opportunity to recite everything on your resume. The interviewer or hiring manager should already have read your resume before the interview, and in your response they will be seeking new information. If they wanted to hear what was on your resume, they could just read it again.
Your response to this question should be focused on the specific strengths and past experiences you think are relevant to the job. Once you have given the relevant background, you should stop and let the interview continue.
There is usually no specific time frame during which you need to answer this question, but a good rule is that you should aim to talk for no more than two minutes. There is also a risk that if you talk for too long, you will lose sight of the main points you want to make. This could lead to rambling in the interview, which is never seen as a good sign.
#5: Know the interviewers
Before you start giving your response to this question, you should think about the people you’re talking to.
If you are in your first interview, you may be talking with a hiring manager or a recruiter. These people will likely be more interested in your soft skills and whether you would be a good culture fit for the organization. So, you would want to craft your answer to this question in line with their expectations: to learn more about your soft skills.
In a second interview, on the other hand, you may be talking with a more technical audience who is qualified in your field of interest. In this case, talking about your hard skills may be best, because your audience will be more familiar with the topics you are discussing.
This interview question can feel intimidating because it’s broad and open-ended. You’ll want to take some time before your interview to practice a response, and consider the exact points that you want to convey.
One great way to practice is to ask a friend or a family member to listen to your response. This will give you an opportunity to receive feedback from other people. They will be able to tell you if your response is too long, or too short, or misses out on a few key points that they feel best describe who you are.
Interviewers can often tell whether or not you have memorized an answer to this question. If you are still early in your career, this doesn’t send a negative signal; you’re still finding the ropes. But if you have more experience, it may lead an interviewer to question your ability to talk about your strengths and weaknesses.
Example Answer to “Tell Me About Yourself”
Seeing an example answer to this question may make it easier for you to figure out what to say. Here is an example of a response to this question from a candidate applying for a job in customer success:
I’d be happy to! I have always enjoyed helping other people, even going as far back as volunteering as a hall monitor in high school. When I started college, I started to realize that I enjoyed business, especially working with customers. It excites me to be able to talk with a wide range of different people each day and help them solve their problems.
In my first job, I worked as a customer success associate. This gave me an opportunity to refine my skills by talking with customers and helped me learn more about how to provide a better experience to customers. I was also assigned a few bigger accounts to work on independently, once I built up some experience.
Last year, I moved on to work as a customer success associate at a new company. In this role, I was able to work on larger accounts for enterprise customers, which helped me acquire a broader range of skills.
I have learned that I work best while helping businesses, because I enjoy analyzing business use cases and figuring out how I can help a company meet their needs using the product I am supporting them with. Now that I am looking to expand my skills in enterprise sales, I think working at your business would be an invaluable experience.
Your answer to this question could be one of the first impressions you make on an employer, so you need to do everything you can to make it count.
Before you start your interview, make sure you have prepared for this question. Think about where you have been, what you are doing now, and where you are going, and link your experiences to the position for which you are applying.
By following the tips in this article, you should have no trouble crafting a response to this question that impresses an employer in a job interview.