“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common yet trickiest interview questions. Still, many applicants fail to prepare and consider this question nothing more than an icebreaker. Your answer reveals valuable insight into your goals, priorities, and interests to the interviewer, so preparing a well-structured response can boost your chances. Knowing how to answer “Tell me about yourself” allows you to highlight your most relevant skills and experience and cement your position as the perfect fit for the job. With that in mind, let’s look at some valuable tips that will help you prepare a strong answer.
When interviewers ask this open-ended question, they hope to get insights into the candidates’ goals, values, and overall characteristics. This allows them to understand better who the applicant is as an employee. The answer they receive also shows how confident the candidate is and thus how they would present themselves to the customers and the employer. “Tell me about yourself” gives you, as a job seeker, an opportunity to spotlight the experience and skills that make you the perfect fit for the job. And, since it’s usually one of the first interview questions, it’s also your chance to make a great first impression.
There are two common ways of answering this question. The first approach is primarily chronological, while the second focuses more on skills and abilities. In other words, the first answer lists your work experience from the beginning to current information. On the other hand, the second answer format only touches briefly on work history and focuses mainly on existing strengths, skills, and future career goals.
Each of these approaches may be more or less effective for you, depending on your situation. However, both answer formats are great as long as you focus on the strengths you possess in the key competency areas of the position you’re applying for.
“Tell me about yourself” 5 steps to the best answer
Time needed: 11 minutes
- Tailor your answer to the job
Do thorough research on the company as well as the role beforehand. When answering the interview questions, relate your answers to the job. In essence, focus on what valuable skills you can bring to the table. Apart from that, speak about why you applied for this particular role in the company. A great way to show understanding of the role is to focus on the keywords and values mentioned in the job listing. Then, use the same rhetoric in your answers. This will show that you have done your research and understand what is important for the company.
- Highlight experiences and accomplishments
While telling your story, make sure to spotlight your career’s key accomplishments, experiences, and successes. Whether it’s being promoted, solving a significant problem, or finishing an impressive project, make sure to mention it. Moreover, tie in your accomplishments with how they relate to the job and company. When explaining your achievements, focus on the elements that matter for the job you’re applying for. For example, if the role requires leadership skills, focus on how you led a team to finish a big project. As mentioned before, tailoring your answer is the key.
- Practice your answer
You should be completely confident in and prepared for your elevator pitch. Losing focus or wasting time figuring out what to say next during the interview can make you look uninterested and unprepared. So, make sure you’re able to recite the entire answer without stumbling over words or going off-topic. At the same time, try to make it sound normal and speak naturally.
- Keep it positive
You want to give the best first impression possible. Thus, avoid mentioning things like why you were fired or unemployed. “Tell me about yourself” is one of the first interview questions – use it to highlight your best qualities. Eventually, the interview will progress, and the interviewer will have a solid idea of who you are. Then, you can address the gap in your resume or the reason you are leaving your job. Apart from that, remember to never badmouth your past employers. This will only make you seem unprofessional and rude and put the interviewer off.
- Be honest and be yourself
Being yourself is crucial in a job interview. After all, you want to find a job that you will enjoy and be passionate about. If you answer the interview questions dishonestly to impress the interviewer, you will most likely pay for it later. The job interview is a chance to find out whether you are the right fit for the team and the company culture. Thus, not being truthful can lead to clashes and disagreements later on.
- Prepare additional answers
It doesn’t matter if you’re preparing for your first interview or a seasoned professional. Job interviews are stressful each time – but they don’t have to be! By preparing answers in advance, you can enter the interview feeling more relaxed and at ease. Think of answers to common interview questions that may come up. Most important, focus on those questions that are uncomfortable or hard to answer. For example, find out how to answer “Why are you leaving your current job?” here.
“Tell me about yourself” Sample answers
Here are a few examples of answers to help you get some ideas.
Sample answer 1 – “Tell me about yourself” for students
Sample answer 2 -“Tell me about yourself” for no work experience
Sample answer 3 – “Tell me about yourself” for an experienced candidate
I’ve been working in sales positions for over ten years, primarily as an account executive for major clients. Currently, I work at an agency handling three international technology brands. While I love the work that I do, I am looking for an opportunity to advance my career in a more challenging position. This is why I was thrilled to hear about this job opening at ING [Company Name]. I have been following their breakthroughs in technology development for many years.
Sample answer 4 – administrative assistant
Sample Answer 5 – UX designer
Dos and don’ts when answering “Tell me about yourself”
- Share your expertise – Think of three or four of your best qualities and the times you presented these in your work. First, focus on your most prominent and unique valuable skills. Then, highlight your other strengths throughout the interview.
- Mention past experiences and proven successes – When speaking about your strengths and skills, relate them to your past achievements. Think of quantifiable successes as well as experiences that gave you valuable insights. Moreover, have a story ready to back up any statements about your success or skills.
- Connect your skills to the job description – Read the job listing and focus on the keywords used in the text. Then, include these in your answer. Focus on the skills needed for the role as well as job responsibilities. Moreover, if the company mentions their values, make sure to explain how you connect with these.
- Share too much or too little information – In other words, give the right kind of information. The interviewer doesn’t need to know the details of your life. However, holding back on giving details about your work might make it seem like you are hiding something. Find a balance between the two and avoid sharing unnecessary or personal information.
- Repeat your resume word for word – Most likely, the hiring manager has already read your resume before the interview. Thus, avoid repeating everything that is on your resume. Rather, take this opportunity to spike interest in the interviewer. Make your answer short and concise. Also, share a good combination of professional and personal successes. Think of your answer as a teaser that should make the interviewer want to know more about you.
- Give too many personal details – You will not impress the interviewer with your children’s achievements or political views. Avoid discussing family matters and controversial topics like religion or politics. Apart from that, don’t make it seem your hobbies mean more to you than your work, as this may make you look unreliable.
The way you answer “Tell me about yourself” can help you get off to a great start in the interview. Remember that you don’t have to tell the interviewer every detail of your career in your answer. Instead, be concise. Avoid taking too much time or going into irrelevant details. Simply mention important and relevant information that will pique the interviewer’s interest and expand on them throughout the interview.