“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.
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How to answer “Tell me about yourself” in an interview
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.
Five steps to answer the “Tell us about yourself” interview question
Your answer gives away a lot, so you want to be as prepared and confident as possible to make a good impression on the interviewer. Consider these tips when crafting your response:
How to answer “Tell us about yourself” in an interview
- 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 impressive 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 finishing 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.
5x “Tell me about yourself”, sample answers
Here are examples of how great answers to “tell me about yourself” would look like.
- Fresh graduates and students
- Candidates with no work experience
- Candidates with work experience
- Administrative assistant
- UX Designer
Sample answer for a student
I graduated from Holmes University this September, and I’m excited to step into my career in event planning and management. I’ve had a passion for arranging memorable events ever since high school. In my junior year, I planned and organized the school prom, which turned out to have record attendance, and was 15% under the budget. I also worked part-time at a local animal shelter throughout school, handling fundraising events and social media management, where I grew our following and raised funds for the organization. I realized that putting on events that have a positive impact was a major motivator for me. While I’ve always wanted to work in event planning, I know there was still a lot for me to learn about the business side of things, which is why I attended an extra business administration course in the last year of my studies. Now, I am eager to support great causes and bring positive change full-time by assisting with event planning at your company.
Sample answer for a candidate with no experience
I recently graduated from the University of New York with a B.A. in International Business Relationships. During my time there, I gained extensive knowledge in such as corporate communication and administration, international economics, business governance and law, and others. I also acted as the student government representative with a 3.9 GPA maintained throughout the 4 years of my study. I’ve worked hard in my studies and am excited to now put everything I’ve learned into practice. Although I have no formal work experience, I have been exposed to the corporate world extensively. In fact, many of my courses were based on working with partner companies to overcome real corporate challenges. I’m now hoping to put all I’ve learned in school to good use and gain real-world business experience at your company.
“Tell Me About Yourself” sample answer 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 for an administrative assistant
I have been working as a secretary for six years. At my current job, I handle event and travel planning, scheduling, and bookkeeping for three executives and a team of 35 employees at a midsize company. Additionally, I perform ad hoc tasks such as stakeholder correspondence, reports, and presentation preparation. I’m a detail-oriented team player with strong organizational and analytical skills that allow me to juggle multiple projects at once. I’d be delighted to advance in my career and put my experience to use in an industry that I am passionate about, which is why I am excited about the opportunity to join your company.
Sample answer for a UX Designer
I have always enjoyed the design and pursued my passion throughout my life, starting with designing high school posters and later college websites and information pamphlets. In my most recent position at Salesforce [Current Company], I specialized in UX and website design. For the past 5 years, I have been working with some of the most influential companies in the tech and gaming industry and helped them create a design that attracts new customers. I applied for this job upon seeing UX and UI design as the key competency. I believe that thanks to my extensive experience, I could help you improve the conversion of your products and help you tap into new markets. One of my major achievements in [Previous Company] was optimizing products for 5 foreign markets successfully, and I believe I could help your company get similar results.
What are the 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.