Tell me about yourself! This interview question is a common icebreaker question that interviewers and hiring managers use to start interview sessions. It presents the opportunity for a job candidate to introduce themselves. And can set the tone for the remainder of the interview.
As a job interview starts, it could be uncomfortable if a hiring manager jumps immediately into qualifying questions. It could make the candidate feel uncomfortable. And set the remainder of the interview in a bad position. Instead, the interviewer will say, “Tell me about yourself.” And provide the candidate an opportunity to present their professional history.
This is an open-ended question is a common way for job interviews to begin. And allows an interviewer to get to know you quickly. Watch out! The way this question is answered can dictate which job interview questions are going to be asked.
Why does an interviewer ask this?
To know more about you. And want to see how you can present yourself professionally. It’s important to answer this question with confidence. A professional who answers this interview question with ease displays high verbal communication skills. And that can be important for team collaboration. Or when leading teams. Also, this first impression can tell the interviewer a lot about what questions to ask. For example, a professional who shares customer service experiences. Then the interviewer might ask interview questions about project management. For the interviewer, they’ll be looking to hire a well-rounded professional. And that’s how the interview might be directed.
As the interviewer uses this to measure communication skills, it’s a vital part of the process. It helps them to understand how you might communicate with colleagues or clients if you get the job.
Tip: Think through the response when answering “tell me about yourself” in advance. Never try to answer “tell me about yourself” on-the-fly. It can create a stressful situation for the candidate.
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
This interview question is an open-ended question. And requires the candidate to be prepared with a professional story about themselves. The absolute best way to answer is to use an elevator pitch style format. An elevator pitch is a 60-second to 90-second monologue that tells someone the basic concept of a story. To make sure the elevator pitch is accurate and targeted to the company, follow the steps below. And learn how to answer this interview question.
The interviewer might use another question to start the conversation. The question “Tell me about yourself” can be a variation of “Who are you?” Or “What brings you here?” When a job seeker hears a question like this, then the interviewer will want a response like the following.
Eliminate the idea of a personal story
This interview question doesn’t prompt a life story or the sharing of personal information. And as we begin looking at how to structure an appropriate response to this job interview question. Avoid sharing any information related to a personal story. That includes information about college attendance, sports teams, test scores, or other personal accolades.
The interviewer is looking for work experience. Not all candidates will have prior work experience that’s fitting for the job. In this case, the candidate should tell stories about their professional passions. Or about personal projects that fit with the job or job description.
For the interviewer, this question is about learning who you are as a professional. A few facts about yourself are okay to share. For example, where you might spend your time on the weekends. It’s okay to share as long as it’s related to the job. A portion of the answer example would be, “On the weekends, you’ll find me reading books about management. Or reading about project management.”
Research the company
Knowing about the company, and the role can be a great way to target the elevator pitch and interview answer. For example, if the company values collaboration. Then it would be best to share previous experience and professional stories that allude to valuing collaboration.
Job seekers should know the company values, company work culture, and have read through the job description before constructing a response.
The objective of researching the company is to get the opportunity to align passions, interests, and skills to what the company values. Gather at least three bullet points about what the interviewer could be looking for in an ideal candidate. It can be assistive in choosing the appropriate information to tell about yourself.
Research the role
Aside from the company, the role is important. It can help to review the job description in detail. This way, when relative work experience isn’t available, job seekers can refer to aspects of the job. For example, let’s presume a candidate was applying for a role as a barista. And had no prior experience. In the interview, the candidate can describe the prior professional retail experience. And speak to the customer service requirements of the job.
The candidate would say something like, “I started my career at Best Buy, where I was able to obtain keen customer service skills.”
Look through the job description for keywords. Keywords like customer service or attention to detail are common keywords. These keywords can provide helpful insights into structuring a targeted interview response.
Make sure to write this information down for reference!
Gather background information
To leave a good first impression upon the interviewer, it’s best to go back in time at the beginning of the answer. How far back in time is up to job seekers. It’s advised to keep the time period to more recent events, which is easier to remember. Starting from childhood can be more difficult to remember.
It’s important to gather previous work experience, professional projects, or other professional accomplishments. And write down the time those accomplishments were made. This will help to construct the response in the appropriate elevator pitch format.
Job seekers who constructed a resume or cover letter for their job search can use that as a point of reference. It’s advised not to recite the cover letter. Or repeat multiple facts or accomplishments that have already gotten listed on the cover letter.
To gather information about the company, look through their social media presence. This includes Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Learn how the company speaks about its products and services. Also, review press releases, the company “about us” page, and investor reports.
Put together a response
During the interview, when the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” That means they want to know who you are as a professional. To structure an appropriate answer to this question, begin with your professional background. And then lead up to your current job or most recent job. Then the new job that you’re looking for or the next step in your career.
Here’s what the answer should look like when broken down in seconds:
- First 15 seconds: Speak about your career progression. How it began and significant experiences. Share a relevant present/past experience.
- Within 30 seconds: Describe the current role you’re in. And what it’s teaching you. Or why it’s important to this upcoming position you’re applying for. It’s okay to include relevant hobbies or interests that are applicable to the job. Describe proven successes.
- Within 60 seconds: Finish by describing how all the experience will make you an ideal candidate. And what aspects of the job are appealing. Focus on values rather than selling your skills. Include a fun fact about yourself or your skills.
Optional: Prepare a follow-up question
After the answer is complete, it can help to ask if the interviewer has any questions about your background. This way, if the manager wants to know more about your professional history and experience, there’s ample opportunity to follow-up. After answering this question, say, “I can go into more detail if you’d like. Let me know if that’s a good start for our conversation.”
“Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answers
During the interview, when the interviewer asks, “tell me about yourself,” here are sample answers. Use these as an example when answering “tell me about yourself.”
“No Experience” Sample answer
Example answer: “Well, I began my career in retail. What drove me to retail is being close to products and services that I care about. I need to care about the products I sell to people. I’ve noticed I wanted to start my career with a few years of experience in customer service. I believe this will be impactful for me as I pursue the technology industry. That’s why I’m here. This company clearly cares about people. And wants to provide a great service. I’ve read about the CEO’s mission, and it resonates deeply with me. On the weekends, you might find me reading books, watching movies, or spending time learning to code.”
Example answer: “I just graduated from college with a 3.9 GPA. In school, I was part of my investment club. And entrepreneurship club. These two clubs really define me as a professional. If I had free time, I would be spending it thinking about new business ventures and investments. That led me to pursue my first internship. An internship where I could learn more about public markets. I found myself at Speed Capital. A high-speed trading firm. From there, I learned about financial analysis and software development. This became a passion of mine. On the weekends, I spend my time reviewing charts, financial statements, and other instruments. All this work led me to this opportunity. A world-class trading firm. I’d love to get the opportunity to trade ideas with other investors and traders.”
Sample answer with experience
Example answer: “I began my career in technology at the age of 20. Over time, I progressed to working at Apple. There, I was able to increase sales by 23%. It was that experience that taught me I could use my engineering skills in combination with sales. From there, I progressed to Facebook. At Facebook, I was able to apply my communication skills to really make a difference in the way projects were managed. And that’s led me here. This is an opportunity where I could get the opportunity to learn more about being in a leadership position. One fun fact about me is that I surf on the weekends. And enjoy gardening.”
Example answer: “I’ve spent several years in accounting. My last position was with Warner and Warner. We worked primarily with tax accountants. And assisted them with their quarterly objectives. I don’t have a lot of companies on my resume. This is because I was thrilled working with my last manager Mr. Handcock. I decided to move on from the firm. Because I was looking for an opportunity to learn more about the client relationship side of the business. That’s something that will assist me with my aspirations and can be a pivotal part of my career development. On the weekends, I enjoy golfing, gardening, and finding time away from numbers.”
How NOT to answer this interview question
Avoid telling personal stories. Or irrelevant stories. This includes stories from college. Or anything that might tell the interviewer that you’re untrustworthy or irresponsible. It’s okay to share fun facts or skills about yourself. Avoid long stories that take more than two-minutes to share.
Example answers of how not to respond to the interview question, “tell me about yourself.”
Poor answer example
“I don’t have years of experience in this position. And if I had to describe myself, I would say I’m an athlete. In college, I was a basketball champion. And this set the tone for my career. I can compete. And when it comes to really compete in the market, I know I can bring the best experience. On the weekends, I’m often hanging out with friends. And one thing you’ll see me doing is being on my boat. Enjoying music.”
More examples of good answers
More good example answers to “tell me about yourself.” Remember, these are only sample answers. Never use them verbatim for any interview.
Example answer: “My career began in the software engineering position. I spend several years learning about distributed systems and data analytics. Throughout those years, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to pursue my passions and expand my knowledge of engineering. My resume might look light in terms of previous positions, but I had the opportunity to make several iOS applications. Applications that won multiple awards. My work is my passion. On the weekends, I spend time learning about software and systems. That’s why I’m pursuing this position. This position, it’s clearly one where I can apply my knowledge of computer systems. And get the opportunity to be exposed to the marketing side of our work.”
Example answer: “I got interested in computers when I was really young. Computers were always something that attracted me. I loved the idea that we could put our ideas and thoughts into a machine and get a visual back. This brought me into college, where I was able to apply myself to my computer science education. And that brought me to my first opportunity as an intern. I worked with Apple. At Apple, I assisted with the development of iOS 11. And that accomplishment made me want to pursue a professional career in software. That’s what brought me to this wonderful company. Its world-class engineering team is something I’m passionate about. I would love to get to know more about the projects the team is working on.”
“Tell Me About Yourself” Job Interview Tips
Basic tips to follow to ensure a good delivery of the answer.
Keep it short
Don’t ramble. Keep the interview response to under 2-minutes. This will keep the interviewer engaged. And ensures the answer is structured correctly. Practice with friends or family before the interview.
Maintain eye contact
Looking away from the interviewer. And losing eye contact can display uncomfortable body language. And that can lead to a lack of confidence. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer as the answer is recited.
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