3 Tips to Answering the Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

Our complete guide to telling someone about yourself during your next big job interview.

Ryan Morrisby Ryan MorrisGet The Job, Guides - 2 months ago

“So, tell me about yourself.”

This is one of those “questions in the form of a demand” that job interviewers seem to be so fond of.

The question is one of many that has to do with who you are separated from your work or career.

Specifically, if required to spend multiple hours in the same room day in and day out — are you, like, a cool person? Or what?

Making yourself seem interesting, or at least not annoying, to someone you barely know can be a struggle to many of us.

Fortunately, your friends here at Zippia have put together a guide to help you figure out just that.


What Are They Really Asking?

When someone wants you to tell them about yourself, the answer that they’re looking for isn’t as cut-and-dried as it might be with other questions.

By this point, they know your qualifications, your past work, your education history, your general skills, and all that other stuff.

They’ve probably made up their minds at this point about whether or not you’re qualified enough to do the job, one way or another.

What they’re wondering here is “do I really want to work with this person?”

It’s important to remember that a lot of the time, you’re getting hired by someone who you’re going to work closely with. That means that, in order to convince them that you’re someone they can spend a lot of time with in close quarters, you’ll need to connect with them on a personal level.

Sure, sometimes if the company is large enough or if you go through a staffing company, there will be some kind of hiring manager who’s largely unconnected to the work you’ll be doing.

But even then, they’ll have some idea of the company culture that any potential hire would be entering into, and it’s their job to make sure that you fit into that culture.

One way or another, it’s time to let that good old personality of yours shine.

2. How to Answer the Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

When it comes to telling an interviewer about yourself, it’s important to remember what your ultimate goal is.

Long term, you want to be hired, but in order to accomplish that, then in the short term you need to do your best to look like the kind of person that someone would want to have in their company.

That means making yourself look like someone who already works at and fits in with the company. Fake it until you make it.

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding what parts of your life to bring up in front of your interviewer:

  • Start with your personal life when you begin talking about yourself. Any good story requires context — the story of who you are now, in order to make sense to a stranger requires the context of where you’ve come from. Just don’t spend too long on this part. Stick to the basics.
  • Good topics for discussing your personal life include: skill-based interests (like crafts), exercise-based interests (like hiking or rock climbing), entertainment-based interests (could be anything, but if your interests here are a little out there, be aware of how you might come across to a stranger), and any hobbies you might have or side jobs you might hold.
  • Don’t forget to talk about your working life and skills as well. It’s important to show the way that your work life intertwines with your personal life — what made you interested in this sort of work? When did you start doing it? No need to go into long-term goals here, unless they ask (that’s usually the answer to a different interview question).
  • Do your best to try to engage here with your interviewer. Everyone’s different and it’s okay to have different interests, but here, you want to do your best to highlight the interests you might have in common. Sports, for example, are usually an easy one to connect with people on.

3. Topics to Avoid While Talking About Yourself in a Job Interview

Just as there are wonderful topics, there are some things you might bring up in an interview that might make you seem — well — like a less than desirable candidate.

What those topics are can vary from interviewer to interviewer, but there are quite a few things you should pretty clearly avoid.

Remember, you’re trying to strike a major balancing act here — you have to stand out to your employer if you want to be noticed over other candidates.

But you need to show you can fit in, too, if you want to work for an existing team.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide how NOT to portray yourself to your interviewer:

  • Don’t talk about politics, or politicized subjects like war, the police, prisons, or other things like that. It’s important later on that you feel as though you’re able to discuss your opinions on these things, but that’s something you should be scoping out separately — here, you’re trying to show that you know how to read a room.
  • It’s okay to bring up personal subjects, but try not to go TOO personal. For example, if the death of a recent family member has affected you, that’s fine to bring up, but refer to it vaguely and talk more about the positive ways you’ve reacted — if you start talking about the specifics of a loved one’s death and your grief, you’re going to weird people out.
  • Don’t trash your old company or boss. Even if this is a major part of why you’re moving jobs, it’s just going to make you seem ungrateful and untrustworthy to your new place.
  • Lastly, try not to go too offtopic in general. You want to stay on task as much as you can — the more tangents you go down, the less interested the hiring manager is going to be in hearing about you and your life, and the less likely they are to hire you as a consequence.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all for this one! Just keep in mind:

The biggest thing to remember when it comes to telling a hiring manager about yourself is that, at the end of the day, you’re telling someone a story.

That story ought to have a beginning, a middle, and most importantly, an end.

Make sure that, whatever you decide to bring up about yourself, you take the time to frame it effectively.

Take the time to set up the story with any information that you think is necessary to understand everything else you’re about to say, and when it comes time to end it, try not to just stop talking out of nowhere.

It’s worth it for you to spend time beforehand thinking about the main point you want to end on when you’re talking about yourself — it’s fine to improvise, but having an end point in mind will help you talk about yourself without going too offtrack.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips to Answering the Question “Why Should We Hire You?”
3 Tips for Identifying the Worst Companies to Work For
3 Big Tips to Deciding What’s a Good Salary For Yourself

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