How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” (With Examples): Job Interview Question

By Hunter Joyner - Apr. 27, 2022
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If there’s one interview question we can guarantee you’ll hear at a job interview, it’s “tell me about yourself.” While incredibly open-ended and seemingly unimportant, how you answer this early question helps create an impression and sets a tone for the rest of the interview.

We’ll cover why interviewers like to open conversations with these questions, how to approach your answer, and example answers to help pull all our advice together.
how to answer

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

When responding to “tell me about yourself,” start by discussing your recent experience, look back at your recent past, and connect your interests with the job you’re applying for. Let’s go over each step in more detail:

  1. Discuss your recent experience. It’s best to start your answer with a brief description of your current status. If you’re currently employed, mention your job title and the company where you’re working, along with a brief description of recent work you’ve been doing.

    If you’re not currently employed, talk about any recent educational experiences you’ve gone through, volunteer experience you’re actively involved in, or your most recent work history.

  2. Describe your journey. Next, you’ll want to briefly illustrate how you arrived at your current position. You can think of this as how you’d respond to “walk me through your resume,” but more condensed.

    You’ve got the whole interview to discuss details, so all you have to do at this point is touch on one or two of your most impressive and job-relevant achievements in the past few years.

  3. Connect your background with the job. To tie things together in a neat little package, start wrapping your answer up by connecting your experience with the job you’re applying for.

    You can do this by explicitly mentioning how your qualifications match up with the job description or by showing how the job lines up perfectly with your interests.

  4. Talk about the future (optional). Briefly touching on a broader career goal can be a nice cherry on top for showing your personality and ambition, but it isn’t necessary. Plus, there are plenty of other questions you’re likely to hear about your career goals and plans for the next five years.

Example Answers to “Tell Me About Yourself”

Let’s take a look at a few example answers using our main approach, as well as a couple using the alternative method we laid out above:

  1. “Tell me about yourself” sample answer 1: College interview

    I’m from a small town in Maine, so I often had to make my own fun. That’s how I got into creative writing, which started as a hobby but has grown into a full-time passion. I was really lucky to have great teachers in high school who helped enter me into local contests, and it was a real boost to win one in my junior year.

    Outside of writing, I enjoy both listening and playing music in my free time. I just picked up the ukelele, and it’s a lot of fun learning my favorite songs on it. It’s also really handy to bring along to summer camps, where I’ve been a counselor for the past two summers.

  2. “Tell me about yourself” sample answer 2: Research assistant, recent graduate

    I’m currently working as a research assistant in a small lab studying memory in relation to different protein receptors. Most recently, we designed and developed a test of the effect of a new chemical on UTC-1 receptors of rats, the results of which were published in Scientific American in July.

    I became interested in neuroscience and specifically the science of memory in my undergraduate studies and continued on as a graduate student at UNC. I was really excited to see this role open up at ABC Inc. because the labwork and SOPs match up perfectly with my experience, and the research you’re working on is at the forefront of the field, which is right where I want to be.

  3. “Tell me about yourself” sample answer 3: Office job, mid-level management

    Most recently, I worked as an office manager for a mid-sized office supplies company. It was a jack-of-all-trades type role where my general duties were to help generate and qualify leads for the sales team, create cross-team reports for the marketing, product, and sales teams, and ensure consistent scheduling and inventory.

    I grew into this role from a receptionist position, where my duties were more client-facing. One thing that caught my eye in your job posting was that it called for a versatile background like mine, and much of my experience managing XYZ Inc’s office will translate well into the operations manager position here.

  4. “Tell me about yourself” sample answer 4: Graphic designer, skills and hobbies-focused

    I’m a graphic designer by trade and an artist by nature. When I’m not working on digital projects, I’m creating ceramics, working on metallurgical art, or making watercolors. I have a real love for the tactility of visual beauty and I try to bring that synesthesia effect to my digital work as well.

    One of my clients once joked that the logo I designed for her — a crystal orb — looked like something she wanted to hold and roll around in her hands. Those are the kind of comments I love most.

  5. “Tell me about yourself” sample answer 5: Teacher, hobby-focused

    I’ve been teaching for the past 12 years, but education is more than a profession for me. During the summer, I like to travel to a new country and become a student of culture. As a social studies teacher, there’s something special about being able to bring in a personal anecdote when teaching a topic.

    Students who aren’t always interested in the book material will often come alive when I can bring in a story. If me relating a story of two cats fighting outside the Hagia Sophia is enough to help students remember that it’s in Istanbul, I’m happy.

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” — Alternative Method

For some job openings, using the above method might come across as overly stiff and formal. Or it might just not feel like an authentic way for you to approach the answer. In that case, here are a few other great ways to respond to “tell me about yourself:”

  • Discussing a hobby that shows your creative side

  • Identifying an interest in health, fitness, sports, etc.

  • Recalling cultural experiences like travel, art, music, etc.

  • Bringing up social activism and volunteer work near to your heart

  • Mentioning intellectual pursuits like independent study, puzzle games, reading, etc.

  • Mentioning hobbies that speak to your love of nature like bird-watching, hiking, kayaking, etc.

If you research a company and learn that one or more of the above topics fits with its culture, values, and/or mission statement, it can make for a very effective answer to “tell me about yourself.”

Why Interviewers Ask “Tell Me About Yourself”

Hiring managers often begin interviews with “tell me about yourself” as a way of breaking the ice and allowing the candidate time for a brief introduction. Interviewers want to hear how you describe your background as a way of figuring out how relevant it is to the job you’re applying for.

“Tell me about yourself” is also the first test of your ability to answer open-ended questions in a way that covers important points without rambling on forever. For example, bringing up your love of fantasy novels might be great if you’re applying for role designing art concepts for a video game, but is certainly inappropriate to include in an interview for an accountant position.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

Before you start developing your own answer, make sure you’re not committing any major no-no’s. Here are some common mistakes to avoid as you go about answering this question at a job interview:

  • Don’t share personal information that has nothing to do with the job you’re interviewing for.

  • Don’t take a really long time answering.

  • Don’t discuss your childhood or irrelevant stories that don’t showcase your value as an employee.

  • Don’t talk about politics, or politicized subjects like war, the police, prisons, etc.

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.

Tips for Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

  • Bring a blend of professional and personal. We outlined two ways of approaching your response to “tell me about yourself,” but a really strong answer will blend the two seamlessly. In discussing your professional achievements, indicate what personal qualities helped you accomplish them.

    When discussing your personal interests, tie them into relevant professional qualities. This way, the interviewer can learn about your personality and background in one efficient answer.

  • Keep your answer short. Remember that this is the opening question of a much longer job interview. Pace yourself and save some content for later on. Plus, if you overwhelm the interviewer with too much information, they’re less likely to absorb the really important stuff.

  • Be authentic. It’s hard to be 100% real with an interviewer, but you want to come across in as genuine a way as possible. If a stuffy, professionally-minded answer doesn’t feel like you, then don’t answer that way. At the end of the day, you want to be hired for who you actually are. Otherwise, you probably won’t be very happy at your new job.

Final Thoughts

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 endpoint in mind will help you talk about yourself without going too off track.

And remember to prepare your response. Prepare multiple responses. Just make sure that you’re prepared. Practice your answer until you’re extremely confident.

What’s a good tip for when the interviewer asks “Tell me about yourself.”

James Weinstein
Career Counselor
Jim Weinstein – Top Career Counselor in Washington D.C.

Prepare a list of key talking points that address precisely what the organization is looking for. This is particularly important at the start of the interview. Too many people respond to “Tell me about yourself” (the most common interview question) with a recitation of their resume rather than focusing in on what the candidate brings to the table that is most relevant to the potential employer.

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Hunter Joyner

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