How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” (With Examples)

By Hunter Joyner - Jan. 25, 2021
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You walk into a small, yet comfortable office space and take a seat at the desk.

The hiring manager looks you up and down from the other side of the desk, shakes your hand, and says, “Nice to meet you. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Boom. He just got right down to business. It’s one of the most common interview questions, and you can expect to hear it during the interview process.

Normally you would clam up, frantically trying to figure out how to answer this ambiguous question. But not today.

“Tell me about yourself” gets the interview going by:

  • Setting the tone for the rest of the interview

  • Acting as an easy way to break the ice and get the interview started

  • Giving you the chance to take control of the interview from the beginning

  • Ruining your chances of getting a job, if you give a bad answer

We’re here to help you prepare a proper response to avoid that last part.

Let’s get started.

Why Interviewers Ask “Tell Me About Yourself”

Recruiters and hiring managers are generally looking for several things when they ask this question. They want to:

  • Get to know you as a person and what interests you

  • See how you react to a question without structure

  • Get a feel for your skills and how you can benefit their company

Interviewees are nervous, but so are interviewers. This question can lead to a more natural conversation, rather than a session composed of nothing but questions and answers.

Beyond that, they also want to learn about how you characterize your strengths and weaknesses, what accomplishments you prize the most, and get a general feel for your qualifications before diving into behavioral interview questions.

Additionally, 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 or recruiter 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.

Finally, be prepared with answers to similar variations of this question, like “Walk me through your resume” or “Tell me more about your background.”

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

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

While there’s no definitive correct answer to open-ended interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” there are some essential things you want to keep in mind when answering this question:

  • Talk about relevant skills. Like all of the most common interview questions, rule #1 is to keep your answer relevant to the position you’re applying for. After all, the recruiter is trying to figure out if you’re a good fit, and each question and answer furthers this purpose.

  • Tell them what you can do to help their company. You can talk about how you became interested in the industry or the company to give the interviewer more insight into your career goals. If you come off as passionate about your work in this answer, you’ll stand out from the very beginning of the interview.

  • Past, present, future. A good strategy to follow when answering is to keep things chronological: how did your past experiences get you here, what are your recent accomplishments and current qualifications, and how do you hope to advance in your career? (Bonus points if you can tie the position you’re interviewing for into the “future” element of this strategy).

  • Talk about your excellent track record as an employee. This is part of the “past” section of the above strategy. You can talk generally about soft skills that serve you well, like excellent communication or top-notch organization; whatever you feel is most relevant for the position.

  • Relate your answer to the job requirements. Read the job description a few times to develop the best answer possible. If you can incorporate a couple of choice keywords into your answer, you’ll be on your way to a winning answer.

  • Keep it relatively short and concise. This is not autobiography time.

  • Deliver your answer confidently. Telling funny (but relevant) stories is a good way to stand out and show them your personality. Just remember that everyone’s idea of “funny” is different, so keep your humor as safe and mainstream as possible.

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.

Example Answers to “Tell Me About Yourself”

Now we’ll run through some examples of how to properly respond to the world’s most ambiguous interview question.

Let’s pretend that you’re applying for a new business analyst job. Here are three examples of how to properly answer this interview question:

  1. “Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answer 1

    “Well — I’ve been working for the past five years as a business and data analyst with IBM in Raleigh, North Carolina. During that time I’ve undergone multiple training courses, earned a number of certifications, and gained extensive software knowledge.”

  2. “Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answer 2

    “To generally describe myself, I would say I’m a hard-working individual that has gained a lot of skills over the course of the six years I’ve been working in the business analyst industry. I’ll share a quick story with you that further explains what I can bring to the table for your company.”

  3. “Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answer 3

    “I’m now looking to take my career to the next level. After being in the field for ten years, I feel I’m ready to take control of an entire team and to embrace the difficult role of being the next business development director for your company.”

And just like that, you’ve conquered one of the most common interview questions that used to plague you in job interviews. If you’re a recent college graduate, with almost no work experience, you can still answer the question successfully using these examples.

Instead of discussing what you’ve accomplished at previous jobs, discuss what you learned and accomplished in your internships and throughout your college career.

Give examples, or tell a story that mentions your unique skills and what you’ve learned so far in school.

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

Before you start crafting 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 be dreadfully boring or 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, or other things like that.

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.

Bad Example Answers to “Tell Me About Yourself”

Let’s say that you’re applying for a new nursing position. Let’s look at three bad answers to illustrate exactly what you should avoid:

  1. “Tell Me About Yourself” BAD Answer 1

    “Well — I was born in Dallas, Texas. I’m the first of seven children raised on an armadillo farm. I love animals, and people are okay.”

    Why it’s a bad answer: Uh oh. You just started rambling, and while doing so you began discussing irrelevant personal details of your life. The details you’re explaining don’t have anything to do with the job you’re applying for. Oh, and you’re boring the employer to death already.

  2. “Tell Me About Yourself” BAD Answer 2

    “I attended Rocksburg University, graduated with my nursing degree, and now I’m here, desperately searching for a job. I live over in the East Cheshire apartments off Highway 86. I’m a huge wine connoisseur. I attended 39 wine sampling events last month. I almost never drink reds though. I also love cooking. If you have a favorite type of cake, I can whip it up in no time.”

    Why it’s a bad answer: The employer does not care where you live…at all. It’s also inappropriate to talk about your love for alcohol here. And, the employer doesn’t want a cake from you — at this point they just want the interview to be over.

  3. “Tell Me About Yourself” BAD Answer 3

    “I feel I’m the perfect candidate for the new nursing position here even though I have no prior work experience. I know how to take blood, monitor patients, and I have excellent people skills. If you give me a chance, I’ll prove I’m the perfect candidate for the job.”

    Why it’s a bad answer: You only began to discuss your relevant skills in the last section of your answer. That’s not good. Your entire answer should have been riddled with skills and experiences that would aid you in being successful at the job you’re applying for.

    Wow. That was rough. You almost successfully integrated all of the mistakes from up above.

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 offtrack.

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

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Hunter Joyner

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Hunter Joyner

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