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

Also known as “The World’s Most Ambiguous Interview Question…Ever”.

Hunter Joynerby Hunter JoynerGet The Job, Guides - 11 months ago

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.

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

How you answer this question is very important because it:

  • Sets the tone for the rest of the interview
  • Acts as an easy way to break the ice and get the interview started
  • Gives you the chance to take control of the interview from the beginning
  • Can ruin your chances of getting a job, if you give a bad answer

Find A Job Based On Your Major
We analyzed millions of resumes to determine what jobs people with your major are most likely to land right out of college.

We’re here to help you prepare a proper response. Let’s get started.

What Are Employers Looking To Hear?

Employers 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

We’re here to help you figure out the best response to this interview question.

How To Answer

The DO’s:

  • Talk about relevant skills
  • Tell them what you can do to help their company
  • Discuss your previous experiences and what experience you hope to gain in the future
  • Talk about your excellent track record as an employee
  • Relate your answer to the job requirements
  • Keep it relatively short and concise
  • Deliver your answer confidently, and telling funny (but relevant) stories is a good way to stand out and show them your personality

The DO NOT’s:

  • 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

Now we’ll run through some examples of how to properly respond to the world’s most ambiguous interview question, and how you shouldn’t respond to it.

Real, Actual Examples!

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

Response Example 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.”

Response Example 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.”

Response Example 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 the savage, ambiguous question 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.

Bad Examples of How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

Let’s say that you’re applying for a new nursing position.

“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.”

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.

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.”

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.

“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.”

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 DO NOT’s from up above.

You Are Learned Now

Go out into the real, job-filled world and spread those wings baby. Now you know how to answer this wide open question, as well as how not to answer it.

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

Facebook Discussion

Why Zippia is Better

Zippia empowers you to make the correct career decisions, not just find your next job.

You can access millions of others' career paths with the Career Graph to help you identify what skills and experiences you need to achieve your career goals. And when you're ready to take the next step in your career, you can research jobs and really understand the implications for your career aspirations.