To get the conversation started, open-ended interview questions or prompts such as “Tell me about yourself” are typically used at the beginning of in-person or video interviews. “Walk me through your resume,” “tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your résumé,” and “explain yourself” are some more examples.
These questions are likely to be asked at every step of the interview, from the phone screen through the final rounds. It’s normal to be confused by their vagueness, and it might be difficult to determine what the interviewer truly wants to know. However, you have an opportunity here since your interviewer is enabling you to pick how to reply.
This page provides advice on what to avoid saying in your response to the “tell me about yourself” interview prompt, how to structure your response, and how to get started, as well as thorough “tell me about yourself” sample replies.
Why do employers inquire? “”Please tell me about yourself.”
“Tell me about yourself,” or similar questions, are typical at the start of interviews since they ease both you and the interviewer into the situation. It allows the interviewer to hear a brief description of your history and talents, providing insight into the experience and qualifications you believe are most relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
Employers are also aware that, while being a regular interview topic, it has the potential to fluster or stall candidates. By answering this question well, you establish the tone for the interview as someone who is confident, good under pressure, and attentive to the position’s prerequisites.
Some interviewers may treat this question as an icebreaker, utilising your response to begin informal discussion in order to get to know you better, but others may proceed immediately to other interview questions once you respond.
Prepare your response
Even with basic interview questions, it might be difficult to begin constructing an answer. Here are a few things to ask yourself while you explore ways to reply and frame your response to keep you on track:
What characteristics make you a good fit for this position? Consider what makes you stand out as a job candidate for this position. Perhaps it’s your years of experience, or a highly sought-after speciality, training, or technical talents. Examine the job description carefully and make a list of the areas in which you surpass the standards.
Why are you interested in this position? Consider why this position interests you, how it fits into your overall career objectives, and why you believe it is the best next step.
What piques your interest in the firm or industry? After researching the firm and the industry, you should have a greater understanding of the mission, goals, and trends affecting the sector. Do these correspond to the professional objectives you’ve established for yourself? What do you like and value about the firm as a whole? What excites you about the industry’s future? As you begin to write your CV, look for parallels between your professional aspirations, the company’s future vision, and industry trends that you believe are particularly relevant.
What good skills or characteristics do you have that will help you succeed in this role? Have your friends or coworkers, for example, described you as very organised? Curious? Entrepreneurial? Generous? Consider how you’ve long perceived yourself or how others perceive you. Then consider current instances in your life when you exemplified that attribute.
Is there anything special about your history that distinguishes you from other applicants? As previously said, this is one of the most often asked interview questions. As a result, interviewers have heard this response several times. Try to think of anything that would pique the interviewer’s interest. When applying for a developer position, for example, saying something like, “I’ve been developing computers since I was 8 years old,” is likely to have an interviewer’s ears perk up.
How to Respond to “Tell me about yourself”
The tone of the interview may be determined by how you react to the “tell me about yourself” question. Overall, when you rehearse your response, you want to be able to tell a terrific tale about yourself in two minutes or less. Do the following in your response:
1. Mention previous experiences and shown accomplishments that are relevant to the position. Begin by going over the job description again. Make a list of the necessary talents you possess and identify recent acts that illustrate them (review the STAR method to practise telling great stories in your interviews). Ideally, you should depend mostly on recent professional experience; but, volunteer activities may help enhance your story while displaying your community engagement.
2. Think about how your present employment connects to the one you’re looking for. Is it a more senior position? If yes, describe how you are increasing your duties in your present role. Describe how your present abilities translate into the new position if you are making a lateral shift to a role that requires different talents.
3. Concentrate on talents and abilities that you can back up with examples. When you begin writing the script for each example, pay attention to elements and results that you can quantify if possible. For example, mentioning that you “enhanced customer service” has less effect than expressing that you “raised customer service response rates by 10% to 15% each quarter.” If you don’t have specific knowledge, make an educated guess.
4. To break the ice, emphasise your individuality. Because the “tell me about yourself” interview question is intended to get to know you, it’s a good idea to share your personality with the interviewer—but not personal information. You may wish to include briefly activities that exhibit intellectual growth and/or community involvement (e.g., reading, music, sports league, volunteering) or those that demonstrate personal discipline and success (e.g., learning a new skill, training for a half marathon). Discussing personal hobbies is a fantastic method to round out your response while being professional.
5. Organize your response. To ensure that your response is clear and succinct, make sure you structure it according to a framework or formula. There are two popular formulae to consider:
Past, Present, and Future
Previous, Present, and Future
Both of these formulae are valid for your response, but you may choose one over the other depending on the positions in your experience that are most relevant to the position you’re looking for. For example, if your most recent employment emphasised many of the abilities and attributes necessary for the position you’re applying for, you might choose to start with the present. However, if you’re considering a career change and your previous experience is more relevant to the role than your present position, you might want to start there.
Answers to the question “tell me about yourself”
Although each person’s “tell me about yourself” response will be different, seeing a sample might be beneficial at times. Here are a couple short scripts that demonstrate how this inquiry may emphasise someone’s skills while producing good outcomes in less than two minutes:
Example No. 1
“I started my career in retail management, but I was pulled to the health care industry a few years ago.” I’ve always been good at bringing people together and getting them to work toward a similar objective. My experience effectively leading teams and managing stores prompted me to try administration, and I’ve spent the last four years creating a career as a motivated health administrator.
“In my present work at XYZ Medical Center, office efficiency has been a personal priority, particularly in terms of patient results.” I create and manage department budget and patient volume targets. Last year, I collaborated with our IT department to put in place a communication system for scheduling processes and regulations to guarantee that all departments had appropriate staffing at all times. We boosted communication efficiency by 20% thanks to our new online scheduling platform.
“I conduct monthly meetings with physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to be updated about their continuing problems.” In my work, I also supervise the center’s marketing and promotion initiatives. I’ve been enjoying that aspect of my job, and I’m really excited about bringing my experience and dedication to efficiency to the ABC Health team.
“When I’m not at work, I’m an ardent reader and hiker.” On weekends, you could find me in the neighbourhood bookshop or exploring nearby hiking trails.”
Example No. 2
“I’ve been interested in design since I was a child.” When I was in high school, my parents remodelled their home and let me participate in the interior design ideas. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a profession in interior design. I graduated from Savannah College of Art & Design four years ago after studying interior design.
“I’ve been working for an interior design business in Savannah, Georgia, since college.” I was able to grow my portfolio throughout my stay there by creating both residential and business venues. My time with the company has helped me to hone my skills in billing and cutting-edge technology while also allowing me to develop good contacts with local vendors. Working in Savannah’s historic structures has been the most enjoyable aspect of my employment. This experience has exposed me to best-in-class building preservation practises.
“In the future, I would like to work for a design business that specialises in the design and preservation of old structures, such as yours.” “I feel that my knowledge and enthusiasm for preservation will make me an excellent addition to your design team.”
“Right now, I work as a waitress at XYZ Restaurant.” I’ve been there for a little more than two years. My duties include greeting and seating clients, calculating wait times, completing to-go orders, and answering phones. I enjoy the vibrant and bustling atmosphere of XYZ Restaurant, where we frequently have one-hour or longer wait periods on Friday and Saturday.
“I worked as a floor associate in retail for a year before starting at XYZ Restaurant. As I was always aiding clients in the shop, this work truly honed my customer service abilities. It also gave me the skills to function in a team setting.
“As a hostess at a restaurant, I want to improve my customer service and problem-solving abilities.” I’m particularly interested in your restaurant since it has a superb reputation for providing first-rate customer service to your guests while being in a lively and dynamic setting.”
“Tell me about yourself” essentially means “what do you want the interviewer to remember about you?” By correctly answering this opening question, you get the ability to establish a positive first impression and shape the rest of the interview to your advantage.
Dos and don’ts when answering the question “tell me about yourself” in an interview
To summarise, here is a list of ways to respond to this popular interview question, as well as topics to avoid.
Connect personal strengths to instances of how they might be used to help others.
Keep your response to no more than two minutes.
Concentrate on specifics and consequences that can be quantified.
Discuss what distinguishes you from other candidates.
Mention previous experiences and triumphs.
Align your existing work duties with the role.
Avoid discussing personal details such as your marital status, children, or political or religious beliefs.
Emphasize your own personality.
Avoid jumping into further in-depth discussions about the position and the organisation.
Match your abilities to the job description.
Mention your interests, intellectual development, and community participation briefly.
Make a note of an example response and practise it.
Mention sensitive facts such as marital status, children, political or religious connections, and so forth. These are sensitive issues that may work against you as a candidate, not to mention that such facts should not be considered by the employer when judging your capacity to execute the job.
List a number of broad, ambiguous strengths with no instances to back them up. Instead, pick two or three characteristics about yourself. Support each with short, polished anecdotes based on your job experience.
Write down your response. While it is important to rehearse and memorise your major points, you do not want to memorise your answer word for word because it may appear robotic and artificial.
Make a word-for-word summary of your resume. Instead, focus on key aspects pertinent to the job.
Do not rush into discussions about what you want in the position or how the firm might benefit you—save such subjects for the last phases of the interview process, when they are sold on you as a candidate and you have more negotiating power.