How to answer the tell me about yourself question in interview
“Tell me about yourself” is one of those questions that interviewers use to put you at your ease.
Yet it does exactly the opposite.
When interviewers say: “tell me about yourself” people tend to go: “blah blah blah,” or blurt the first thing that comes to mind.
If you do this, it’s very bad news. You’ll find out why shortly.
To help you answer the “tell me about yourself” question without a babble or a brain snap, in this post I’ll give you:
1) 5 key tips to help you master “tell me about yourself” in a way that will have the interviewer lean in to say “tell me more.”
2) An easy yet powerful structure to follow to answer tell me about yourself.
3) Samples and examples to help you understand the different ways you can answer tell me about yourself (including a graduate example).
4) A link to download our app, myPitch – Available on android and iPhone this will make crafting your answer easy, and give you a way to film, practice, share and store your pitch so you can keep it as a handy reminder when you next have an interview.
5) Videos to show you a good and bad answer to “tell me about yourself”
6) Take away tips for the perfect answer.
So if you’d like to create answer to “tell me about yourself” that will take your interview in a direction you’d like it to head, keep reading.
1) 5 key tips to help you master tell me about yourself
Tip 1 –Tell me about yourself – Keep your answer short
Recruiters have short attention spans.
In 2012 global recruiters Accountemps surveyed over 500 hiring managers. 42% said they formed an opinion of an interviewee between the 6 to 10 minute mark, 60% said they did this in less than 10 minutes.
This means you simply can’t waste this valuable time waffling on about your primary school education, hobbies or the town you grew up in.
Tip 2 – Tell me about yourself – Be genuine
Research from Princeton University shows people are hard-wired to make snap judgments.
Researchers found that when people see a new face their brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within one tenth of a second.
Yes, you read that correctly – one tenth of a second!
So how can you apply this finding in an interview?
While saying “be genuine” implies that you can fake it, I don’t mean that at all. Being genuine covers things such as making an effort to look the part of the role, applying to roles that you genuinely want and being excited about the opportunity that the role presents.
Tip 3 – Make “tell me about yourself” be more about the interviewer
This isn’t meant to be a play on words.
The quickest way to get someone’s attention is to make the topic about the other person. For interviews this means what you might be able to do for the interviewer or the company.
So in your answer to tell me about yourself talk about something that the interviewer can relate to. Provide quantifiable achievements that support your claim for that role and build credibility with the interviewer.
Tip 4 – Use emotions and show empathy
You want the interviewer to relate personally to what you are saying. You can do this by including empathy and emotion.
In every role you will have people whom you support or assist.
In your answer to “tell me about yourself” use language that shows you understand your impact on the people whom you support, provide a service to or lead.
I’ll give you a structure on how to do this in part 2 of this blog post.
Tip 5 – Practice power poses before your interview to be and sound more confident
There’s research that says if you power pose (think Superman and Wonder Woman stances) before your interview you’ll physically become more confident in interview.
That’s because these poses increase your testosterone and decrease your cortisol (the stress producing hormone), giving you courage and a clear head.
Check out how to do this here in this post which will take you to some research by Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy.
2) An easy yet powerful structure to follow to answer tell me about yourself
I use a three part structure.
“I am……”[describe the role, or the role you would like to perform]
“I work with……”[tell the interviewer whom you support and why they need your support – use this statement to show you understand why people might need your help]
“In fact……”[provide a quantifiable achievement to support your claim and allow the interviewer to understand what you can do for them.]
3)Samples and examples to help you understand the different ways you can answer tell me about yourself
Tell me about yourself example 1
If I was pitching myself as a career writer I would structure my answer like this.
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I am a Career Consultant. [my role]
I work with people who often struggle to sell themselves in interview as they don’t know what makes them unique. [this shows whom I support and demonstrates empathy. I also show that I understand why people need my support]
In fact, over the past five years I have personally helped over 1000 people find their next job. [this is quantifiable achievement that supports my claim and allows the interviewer to understand what I can do for them]
Tell me about yourself example 2
Here’s another answer for a Recruitment Advisor
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I am a Recruitment Advisor.
I work with senior executives who are time poor and can often get stressed out when they are a staff member down.
In fact I recently I hired a Business Analyst. She saved the company $40,000 within the first 3 months of hire with a suite of reports she designed.
Tell me about yourself example 3
Here’s another answer to tell me about yourself for an Auditor
Q: Tell me about yourself?
A: I am an Audit Manager
I work with our senior management team who really need peace of mind that our accounts are in order.
In fact based on one of our auditing reports the company was able to raise $2 million dollars to enter into Asia.
Tell me about yourself graduate or fresher example 4
If you’re a graduate you will want to use a future-focused structure “to tell me about yourself”
Again use a three part structure.
I graduated with…[describe where you graduated, or where you are about to graduate from]
I’d like to work with….[give specific detail about where you’d like to work, targeted to the employer]
In the future, I’d really like the challenge of…[ be very specific about the impact you’d like to make]
You could also use this example if you are making a career change.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: I graduated last year with a degree in marketing.
I’d like to work with a digital agency to help organisations market themselves online.
In the future, I’d really love the challenge of taking a company from nothing to becoming a major international brand.
4) To really nail the “tell me about yourself” question download our new app, myPitch
One of the best ways to improve your skills is to practice and film yourself so you can review what you say, and work out ways you may improve.
I have found in my many years of interview coaching that often there are only one or two things that people do, that get in the way of other people understanding them. That of course determines how successful they will be in interviews.
For you, it could be that you speak too quickly. It could be that you speak too slowly. Or you may repeat yourself time and time again.
You could be going through life not knowing what’s getting in the way of your success.
So if you have an iPhone click here to download myPitch then share your answer with someone you trust, as they will be able to give you valuable feedback.
Here’s the link for myPitch for android.
myPitch will make crafting your answer easy, and give you a way to film, practice, share and store your pitch so you can keep it as a handy reminder when you next have an interview.
Watch good and bad answers to “tell me about yourself”
Here are a couple of videos to show you the difference between good and bad answers to tell me about yourself.
Bad graduate answer to “tell me about yourself”
Good graduate answer to tell me about yourself
6. Some final pointers to help you really nail “Tell me about yourself”
1) This is not a one size fits all answer. Do your research and make sure your answer relates to the role and the company.
2) Try to avoid too much jargon. This, of course, depends on your audience. If you are being interviewed by professional peers, you may need to choose some words to show you understand the technical terms important to your industry.
3) Practice your answer. The first time you talk it through you may feel awkward. You’ll need to be confident and comfortable in interview. The written word is also different from the spoken word. So talking through your answer will help you sound natural.
4) Ask your (trusted) friends for feedback on your answer. If their eyes glaze, then you’ll need to refine your answer.
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Tagged as: Interview Tips
By Jeff Gillis
Talking about yourself should be the easiest thing to do.
After all, who knows you better than…
But for some strange reason, nearly every interviewer can agree that giving a good answer to the question “Tell Me About Yourself” during a job interview can be one of the toughest and most stressful things to do.
But what is it about this seemingly simple question that is such a thorn in your side?
Well, it can come down to a few things.
Why are they asking this?
What are they looking for in my answer?
What is the best strategy for giving them what they want?
As these questions start to mount inside your brain, it’s likely that your level of stress is growing along with them, and that doesn’t make for the most comfortable of job interviews.
And if you aren’t comfortable, chances are the hiring manager can sense it and we all know what that means…
Bye bye job offer! (gulp)
But it doesn’t have to be this hard. In fact, this article will show you that answering this question can actually be an easy (and even pleasant!) experience.
Because what this unique question really is, is an opportunity for you to take control of the interview and position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.
Before we go any further grab the cheat sheet below:
Why Do Hiring Managers Ask The Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question Anyway?
So why do hiring managers ask this question?
Do they really want to get to know you better?
Are their lives really so boring and wrapped up in work that they’re forced to ask these questions in order to live vicariously through their prospective employees?
Unless you’re a former race car driver who jet sets all across the globe and only dates blindingly attractive people and spends your weekends curing cancer and saving babies, I’m going to have to say no…
…they’re probably not vicariously living your life through your answer.
In fact, there are two much more practical reasons why hiring managers ask this question:
- They want to see how you react to a question asked casually and without structure
- They want to get a feel for what you deem to be “important”
How To Answer An “Unstructured” Interview Question
Here’s the deal.
A good interview candidate always prepares before she (or he) goes in for an interview. She does her research. She works on her resume and cover letter.
She runs through hundreds if not thousands of practice interview questions and refines her answers until they’re tailored, precise, and perfect…and interviewers know this.
They’re not stupid…that’s why they’re the ones doing the interviews!
Their job is to find the perfect candidate and weed out the less than ideal matches…and it’s a tough job, especially when faced with hundreds of candidates who have all worked equally hard.
So a “casual” or unstructured question is one that’s meant to throw you off your game and break you free from the memorized answers.
Rather than simply parroting back something you’ve studied for hours, you’re being called on to speak freely and off the cuff.
But why would they want to throw you off your game?
Well, chances are the position they are hiring for is going to require the candidate to make some decisions and think on his/her feet.
Anyone can prepare for a situation that they know is coming, much like anyone can prepare for an interview question that they know is coming.
By asking an unstructured question like this the hiring manager is able to get a good idea of your ability to think and adapt on the fly.
What Do You Think Is Important?
So we’ve established that thinking on the fly is important.
But even more importantly, by asking this question the hiring manager also wants to see which information you think is important to offer up relative to the position you are interviewing for.
In leaving the question somewhat opened and unstructured, the hiring manager is trying to get a sense of whether or not you truly understand which experiences, skills and abilities are relevant for the position you are interviewing for. (This is key!)
If you focus on things that the company puts a lot of value in, BINGO!
You pass the test.
But if you just regurgitate the stuff you’ve already mentioned in your cover letter and resume, chances are the interview will be over before it has even started.
How you answer this question can reveal more about who you really are than you can ever possibly imagine…which means it’s a potential land mine…or a potential springboard to success.
So how does one answer this question? The best way to understand this is to first talk about the common mistakes made by most job seekers.
Okay, so as you might have guessed, this is one of the job interview questions that most people get wrong. So in order to ensure you don’t end up as one of these people, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that people make:
1) Regurgitate Your Cover Letter and Resume
I touched on this in the section above. This is not an invitation for you to simply list off your past accomplishments.
Yes, it’s important for you to highlight moments in your past when you were successful, but the real power lies in highlighting the accomplishments that are most relevant to this specific position (more on this in a minute).
2) Telling Your Life Story
This is probably the most common mistake that people make. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to answer this question.
“Well, I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. I was born in 1983 and spent most of my childhood hunched over a piano, striving to become a concert pianist (which I now am). I love the outdoors – I’m and avid skier and mountain biker. I really love working with my hands and spent a lot of my time in the woodwork shop.”
Look. It’s great to share your personality with others. But save it for after you get hired.
3) “Well, What Do You Want To Know?”
Congratulations. You just lost the job.
Because an answer like this tells an interviewer that you’re unprepared (yes, unprepared for an unstructured question. It’s not fair…but then again, neither is life…).
4) The 10-Minute Monologue
Speaking of unfair…don’t go off on a ten minute monologue all about you.
Keep it short. A minute. 90 seconds at most.
There are going to be a lot more questions coming down the pipe that will allow you to elaborate on your various experiences, skills and accomplishments. Don’t feel like you have to answer all of them at once.
How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” The RIGHT Way
Okay, so now that you have an idea of what you shouldn’t do, let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how you should answer this tough job interview question.
So what is the most important thing to remember?
Well, according to research conducted by Marc Cenedella over at the Ladders, the consensus of career coaches that he asked about how best to respond this question begins with one specific point:
“Focus on what most interests the interviewer.”
Does that make sense? You don’t want to focus on what is best about you, you want to focus on what you are going to do to fulfill the needs of the company you are interviewing with.
We here at The Interview Guys Headquarters would have to strongly agree! Which is why we are always harping on our catchphrase:
“It’s not about you, it’s about them.”
What does this mean? You need to customize (or tailor) your response to the question to the needs of the organization.
So now you have to find a way to do this clearly and concisely.
Use The “Tailoring Method”
Now we won’t get into the real meat and potatoes of the Tailoring Method in this article (but you should definitely read the in-depth discussion of this over in our article Job Interview Questions and Answers 101).
But here’s the Cliff Notes for the Tailoring Method:
Your company has a specific (and predetermined) set of skills and abilities that the candidate they are going to hire needs to have in order to do the job to their standards. We like to call these Qualities.
So in terms of Tell Me About Yourself, while it is important to talk about all of the Qualities that you think you have, what’s actually much more important is that you show that you possess the Qualities that they want.
But how do you find the Qualities they want and how do you incorporate them into your answers? (Again, we break it all down in the article linked to above, so go check it out and then come back to see how it applies to Tell Me About Yourself answer examples).
How To Structure Your Answer
Okay, so you understand that you need to “tailor” your response to the company and position you are interviewing for by emphasizing the Qualities that they desire in their perfect candidate.
But how exactly do you do that for Tell Me About Yourself?
The best way to do it is to provide a Success Story that highlights the Quality that you are trying to demonstrate.
A Success Story is an example from your past work experience that clearly demonstrates you succeeding in some way.
For example, a time that you solved a problem, excelled in a difficult situation or used a certain skill to get the job done.
You still need to be careful to answer the question. Because the actual question isn't "Tell Me About A Time That You Were Successful." So start out by giving a quick recap of your employment history and how that's led up to where you are now. But then transition into your success story by saying something like "But the best way to emphasize who I am and what I'm about is reflected in this story...".
Tell Me About Yourself Sample Answer
For the purposes of this answer, let’s say that you’d done your company research and found out that the Quality the company puts a lot of value in is elevated customer service.
Okay so let’s get into an example answer:
Nice. You’re starting by answering the question directly, and keeping the answer business focused as well as targeted…and you’ve slipped in there that you’re trained on a variety of different programs which, depending on what they are, can make you an even more valuable candidate.
Excellent. You’ve highlighted the Quality (underlined) that the company puts a lot of value in, and used a Success Story from your past to support your claim that you have the quality. Time to bring it home…
And there you have it…the perfect wrap up. You’ve brought your little story back around to where you are now and what you hope to accomplish with this job. You’ve kept your stories not only professional, but focused and tailored to help reinforce what you’re ultimately trying to do.
But What If I Don’t Have Any Experience!?
But what if I don’t have a super awesome story like that? What if I’m still new-ish at this whole job thing and my stories aren’t as impressive?
Just because you don’t have a super awesome story like the one above doesn’t mean you aren’t still a super awesome individual able to bring both professional and personal skills to the table that would make any employer sit up and take notice.
Here’s the deal…
More often than not, the company cares more about your ability to fulfill their needs than it does about what you did for another company.
Sure, it helps that your Success Story refers to practical on-job experience, but if you don’t have that option you can draw from a different place.
For example, if you are a new graduate you can reference your academic achievements, athletic endeavors, charity and volunteer work.
If you had to work in any kind of group for any activity you can use these experiences as an example.
The fact of the matter is, the hiring manager has seen your resume and would not have brought you in if they didn’t think you had at least some potential to do the job.
So reach back into your past and find some Success Stories to help answer the question.
If you don’t have any experience and want a word-for-word sample answer then Click Here To Download Our “Tell Me About Yourself” Answer “Cheat Sheet”
Help! I’m Changing Industries and My Experience Doesn’t Apply
You might be saying this to yourself, but it really doesn’t matter if you didn’t work in the same industry you are applying to and here’s why…
Through your research of the company you will discover what the Qualities are that they put a lot of value in. It could be leadership, it could be collaboration, or it could be literally any other Quality you come across.
The point is, once you discover what that Quality is, it will determine the Success Story that you pull from your past to help support it.
So whether it is from your last job, or a previous job, or not from a work scenario at all (as stated above; your academics, your athletics, etc.), the Success Story you choose is not always based on work experience.
It’s up to you to find your own Success Story that best supports the Quality they desire.
If you are changing industries and want a word-for-word sample answer then Click Here To Download Our “Tell Me About Yourself” Answer “Cheat Sheet”
Pulling It All Together
Ultimately your goal with how you answer this question is to get the interviewer to see you not as a potential candidate…but as a future employee. An interview is really just a long sales pitch.
You’re selling you and you want the company to buy!
Let’s go back to the first few paragraphs of this blog. People who talk only about themselves are boring. Luckily for us all, you’re not one of those people!
By following what we’ve shown you here, you can take the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself” and turn it into a solid moment within your interview where you can prove again that you’re not only a professional, but you’re perfect for the job!
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FREE BONUS PDF "CHEAT SHEET" Get our "Tell me about yourself" cheat sheet that gives you4 more word-for-word example answersto the "tell me about yourself" interview question and more.
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"Tell Me About Yourself..."
Well. I’ve been working for the past six years as a systems analyst and data manager. During that time I’ve been trained and certified on a number of different software platforms and systems.
I'd really describe myself as a person with a versatile skill-set, a lot of integrity and a willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy a customer. Perhaps the best way to let you know what I'm about is to share with you a quick experience I had.
Recently while working at a location with a client, they mentioned that they had just purchased some software that I was familiar with but that their computer systems were having some difficulty integrating the program. I offered to take a look at the install and found that there was a step that had somehow been forgotten. I told him I would be happy to wipe the system and reinstall the software correctly. At first the client refused and when I asked him why, he told me that it was too expensive and that they were just going to learn to work around the problem. When I asked him further, he told me a different analyst had been in, looked at the problem, and told them that the files had corrupted their system overall and that it would take at least $25,000 to fix. When I told him it was a simple matter of wiping the previous version and reinstalling it, he was stunned. I did the whole project for a fraction of the cost the other “analyst” had quoted. My client was so happy he referred me to his friends and I’ve done similar work for several other companies in town as a result.
Now I’m looking to take my career to the next level and move out of contract work into a full time employee for a company where I can be a part of a team, but also allows me to focus my energy on my best strength, working directly with customers. I’d like to build a long term career that lets me focus on professional growth.
How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” The Best Way [Powerful Example]4.5 (89.67%) 240 votes
FREE: Tell Me About Yourself PDF "Cheat Sheet"
Ok the next thing you should do is Download our PDF Answer "Cheat Sheet" that gives you "word for word" example answers to this dreaded question.
In it you'll find answers to fit a variety of scenarios including: if you just graduated, have no experience and more!