Whether this is your first job interview or your hundredth, I can guarantee there’s one question you’ll want to prepare to answer. And that’s the standard “Tell me about yourself” interview question. The good news is, you’re the expert on you! But it’s always a good idea to have a plan for how to answer any question related to “Tell me about yourself.” We’re going to walk through why hiring managers ask you to do this and how you can respond with confidence and clarity . . . and set yourself up for interview success.
Why Do Interviewers Say, “Tell Me About Yourself”?
“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common job interview questions. But interviewers aren’t listening to your personal elevator pitch because they want to know where you were born, what you do in your free time, and what your Enneagram or Myers-Briggs results are. What they really want to learn is how you present yourself under pressure, if you’ll mesh with the company culture, and a little bit about your background and why you’re interested in this opportunity. Think of this as a chance to practice your sales pitch before the rest of the interview questions start rolling in. Answering “Tell me about yourself” well is your opportunity to make a lasting first impression and get the interview off to a good start.
Other Versions of the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question
When you’re preparing for an interview, keep in mind that interviewers might ask this question in different ways. But even if the question changes, they’re looking for the same information: Are you well spoken? How do your skills match up? Do you have a good understanding of the job? Here are a few ways an interviewer might ask you to share who you are and what you’re all about:
“Walk me through your resumé.”
“Why do you want to work here?”
“Tell me about your previous experience.”
“What’s your story?”
“What brings you here today?”
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview
Okay, so you’re interviewing for a great job opportunity—or a role that’s one step closer to the career you’d like to have. Now, how do you prepare to answer this question? There are a few things I want you to keep in mind so you’re ready with the best possible answer. Not only will this impress the hiring manager, but it’ll ease any feelings of anxiety and set you up for confidence in the rest of the interview.
1. Keep your answer related to the job.
I know you’re proud of them, but now is not the time to gush over your pets or your son’s recent baseball tournament grand slam! You’ll have time to share your personal interests later in the interview. For now, keep your answer focused on your professional interests and what you appreciate about the company.
2. Make connections between your current job and the one you want.
Even if you’re making a career change, there are connections between the job you want and the experience you have. Think about any soft skills you’ve learned that apply to this new job, as well as technical skills that match the requirements of the new position. (If you’ve gotten any certifications or taken classes on your own, this is a good time to share.)
3. Ask yourself, What am I good at?
Reflect on what you’re good at. Which skills and passions have carried you through your work journey? What do people depend on your for? Have a mental list of your sharpest abilities ready to share.
4. Let your personality shine through—but keep it professional.
Hiring managers want to see you for you—so be lighthearted if that’s your personality, or formal and polite if that’s more your style. But remember: This is an interview, so save the silly humor and sarcasm for your friends.
5. Keep your answer brief.
This is not the time to share your entire autobiography and tales from growing up on the farm! Stick to the basics: why you’re interested in the job, how your experience matches the role, and what you bring to the table.
6. Use a formula or template to highlight the important information.
If you need to practice your answer with a script, that’s okay! I’ll share examples of how to answer “Tell me about yourself” in a job interview in just a second. But for now, keep these points in mind when you’re thinking about what you’ll actually say:
- Start with your interest in the field or role.
- Describe your education and how it applies to this new job.
- Briefly explain your responsibilities at your current or past job (so it relates to the new role).
- Describe what you’re looking for in a new job.
7. Keep it positive.
Listen, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And when you’re talking about yourself, you want to share the best parts about you. Not only does this help create a winning personal brand, but by keeping your answer positive, the hiring managers will get to see how your positivity could benefit their workplace.
Example Answers to “Tell Me About Yourself”
Here are a few ways you can share about your professional experience and let your personality shine through.
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“I always enjoyed learning about computers and how things worked when I was in school. I decided the tech industry would eventually be a good fit for my career. As a senior, I enrolled in a dual-enrollment computer program to get my associate degree in computer science while I finished high school. After that, I completed my computer science and engineering degree at the University of Tennessee and took an internship as a software development engineer for a local technology manufacturing company. Now that I’m close to graduating with my Bachelor of Science, I’m looking for full-time positions as an associate software developer.”
“I’m currently an executive assistant at a local publishing firm. I knew I wanted to work around books after I wrote my first short story in elementary school. Even from a young age, I enjoyed the creative process and couldn’t get enough of literature. Outside of my required English classes in school, I usually spent my days in the library or going to book signings to meet well-known authors. In college, I was a teaching assistant for the English college, and that experience assisting with lesson plans and reviewing essays really taught me a lot about assisting professional publishers. That’s why I’m here interviewing for the junior publisher role—so I can lead my own projects and eventually a team.”
How Not to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Now that you have a good idea of how to respond, here are a few interview tips for how not to answer the question. Now, I wish these tips were common sense—but sometimes they’re not.
- Don’t crack a whole bunch of jokes.
- Don’t start dishing on your current office’s hostile work environment.
- Don’t complain about the boss you hate.
Keep it classy and positive! And please, don’t ramble on about your personality test results. Your skills and confidence will speak for themselves, so there’s no need to prove how analytical you are based on an Internet quiz.
Get Ready to Ace Your Interviews
If you’re prepping for an interview and trying to create a strong first impression with your hiring manager, take a look at my free Interview Guide. You’ll learn the five areas you need to spend time and effort on before you walk into a job interview. You’ll find out what questions to ask your interviewer. And you’ll discover how to wow the hiring manager with your confident answers to the most common interview questions. It’s your time to shine!