“Tell me about yourself” might seem like an easy interview question to answer, since you already know everything there is to know about yourself.
Good thing, too, because it’s often the first thing an interviewer will ask you to do, whether it’s a preliminary phone screen, a conversation with your potential boss, or a final interview with the CEO.
But when you’re at a job interview and asked to talk about yourself, it can feel hard and stressful to do so.
You might be thinking, “Uh, what do you want to know?” Should I tell you how my office drama would play out as a biopic, complete with the perfect cast?
Your interviewer doesn’t need to know that you think Zendaya would be a good fit to play you in a movie about your life.
But you can and should get ready ahead of time so you can use this common way to start an interview to your advantage and set the stage for a good one.
Why do interviewers ask you to “Tell me about yourself”
As with any interview question, the key to crafting an impressive answer is understanding why people are asking in the first place.
Alina Campos, the founder of Rising and a leadership development coach, thinks that this is a great way to help candidates feel more comfortable before an in-person interview.
“Most of the time, when the conversation starts, there’s a lot of small talk, and it’s a way to ease into it,”, especially for recruiters or hiring managers with less experience. “The person being interviewed is nervous, but the person doing the interview is also trying to figure things out.”
This question is also a great starting point that can help inform the direction of the interview.
If you answer it well, the interviewers will start to see why you’re the best candidate for this job, both in terms of your hard skills and experience and your soft skills. It’s a great chance to show that you can communicate clearly and well, connect with and respond to other people, and look professional.
“Tell me about yourself” is often said in different ways.
“Tell me about yourself” is something you’ll hear a lot. But interviewers may have their own versions of the question that basically ask the same thing.
- I have your resume in front of me but tell me more about yourself.
- Walk me through your resume.
- I’d love to hear more about your journey.
- Tell me a little bit more about your background.
A simple formula for answering “Tell me about yourself”
Here is a simple and effective way to structure your answer when asked “Tell me about yourself”.
Present: Talk a little bit about what your current role is, the scope of it, and perhaps a big recent accomplishment.
Past: Tell the interviewer how you got there and/or mention previous experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying for.
Future: Segue into what you’re looking to do next and why you’re interested in this gig (and a great fit for it, too).
Of course, this isn’t the only way to put together your answer, and you can change it as you see fit. For example, if there’s a powerful story about how you got into this field, you might want to start with that “past” story and then talk about what you’re doing now.
No matter what order you choose, make sure to end with something about the job and company.
You should still make sure to relate everything back to the role and the company in the end.
You need to guarantee that the interviewer will think “it makes logical that [you’re] sitting here talking to me about this position.”
8 tips for answering “Tell me about yourself”
So, you have an interview coming up, and you know that it will probably start with “Tell me about yourself.” Here’s what you need to do next to get your answer right.
1. Remember this is often your first impression, and it matters.
2. Tailor your answer to the role and company.
3. Know your audience.
4. Keep it professional.
5. But speak with passion.
6. Don’t ramble.
7. Practice, practice, practice—but stop short of memorizing.
8. Keep it positive.
“Tell me about yourself” sample answers.
In theory, that’s all great, but what would a good answer sound like? Check out some of these examples.
Example answer #1 to “Tell me about yourself” for someone looking for a similar role at a new company
Sure! So I’ve always enjoyed writing and public speaking, even as far back as high school. This led me to pursue writing-related passions—for example in college, where I was an editor for our school newspaper. In addition to writing, I got to learn how to manage a team and how to approach the writing process. After college, I took a job at Acme as a social media manager, writing copy and social content for the company blog, but I raised my hand to work on the communications plan for a product launch, which is where I discovered my interest in product marketing. After switching to a product marketing role and managing the two most successful new product launches last year, I realized I’m excited to take on a new opportunity. I’ve learned I work best on products that I love and use, and given that I’m a big user of your company’s products, I jumped at the chance to apply when I saw the open posting.
Example answer #2 to “Tell me about yourself” for someone transitioning from an agency to an in-house role.
Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.
Example answer #3 to “Tell me about yourself” for someone pivoting into a similar role in a new industry.
I’ve been in the marketing industry for over five years, primarily working in account and project management roles. I most recently worked as a senior PM for a large tech company managing large marketing campaigns and overseeing other project managers. And now I’m looking to expand my experience across different industries, particularly fintech, which is why I’m so interested in joining an agency like yours.
Example answer #4 to “Tell me about yourself” for a recent graduate.
Absolutely! I graduated from Howard in May with a major in computer science and a minor in theater arts and have been spending this summer interning at a theater nonprofit. I’ve had a chance to put my coding skills to good use by helping revamp the organization’s ticket sales page. Since it launched two weeks ago, the time it takes patrons to get through the purchasing process has decreased by 43% and scores on a popup satisfaction survey have gone up by nearly 20%. It’s been particularly exciting to be immersed in this environment because I’ve been in love with theater since I did my first school play in 7th grade—it was 13: The Musical and I landed the role of Patrice—and even led The Howard Players my senior year. This internship experience has only reinforced my desire to merge my CS skills with my passion for theater, which is why I knew I had to apply as soon as I saw the junior web developer role here.
Example answer #5 to “Tell me about yourself” for a career changer.
I’ve spent the first decade of my career working in account management for SaaS startups selling B2B software, including my current company, which develops remote collaboration tools. And for the last couple of years I’ve been managing three to five direct reports. I’ve found people management incredibly fulfilling, and have been especially drawn to training and professional development. One of the accomplishments I’m proudest of in my job now was creating a series of upskilling workshops not just for my own team but for the entire revenue org. Account managers and sales reps who participated showed an average increase of 22% in sales or renewal revenue per quarter. Looking back, it makes so much sense that I’ve gravitated in this direction, considering I tutored and led workshops for the comms department in college. As I’ve thought about my next steps, I realized I wanted to transition into an HR role so that I can focus all of my energy on creating and implementing training programs. I can’t think of a better place to start than at a company that makes software I’ve relied on in multiple previous jobs.