How to answer: ‘Tell me about yourself’ in a job interview

Talking about yourself should be something that comes easily and naturally to you, after all, you are you and no one knows you better than yourself do. However, answering the tell me about yourself question in an interview might be harder than you think.

Unfortunately, what seems like a simple question can leave one sweating in the face of an interview. Most interviewers agree that this is one of the toughest question job candidates face in an interview.

There surely must be reasons why this question seems like a tough one to crack. It could be because this one question leaves some questions running in your mind, like:

  • Why exactly are they asking this question?
  • What do they seek to find in my answer?
  • What is the best way to answer this question so I can give them exactly what they want?

As these questions mount in your head so does the stress and anxiety. In this blog we explain how you can answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question. Also, read more about frequently asked interview questions here. Also, check our interview preparation checklist.

Guide to answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

  • Connect your key strengths to relevant examples to support your claims
  • Avoid trailing off your career path to your personal information or family details.
  • If your results and achievements are quantifiable, then focus on them and make them known to the interviewer
  • Do not answer this question by pouring everything exactly as it is written in your resume.
  • Make sure to mention your professional experiences and achievements
  • Talk about your personality
  • You should know the job description. Connect your skills to them
  • It would be nice if you mention your hobbies, volunteer services or community services.

This open-ended question is always asked at the beginning of each interview to kick off with the interview. The question may not come in this format. It could come as:

They are ambiguous and all mean the same thing. But then, by asking this question, your interviewer is giving you the opportunity to choose how to answer it.

Why do hiring managers ask their candidates this question?

Aside from the fact that your hiring managers would want to know you, there are other reasons why they throw this question at you such as:

  • They want to see how you would react to such an ambiguous question that comes casually and without structure
  • They want to know how you prioritize things and know the things you will deem fit to mention

You can see from this that what is required of you is not a recitation of your resume and your cover letter. It is also not your whole life story that is required here. How then do you tackle this question?

How to answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

  • Get started with brainstorming

You need to carefully plan your answer to this question. Brainstorm and ask yourself questions such as:

Which of your many qualities make you a good fit for this job?

What excites you about the job and its role?

Why do you want to work in that company?

With this brainstorming, you see the need to research the company. Get some insight into their mission, values and goals. How do these match your own professional goals?

You should think of your areas of specialization, the training you must have received and the numerous skills that could make you stand out. Reviewing the job description can help you select the right skills to highlight. How does the job role even fit into your future career goals? You should have these all figured out.

  • Talk about your past experiences and achievements that relate to that position

After you must have read the job description, you should take note of the skills enlisted as their requirement. Select the ones you possess amongst the skills and highlight them. Normally, you start from your recent professional experience to your past and then your future visions and goals.

Focus on those strengths, skills and abilities that you can support with examples. After coming up with the perfect one, build up your story in such a way that it ends up highlighting what you were able to achieve with those skills and abilities.

Review the STAR technique of answering questions to help guide you in answering this question.

  • Think of how your current or past job relates to the job you are applying for

Perhaps you are making a lateral transition from your former role to one that requires a different set of skills, you should be able to explain how your current skills relate to and translate into the new job.

If the position you are applying for is a higher position, you should explain how you will deal with the greater responsibilities that would come with the position. If it is the same position, it is, of course, easier to link the former job to the new one.

  • Highlight your personality

‘Tell me about yourself’ is a question that s directed at you so the hiring manager could know about you on a general note. It is focused on your career or professional experience but not restricted to it.

It will be great to talk about your personality (not launching into details about your personal life). You can mention your hobbies, your personal achievements or even your engagements and services in the community. If you mention things like running, golf, tennis, skiing and yoga as your hobby, it would show that you are quite fit and energetic. Other ones like puzzles or brainteasers would help demonstrate your intellectual development.

There should however be a smooth transition from your professional life to your personal life.

  • Don’t give too much or too little information

You should know how to strike a balance, sharing too little or too much information might jeopardize the chances of your answer impressing your interviewer.

In as much as your interviewer is not interested in your whole life story, sharing too little could leave him or her wondering if you don’t have enough information to back up the claims on your CV or if you don’t just want to be open.

Do not include irrelevancies in your response and desist from political or religious talks unless in a situation where you are certain your interviewer would not mind.

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic