Why is it so hard to talk about the one thing you know the most about during a job search – yourself?
It’s a question that’s asked in every interview, yet many job seekers find themselves scrambling for answers when it comes up.
What makes it even more difficult is how broad the question “tell me about yourself” is.
It’s an open-ended question that doesn’t just ask what you’ve done in your career or how you got to where you are today. It can also ask how well-rounded of a person you are, how ambitious and driven you might be, why they should hire you over other candidates for the job, or even what makes you unique as an individual.
It’s not just one question — it’s many wrapped into one.
The good news is you don’t have to answer all these questions in one go.
You can break it up into different parts, depending on how much time you get with your interviewer at the start or how well they follow up about each question throughout the course of the interview.
In this article, we’ll show you how to answer the dreaded question, “tell me about yourself.” We will look at some sample answers and examples of what you might say when faced with it so you can go into your job interview feeling confident and prepared.
Let’s jump to it.
Why Do Interviewers Ask, “Tell me about yourself”?
“Tell me about yourself” is a question that many employers ask during the beginning stages of a job interview process because it’s an icebreaker; it gets you talking about something, anything.
It also gives the interviewer a glimpse of how well-rounded and personable you are as a candidate before diving into your work history and qualifications for the relevant job. They want to get a better sense of who you are beyond what they can find on your resume or cover letter.
It’s also commonly asked because the hiring manager wants to know how well you’ll fit in with the company culture.
This is your chance to show how much of a culture match you are with the role, department, and/or group that’s interviewing you.
While each interviewer may have their own reason for asking the question, just being able to answer it is a plus.
But how do you go beyond just answering it? How do you come up with a strong answer that leaves a great impression?
If you want to make a great first impression, you need to show how you can fit into the company’s culture, how your current skills align with what they’re looking for in an employee and how well-rounded of a person you are.
Let’s look at some examples.
How To Answer, “Tell Me About Yourself” (A Formula)
There are a few different approaches you can take when answering that dreaded job interview question, but we prefer one simple formula that helps job seekers make a strong first impression in almost any situation.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Tell them how you got to where you are today
The first step is to discuss your background and professional experience as it relates to the position.
This includes how you got to where you are today and how your career path has led you to this point.
But be careful not to dive too deep into your entire life story. Listing some personal interests and stories is fine but try to be concise in your answer.
What first made you interested in your professional field? How did you get started in your industry? How have you worked your way up from a recent position to your current position?
You can also mention any accomplishments or awards you’ve earned along the way or in your last job.
It’s important to start your answer by talking about your previous experience because it shows how you’ve developed your skills and how they can help the company.
You might say something like:
“I’ve always been interested in how technology can help people communicate better, so I started working for a small company while still in school and eventually worked my way up to this role.
It’s fascinating how technology has evolved over time, especially how it allows us to reach more customers on a global scale.”
Step 2: Talk about your current job and responsibilities
The next step is to transition into your current role and responsibilities.
This includes how you’re currently helping your company succeed and how your position contributes to its overall success.
While discussing your present position, be sure to touch on your relevant experience applicable to the role for which you’re applying.
This will help give hiring managers context on how your experience can be used to help them.
You might say something like:
“Currently, I’m leading my team in designing our next generation of products. We want to make sure that we create technology which will allow people all over the world to communicate better so it’s important for us to stay up-to-date on how it’s evolving.”
Step 3: Explain what your future goals are
The last step is to talk briefly about where you hope to go in the future. This could include how you want your career path to progress or how much longer you plan on staying in your respective industry.
While explaining your future goals, it’s important to include your next goal: getting the job for which you’re applying.
This is when you can mention how you see yourself fitting into their company and how the role aligns with your career goals.
Explain how your past and current job experience has given you the tools and skills necessary to succeed in this new role and how you can continue to grow as a professional.
You might say something like:
“In my next role, I hope to learn how it feels to work on a global scale and how our company’s technology can be used in other parts of the world.”
Remember that this is just one example formula you can use for answering “tell me about yourself.” Feel free to adjust your answer based on how the hiring managers word their questions.
Above all, be sure to tailor your answers for the job for which you’re applying.
If you need some help figuring out if you’re a fit for the job, check out the job description and use that as a tool to map out your answers. Show how your experience is relevant to the role and how it can help them accomplish their goals.
Keeping this formula in mind, here are more tips and examples to help you craft the perfect answer for the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question:
Additional Tips for Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”
Practice your answer out loud
Practice saying your answer out loud, so it feels comfortable when answering verbally or in writing. This will help you be confident when answering the question and show that you’re well prepared.
When preparing your answer, make sure to pause in between each section so it sounds natural instead of rushed or choppy.
Don’t try to write out your entire answer and memorize it, that will just sound robotic and rehearsed.
Keep your answer concise
The goal is to stay within a two-minute timeframe, so the interviewer doesn’t get bored or distracted by how long your answer is.
It’s okay if you go over that limit but try not to ramble on about personal details of your life story or experiences in order to keep it brief.
Simply mention how you got into the industry and how your role has evolved over time instead of going into extensive detail about each experience.
After all, the “tell me about yourself” question is often used as an icebreaker and you will be asked to go into more detail with your answers as the job interview progresses.
Understand who’s interviewing you
For most roles, you’ll be interviewed by multiple people. It’s important to understand who’s interviewing you during your job search because you’ll likely get the “tell me about yourself” question from each person.
For instance, you might be first interviewed by a recruiter, and then later in the hiring process, someone who will work with you directly on a regular basis.
The first person may ask how your experience can benefit them while the second interviewer wants to know how well you fit with their company culture and how willing you are to learn new things.
As a result, you should have two different answers in mind to prepare for how the question can be asked differently depending on who’s asking it.
You can also improve your response by making it more specific to the position and company based on what you learn throughout the interview.
An example answer could be something like, “[Name] really emphasized your company’s core values and that resonated with me because…”
Show some enthusiasm
Inserting some enthusiasm into your answer can help make it more memorable for the interviewer.
For example, you can mention how much you’ve been looking forward to this job interview or how excited you are about the role.
This will show how passionate and motivated you are in your career path so it might be enough for them to overlook any minor mistakes they may have noticed during the rest of your answer.
Think about it, your interviewer doesn’t want to talk to a candidate who sounds like a robot the whole time. They want to speak with someone who is enthusiastic and passionate about the role.
Be confident, not arrogant
By being too confident, you could come across as arrogant or full of yourself which can immediately turn off your interviewer.
At the same time, by not being confident enough, you might seem unsure how well-suited you are for the role which is also not a good sign.
As with most things, it’s important to strike an appropriate balance that allows you to convey how capable and skilled you are without projecting how desperate or needy you might be for this new job.
For example, you could say something like, “I’m confident in how well I can perform the tasks required for this role because…”
Providing reasons as to why you feel confident about a skill or role can help prove how well-suited you are for the job.
Keep it relevant to how you can help the company
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important that your answer is relevant to how you’ll be able to contribute to this new role and how it aligns with exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate.
If an interviewer asks about your long-term career goals, don’t just say “I’ve wanted to work in this industry for a long time,” instead tailor your answer to how the company can help make that happen.
Be sure to mention how your past experiences have given you the tools and skills needed for success in this new role, how it’s going to benefit them, or what additional assets they’ll gain from hiring someone like you.
Don’t lie or exaggerate how much experience you have
In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to find out the truth.
Don’t try to inflate your past experiences by adding a few details here and there just for the sake of sounding impressive because an employer will eventually figure out that they’re not true.
Not only can it hurt how they see your reliability, but you could also end up wasting valuable time on the job hunt.
And worst-case scenario, if the employer finds out you lied during your interview, you may be instantly eliminated from the running.
Prepare for common follow up questions
It’s important to prepare for follow-up questions because it’s how interviewers get to know the real you.
“What are some of your greatest strengths?” is a question that comes up quite often in interviews, so be sure to prepare how you’re going to answer it and what specifically sets you apart from the competition.
If an interviewer asks, “Why do you want this job?” don’t just say it looked interesting or has good pay/benefits because that doesn’t give them anything to work with.
Instead, focus on how your skills and experiences fit into their requirements for this role and how it will benefit both of you in a way other candidates don’t have the ability to do so.
The “tell me about yourself” interview question can be nerve-wracking, but it’s a great way to see how well you can communicate under pressure and how prepared you are.
By following our above tips, we’re confident that you’ll know how to answer the question, “tell me about yourself.”
“Tell Me About Yourself” Sample Answers
Here are three example answers that will show you how to answer, “tell me about yourself.” Each job candidate provides key points from their past, present, and future work experiences, including their technical skills, problem solving skills, key accomplishments, and any extra personal information that may be relevant to the position or company.
Sample Answer 1
“I started my career in the financial industry and later moved into management consulting after several years. I changed industries because I really enjoy how fast-paced and dynamic the consulting position is.
My first consulting position was at [company name] and I helped them grow from a small organization to a global corporation. While I was there, I earned a promotion to a management role and began training new consultants.
I really enjoyed working with and training the new consultants because it helped me learn how to break down complex concepts into simple components. I also learned how important it is to keep an open mind, listen carefully and help them find their strengths.
In my current role at [company name], I oversee a team of consultants and help them deliver on their projects. One of the things I love about my job is how much variety there is to each project and how it never gets boring.
Recently, I made the decision that it was time for me to look at how I can make an even bigger impact in my career and grow professionally by taking on a more active consultant role.
So, when this new job came up, it was a great fit for my experience and how much I wanted to grow in my career because it will afford me the unique opportunity to help build a bigger team of consultants and create my own training system that will teach them how to run successful projects.
I’m excited about how much I’ll be able to learn from this position as well because I’ll be immersed in how the consulting process works from start to finish.”
Sample Answer 2
“Right now, in my position at [company name], I’m responsible for handling our business development and client relations. Every day I work to ensure that our team is providing the best possible service for our clients so they can reach their goals, which includes how we communicate with them about those results as well as how we continue to grow new relationships and maintain current ones.
In fact, our business development team was just awarded [award name] for how we were able to contribute to our company’s growth because of how much we’ve been able to successfully grow new relationships.
I’ve been with [company name] for a little over five years now and before this I worked at [company name] for over five years as well. I’ve been able to stay with both companies because of how much they support me in my career development and how valuable the work that we do is for our clients.
What excites me the most about this opportunity is the chance to work in a more active client relations role and with bigger clients. It’s always been a goal of mine to partner with Fortune 500 companies and help them solve their biggest problems because it can have tangible positive effects for millions of people.
I love how this position will allow me to grow my skill set and learn new things because not only do I get to work with a variety of different high-profile businesses, but I also have the chance to meet people from all over the world who share similar interests in making an impact and growing their business.”
Sample Answer 3
“Ever since I was in high school, I was drawn to how businesses operate and how I can help them grow. I was so fascinated by the input and output of cash flow that I volunteered to work 20 hours a week at a local accounting firm and was able to learn how businesses run from the inside.
It was a lot to handle — and I didn’t have much of a social life at the time — but it was 100 percent worth it.
That gig gave me the skills to land a job at [company name] as an accountant and focused my energy on how we could help our clients save money in their tax returns because that would also mean they’d have more money to reinvest into growing their business
I’ve been with [company name] for almost two years now and I absolutely love how we’re able to give our clients the best possible service they need in order to succeed. One of my favorite parts about my job is how rewarding it is when a client comes back after being away from us for a while because there’s nothing better than how much they appreciate our work and how we can provide them with superior service.
What I’m most excited about in this new position is how it will allow me to work with executives on long-range financial planning. I’ll be able to provide them with the tools they need to make better financial decisions for how their business is run and will have an active role in business strategy for the first time in my career.”
Conclusion: How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
The “tell me about yourself” job interview question is usually one of the first questions asked in an interview. And while it might seem like a simple icebreaker, how you answer this question will set the tone for your entire conversation with the hiring manager and can either open opportunities or close them down completely.
The best way to answer this open-ended question and make a great first impression is to follow the 3-step formula laid out in this post.
- Answer how you got to where you are today
- Talk about your current job and responsibilities
- Explain what your future goals are
While steps one and two can be interchangeable, the most important thing to remember while answering is to tailor your responses to the position for which you’re applying. Demonstrate how your expertise is relevant to the job description and how it may assist them in achieving their goals.
This is important because how you answer the “tell me about yourself” question can determine how much trust and rapport your interviewer feels toward you.
Remember, hiring managers are interviewing several candidates at once for a job position so they don’t want to waste their time on someone who won’t be able to deliver what’s expected of them in the role.
Show how capable of a candidate you are by how well-rounded your answers are and how much value you offer above other applicants.
Now that you know how to answer, “tell me about yourself,” it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action.
Get your job search started by heading over to the Insight Global job board and we’ll help you schedule your next interview today!