To begin an in-person or video interview, open-ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself” are routinely asked. “Walk me through your resume,” “Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume,” and “How would you define yourself?” are other examples.
These questions are likely to come up throughout every level of the interview process, from the phone screen to the final rounds. It’s reasonable to be taken aback by these kinds of questions: They are unclear, and it might be challenging to discern what the interviewer truly desires. However, that ambiguity presents an opportunity for you—your interviewer enables you to select your response.
Why do employers ask, “Tell me a little bit about yourself?”
“Tell me about yourself” or similar questions are frequently asked at the start of interviews to acclimate both you and the interviewer to the session. It provides the interviewer with a concise summary of your history and talents and insight into the experience and qualifications you believe are most relevant to the position for which you are interviewing.
Employers are also well aware that, despite its prevalence, this interview topic has a propensity to fluster or stump candidates. By answering this question briefly, you establish the tone for the interview by demonstrating your confidence, ability to work under pressure, and awareness of the position’s requirements.
Some interviewers may use this question as an icebreaker, utilizing your response to initiate informal discussion to learn more about you. In contrast, others may immediately go to other interview questions once you respond.
Prepare your response in advance
It might be challenging to begin writing your response, even with standard interview questions.
To help you stay on track, the following are a few questions to ponder while you brainstorm possible answers and arrange your answer:
What characteristics make you an ideal candidate for this position?
Consider what makes you unique as a job application for this position. Perhaps it’s your years of experience or a highly sought-after specialty, training, or technical talent. Sift through the job description and note the instances in which you surpass the standards.
What drew you to the role?
Consider why you’re excited about this position, how it fits into your bigger career ambitions, and why you believe it’s the ideal next step.
What drew you to the firm or industry?
After investigating the company and industry, you should better understand the mission, goals, and industry trends. Are these aims consistent with the professional objectives you’ve established for yourself? What about the firm as a whole do you admire and respect? What excites you about the industry’s future? As you begin to craft your story, connect the dots between your professional objectives, the company’s future vision, and any industry trends you believe are particularly significant.
What good attributes or characteristics do you possess that will benefit you in this role?
For instance, have your friends or coworkers characterized you as unusually organized? Curious? Entrepreneurial? Generous? Consider how you’ve long seen yourself or how others have viewed you. Then consider current instances in your life when you demonstrated that attribute.
Is there something about your background that distinguishes you from other candidates?
As previously said, this is one of the most often asked interview questions. As a result, interviewers have repeatedly heard this response. Consider anything that will pique the interviewer’s interest. For instance, while applying for a developer post, stating anything along the lines of “I’ve been constructing computers since the age of eight” is likely to pique an interviewer’s interest.
How to respond to the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Your response to the “Tell me about yourself” question has the potential to set the tone for the remainder of the interview. In general, when you rehearse your response, you want to be able to deliver a compelling tale about yourself in no more than two minutes. Include the following in your response:
1. Discuss prior experiences and shown achievement concerning the role.
Reread the job description to begin. Take note of the necessary talents you possess and recent examples that show them (review the STAR method to practice telling great stories in your interviews). While you should ideally draw on recent professional experience, volunteer activity may supplement your story while also displaying a dedication to your community.
2. Consider how your present position connects to the job you are applying for.
Is this a more senior position? If yes, describe how your current role requires you to take on more duties. If you’re making a lateral move to a role that requires a different set of talents, explain how your existing abilities translate into the new position.
3. Concentrate on your talents and abilities that you can demonstrate through examples.
When writing the script for each example, keep an eye out for specifics and quantifiable effects. For instance, claiming that you “enhanced customer service” has a more negligible effect than expressing that you “raised customer service response rates by 10–15 percent each quarter.” If you lack precise knowledge, make an educated guess.
4. Emphasize your individuality to establish rapport.
Given that the “Tell me about yourself” interview question is intended to learn about you, it’s a good idea to share your personality with your interviewer—but refrain from sharing personal information. Discussing personal hobbies is an effective technique to conclude your response while remaining professional. You may choose to discuss briefly activities that exhibit intellectual growth and community participation (e.g., reading, music, sports league, volunteering), as well as those that demonstrate personal discipline and success (e.g., learning a new skill, training for a half marathon).
5. Present your response professionally.
To ensure that your response is clear and concise, you should structure it according to a framework or formula. There are two often-used formulae to consider:
- Present, Previous, and Future
- Previous, Present, and Future
Both of these formulae are valid for your response. Still, you may choose one over the other depending on the positions in your experience that are most relevant to the job you are interviewing. For instance, if your most recent role demonstrates a number of the abilities and qualities necessary for the position you are interviewing for, you may wish to begin with the present. On the other hand, if you’re making a job change and your prior experience is more closely tied to the role than your present position, you may want to begin with your history.
Examples of responses to the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Occasionally, viewing a sample can be beneficial, albeit each person’s “Tell me about yourself” response will be unique. The following are a few brief scripts demonstrating how this question may be used to emphasize someone’s abilities backed up by successful outcomes in less than two minutes.
“I began my career in retail management but was pulled to the healthcare sector a few years ago.” I’ve always been adept at bringing people together and collaborating around shared goals. My experience effectively leading teams and managing stores prompted me to try administration, and for the last four years, I’ve been creating a career as a motivated health administrator.”
“In my present work at ABC Medical Center, office efficiency has been a personal priority—particularly in terms of patient results. I establish and monitor departmental budget and patient volume targets. I collaborated with our information technology department last year to build a communication system for scheduling processes and regulations to guarantee that all departments maintained a sufficient staffing level at all times. We boosted communication efficiency by 20% with our new online scheduling site. I meet with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare personnel regularly to know their continuing problems. Additionally, I supervise the Center’s marketing and promotion initiatives in my capacity. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of my work, and I’m particularly interested in bringing my knowledge and commitment to efficiency to the ABC Health team. Outside of work, I am an ardent reader and like hiking. On weekends, you could find me in the neighborhood bookshop or exploring nearby hiking trails.”
“I’ve been fascinated with design since I was a child. When I was in high school, my parents refurbished their home and included me in the interior design ideas. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a profession in interior design. I graduated from Chicago College of Art & Design four years ago with a degree in Interior Design.”
“I’ve been working for an interior design business in Savannah, Georgia, since college. I grew my portfolio throughout my stay, thereby creating both residential and business venues. My time with the business honed my billing and cutting-edge technology skills while also developing excellent contacts with local vendors. Working in Chicago’s historic structures has been the most enjoyable aspect. This project has exposed me to the greatest practices in building preservation.”
“Going future, I’d like to work for a business like yours that specializes in the design and preservation of old structures.” I feel that my knowledge and commitment to preservation will enable me to contribute significantly to your design team.”
“At the moment, I work as a waitress at ABC Restaurant.” I’ve been there somewhat more than two years.
My tasks include:
- Greeting and seating clients.
- Determining wait times.
- Fulfilling take-out orders.
- Answering phones.
I enjoy the vibrant and bustling atmosphere at ABC Restaurant—on Fridays and Saturdays, we frequently have wait periods of an hour or more.”
“Before working at XYZ Restaurant, I spent a year working in retail as a floor associate. This position helped me hone my customer service abilities significantly because I always serviced people in the store. Additionally, it taught me how to operate in a team context.”
“As a hostess in a restaurant setting, I’m trying to hone my customer service and problem-solving abilities. I’m particularly interested in your restaurant since it has a stellar reputation for providing first-rate customer service to your guests while maintaining a vibrant and energetic atmosphere.”
In essence, “Tell me about yourself” means “What do you want the interviewer to remember about you?” Effectively responding to this opening question enables you to generate a favorable first impression and frame the remainder of the interview to your advantage.
Do’s and don’ts for responding to the interview question “Tell me about yourself.”
To summarize, here is a list of excellent ways to respond to this typical interview question and topics to avoid.
- Connect your talents to illustrative instances.
- Maintain a response time of two minutes or less.
- Concentrate on specifics and quantifiable outcomes.
- Avoid paraphrasing your CV verbatim.
- Distinguish yourself from other prospects by stating what makes you unique.
- Mention prior experiences and show success.
- Align your present work tasks with the responsibilities of the role.
- Avoid discussing your marital status, children, political or religious beliefs.
- Emphasize your individuality.
- Avoid jumping straight into more in-depth discussions about the position and company.
- Make a connection between your expertise and the job description.
- Mention your interests, intellectual growth, and community participation briefly.
- Make a note of an example response and practice.
- Mention very personal facts about yourself, such as your marital status, your children, your political or religious beliefs, and so on. These are potentially sensitive subjects that might work against you as a candidate, not to mention that facts should not be used to determine your capacity to execute the job.
- Indicate several imprecise strengths without providing instances. Rather than that, you could want to focus on two or three characteristics about yourself. Each should get accompanied by brief, polished stories substantiated by your job experience.
- Make a note of your response. While practicing and memorizing your significant points is beneficial, you do not want to remember your answer word for word since this may come off as robotic and artificial.
- Summarize your resume verbatim. Rather than that, focus on the position’s good points.
- Avoid rushing into discussions about what you’re looking for in a career or how the firm may benefit you—save these discussions for the last phases of the interview process when you’ve been “sold” on you as a candidate and have more leverage.
Questions from job seekers.
Does it benefit the recruiter or hiring manager to ask, “Tell me about yourself”?
Yes. It can help the recruiter hear about significant accomplishments in your career. And these metrics are essential for the hiring process.
How should I answer this question if I’m a college freshman?
If you’re a job candidate entering the workforce, it’s best to use achievements obtained in college or through an internship.
I recently graduated from Northwestern University with a 3.8 GPA. I attended an internship at Healthcare Corp Inc., where I worked closely with major national healthcare brands and assisted them with their marketing activities.
Do hiring managers lead with this question?
Yes. A hiring manager will often ask an open-ended question to start the interview. “Tell me about yourself” gets asked early in the interview process.
Should I mention personal details in my answer?
No. Avoid any personal interests or mention of your personal life.
Should I bring up experiences from my current job?
Yes. As a job seeker, it’s crucial to bring up experiences from your current job in a job interview. Job candidates who refer to their current employment and achievements made will stand out.
What skills are good to mention in this interview question?
Problem-solving skills, communication skills, and time-management skills. Although, the skills mentioned should get tailored to the job title and particular job you’re interviewing for.
How many personal qualities and skills should I mention in my response?
At least four. They should be personal qualities, skills, or areas of expertise.
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