How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in a Job Interview
Getting ready for a big job interview? One commonly-asked question that you should definitely prepare is “Tell Me About Yourself”. Continue reading for practical pointers and sample answers.
One frequently-asked question at the start of job interviews is “tell me about yourself”. The open-ended nature of this question can make it tricky to answer off the top of your head. However, it’s a great opportunity to make a strong first impression so it’s wise to invest time and energy beforehand into preparing your answer.
“Tell Me About Yourself”: Alternative Phrasings
In many cases, the hiring manager will use the exact words: “Tell me about yourself.” However, many interviewers might have their own unique ways of phrasing this question, such as:
- Could you please walk me through your CV?
- I have your CV in front of me, but I’d like to hear more about you.
- Could you tell me more about your career journey so far?
- Tell me a little bit more about your background.
Why Do Employers Ask This Question?
Many hiring managers like to ease into the interview with an easy, open-ended question that gives the candidate free rein to talk about themselves. This question offers a good opportunity for the interviewer to quickly gain a better understanding of the candidate’s personality, skills and work experience. What’s more, the content in the candidate’s answer may provide the interviewer with ideas on what questions to ask next.
How to Start Your Answer
If You’re A Recent Graduate:
Start your answer by outlining your qualification and describing any relevant modules and/or extracurricular activities you did during your degree. Talk about why you chose this career path and mention how this role ties in with your professional ambitions.
If You Have 1–10 Years of Experience:
Begin your answer by talking about your qualifications and then do a succinct run-through of your employment history.
If You Have 10+ Years of Experience:
Given the length of your career, you can start with a mid-point in your career. A good starting point could be your first senior role. This will keep your answer from becoming too long.
5 Tips on How to Answer the Question “Tell Me About Yourself”
1. Consider The “Career Story” You Want to Tell
This question offers you an opportunity to craft a clear narrative about your career. It is a chance to explain who you are as a professional in a way that is relevant to the role. With that in mind, think carefully about the impression you want to make on the interviewer and what kind of career story would best communicate this. Jot down your points and work backwards.
Key Points: Highly qualified — varied and diverse experience — highly-motivated and reliable self-starter
Since completing my PhD in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering 20 years ago, I’ve been working steadily in the MedTech sector.
As you can see in my CV, I was employed as a Manufacturing Engineer at FakeCo for 10 years where I progressed through the levels until becoming the Manager. Under my leadership, my team increased productivity and output.
In the following years, I moved into contracting and worked on a project-basis for several different MedTech companies in the Munster region. In each case, I was able to deliver successful results on budget and within the pre-agreed deadlines.
2. Structure Your Answer
When preparing your response, focus on creating a clear structure. Perhaps the easiest way to structure your answer is to divide it up into past, present and future sections.
Past: I graduated from UCC with a first-class degree in Business Information Systems. After that, I worked as a Business Analyst (BA) with a multinational FinTech company for two years.
Present: I decided to apply for this job because I thought it would provide a great opportunity to specialise and deepen my knowledge.
Future: Career advancement is important to me, so I am currently studying for a PRINCE2 Certificate so I can eventually move into Project Management.
3. Highlight Your Strengths & Achievements
The open-ended nature of this question means that you have an opportunity to highlight your strengths and talk about the value you could bring to the company. However, you don’t want to go overboard so it’s best to select just one or two achievements. If you can try to quantify your achievements in terms of time, money or people.
For the past 3 years, I’ve been working as a Lab Analyst with FakeCo. In addition to my regular lab duties, I led multiple projects to successful completion on time and under budget. I found that I really enjoyed leading a team so when the company offered Leadership & Management training I jumped on the opportunity.
In my spare time, I enjoy team sports and am an active member of my local football club. I was recently made team captain, so has come with extra responsibilities and has been a real test of my leadership skills.
4. Tailor Your Response to the Role
“When candidates are asked this question during an interview, I think it is important that they make their answer relevant to the company and the role. For example, if the role requires travel — the candidate should mention how much they enjoy travelling.”
Katie Sullivan — Manager, Business & Technology
Rather than reciting a rote answer for every interview, put effort into preparing an answer that is tailored to the job and the company. This not only shows why you are uniquely suited to the role but it also demonstrates due diligence.
I graduated from college in 2018 with a first-class Master’s degree in Interactive Media.
During my studies, I found that I really enjoyed finding ways of bringing together psychology and creative coding to ensure the best possible user experience. This is something I have worked hard to ensure in all my subsequent roles.
One of the reasons why this role appealed to me was the heavy emphasis in the job description on psychology-backed design best practices. Your company’s focus on human-centric design strongly resonates with me and really ties in with my own beliefs about UI design and development.
5. Keep it Brief
One of the reasons why it’s so important to prepare your response in advance is because the open-ended nature means that it can be quite easy to ramble on incoherently. Think of your answer as an elevator pitch where you are the product. With that in mind, keep your answer succinct and only mention the most salient points.
How Not to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
When preparing your answer for the “’Tell me about yourself” interview question, there are a few pitfalls you need to avoid.
- Don’t simply regurgitate your CV word-for-word. Rather, prepare talking points that are relevant to the position.
- Avoid sharing personal information such as marital status, children etc.
- Don’t bring up potentially contentious topics such as your political or religious affiliations, etc.
- Don’t be vague. Always back up statements about your strengths and accomplishments with supporting examples and/or data.
- Don’t focus on the personal. Concentrate on your professional history and achievements. Keep any mentions of your hobbies and interests brief and relevant to the role in question.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Once you have prepared an answer that you are satisfied with, the next step is to practice it. Ideally, you want to be confident in what you’re saying sounding without sounding rote and unnatural. If you’re working with a trusted recruitment partner, they can run through your answer with you and ensure taht you are hitting all your key points so that you are perfectly prepared when your interview slot comes around.
Key Takeaways: How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in a Job Interview
Given the frequency this question is asked in job interviews, all candidates should prepare an original and persuasive answer that will help distinguish them from the crowd. If you need a helping hand when preparing your response, why not ask your recruiter for help? They can guide you on how to prepare a response that showcases your strengths but will also appeal to the hiring manager.