If you start to search “how to answer…” on Google, there’s a reason the first result is “...tell me about yourself.” This interview question is practically a given on any interview and you might have asked yourself how you can possibly have a good answer to it! Well, we’re here to help you master your response to help land you that next job or spot in a program.
“Tell Me About Yourself” in Different Forms
First, it’s important to recognize the different forms this question can take. The following questions are all asking the same thing:
“Take me through your resume.”
“I’d love to learn more about you.”
“Tell me about your background.”
Although asked differently, all these questions are saying the same thing: it’s your time to impress the interviewer and tell them about yourself. However, this isn’t a question that interviewers ask to waste time or try to trick you up; it can actually reveal a lot about the candidate. Here’s why:
It’s a great way to start the conversation
The beginning of interviews can be awkward or uncomfortable, especially if the candidate is visibly nervous. And there’s nothing easier than talking about yourself, right? Well, we know that it can be difficult to create the perfect answer in the moment, but in addition to collecting information about you, interviewers want to get you talking, see what is important to you, and ease into the interview.
The interviewer can get a feel for the candidate
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, the recruiter has probably already reviewed your resume and experience and decided that you could be a solid fit on paper. But, ensuring your personality matches that of the company is crucial.
It creates a lasting first impression
This is your first chance to tell the interviewer about yourself and your skills and, more importantly, why you’re the right person for the role. Nailing this question will help you ace the interview.
How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Now that you know the reasoning behind this question, let’s tackle the actual question and how to formulate the perfect answer.
Step 1: Present, past, future
The interviewer has your resume in front of them; they’re not looking for a word-for-word summary of what they’ve already seen. To efficiently and effectively give them a breakdown, start talking about your present, then move to your past, and then what you hope to accomplish in the future.
Answer these questions in each section:
Where are you currently located?
What is your current role?
What are your current responsibilities?
What have you accomplished at your current job?
What previous roles have you had that help you with your current achievements?
What courses or programs have you studied to further your career?
Do you have any quantifiable results from past roles to share?
Where do you see your career in the future?
Why are you looking for a change?
What will you continue to do to keep improving?
Step 2: Practice and be concise
This question is so common that you can be sure you’ll hear some variation of it during an interview. And while it’s great to come prepared, make sure you don’t sound too rehearsed. Know the major points you want to mention and let yourself put them together naturally. Remember, the interviewer has your resume in front of them and they’re looking for you to highlight what’s most important to you.
It might be tempting to tell the interviewer all your accomplishments, but it’s crucial to be concise. Show your professionalism and keep it to 1-2 minutes. The interviewer will follow-up with questions where you’ll be able to dive deeper into any details.
Step 3: Know your audience
It’s normal to have experience in a wide variety of sectors, but make sure you tailor your response to the role to which you’re applying and the person to whom you’re talking. In initial interviews, you’ll be chatting with HR managers and they probably won’t know the ins and outs of your data analyst responsibilities. However, they will be looking for specific hard skills; the same goes for later interviews when talking to the CTO. Now’s the time to bring in those numbers, more minute details, and truly important, role-specific points.
Interview Question Examples
Not sure how exactly to put these tips into practice? Don’t worry; here’s everything you need to ace that interview:
Example for new professionals
This question can be intimidating for those with limited experience, but don’t stress. There’s plenty of ways to incorporate your educational experience into the answer:
“Yes, of course. I’m Sara and attended the University of X, graduating in 2018 with a 3.9 GPA with a B.A. in Communications. While in university, I had the chance to serve on student organization executive boards, intern with X company, and participate in student government. My classes focused on marketing, research, technical communication, advertising, and writing which helped me complete my thesis. I’m eager to put what I learned in university into practice in my next role.”
Example for experienced professionals
Here, it’s essential to highlight only the important and relevant experience:
“Sure! I’ve been at my current role for six years now, where I’m in charge of the entire Marketing department, focusing on both paid and organic marketing. I manage a 10-person team and report to the CMO monthly with our quantitative and qualitative results. Prior to this position, I was the Head Copywriter at company X for three years, where I produced 20 blog posts a month, daily social media posts for LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, and managed a freelance translation team of five. This role seems like a great fit for me given my past experience and I’m eager for a new challenge.”
Example for program applicants
Applying for a program to advance your technical skills? Try this:
“Of course! After twelve years leading the HR department at various companies, I’m looking for a change and want to start studying UX/UI design. I’m a creative, hard-working individual that likes a challenge and using teamwork to meet a common goal. Over the last year, my team has been working on creating a new candidate application platform for our website to improve both the hiring and onboarding process at my company. I’m a quick learner and eager to use my unique background as a HR professional to enhance my future career as a UX/UI designer.”
You got this! Stick to the present-past-future model, be concise, and show the interviewer that you’re the perfect candidate.