“Tell me about yourself” will often be the opening question in a job interview so it’s important to not be caught off guard with this question.
This page will help you create a great answer that is unique. This page will also provide a few example answers to help you get the hang of it.
Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question Menu
How To Answer The ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question
To answer this question, let’s break it down into different parts. We can think of our answer as a formula:
By the time you’re asked this question, the probably already know your name so you want to begin your answer by quickly summarizing what you’ve been doing the past 3-5 years.
For example, if you have been employed as a medical assistant then your answer might start off like this:
For the past 3 years I have been working as a medical assistant at so-and-so medical office.
Your introduction, no matter your profession, should include those 3 basic pieces of information: how long you’ve been doing what you do, what your job title was, and where you did it.
If you’ve worked in the same field at a number of different businesses, you don’t need to be specific in the introduction and can talk more about each individual job & company later in the interview.
Once you’ve laid out your introduction, you’ll want to back up the job title with example accomplishments, job duties, and skills.
Using Job Related Anecdotes
An anecdote in the context of this interview question is just a really short story about what you did in a previous job.
This can be detailing your daily routine, going over skills you learned and used, or listing out achievements and accomplishments you completed during your work.
To continue with our medical assistant example, one anecdote you could use would be to talk about tests or procedures you ran on patients – such as taking their blood pressure or running a blood test.
In your interview preparation, review the company’s job listing and see what types of duties and skills are described. Your anecdotes should match up as close as possible to what the employer is looking for.
Depending on the length of each example, you should use around 2 to 3 anecdotes to get the point across that you have experience doing what they need done.
Summarize At The End Of Your Answer As Well
The key to wrapping up your ‘Tell Me About Yourself” answer is to re-summarize your most valuable assets, tailored to that particular employers needs.
When potential employees hear the question “Tell me about yourself”, they are often caught off guard and begin talking about who they are in their personal life rather than their professional one.
This is a big mistake for a lot of reasons. You don’t want to give employers any personal information they aren’t required to have that could potentially cost you the job.
Besides that, from the onset of the interview you’ll want to be talking about your professional qualifications and how they make you a perfect fit for the job.
Employers don’t need to know about your hobbies, your marital status, and whether or not you have children. Months down the line when you’ve got the job you can decide to let your “work family” in on whatever you’d like.
For now, focus on telling them all about how great of a worker you are and how your skills make them a better company.
When you are asked this question, answer it more like you’ve been asked what you’ve been doing for work for the past five years. Reshaping this question to ask about the professional you rather than the personal you can help as well.
If you’ve had work in the same industry for some time then you’ll start out by mentioning how long you’ve been in the industry and what positions you’ve held.
Have you started from the bottom and worked your way up? Maybe you haven’t risen as much as remained a constant in your particular department, creating consistency and quality over a large span of time.
What’s the overall theme been of your work at each job? Try to describe these details with keywords from the job listing.
If you haven’t had consistent work or the work you’ve done hasn’t always been in the same industry, you’ll want to emphasize the varied knowledge and skills you’ve picked up along your way. These skills should be hand picked from job listings in your research.
You’ll have the rest of the interview to expand on your skills, but in the beginning you’ll need to make sure they want to keep listening.
How To End Your Answer Without Rambling
One tip I’ve always liked to use when ending an interview answer is to repeat the question at the end of my answer.
When you don’t properly end an answer, the interviewer may not know you are done answering and sit there and stare at you. Instead, just repeat the question.
For example, once you’ve come to what you’re doing currently and how you can help the company, just say, “…And that’s a little bit about myself.” This let’s the interviewer know you’re done and to ask the next question.
It also helps to create a rhythm for the interview that will hopefully carry throughout the questioning.
How Long Should My Answer Be?
In general, you’ll want your answer to be anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds. As you practice, make sure you keep a stopwatch nearby to see how long you are talking for. It sounds like a short amount of time now but when it comes interview time, 90 seconds can seem like an agonizingly long time.
In my opinion, three minutes is about as long as you want to go.
As you practice, to a friend or into the mirror, try and recognize if you tone becomes monotonous. This may mean that you’ve gone too long or need to switch topics.
You can make the answer longer but your tempo, rhythm, and enthusiasm must be just right to talk at length for any one particular interview answer.
How To Practice Your Answer
When you practice this question, don’t be scared if your answers are different each time. Your answers shouldn’t be rote memorization anyway.
As long as you cover key topics from your past experience that show your value to the future company then you will be fine. The hope is that you have plenty of examples from past jobs or education to use throughout the interview.
It can be helpful to remember key “plot points” of your story rather than trying to retell it word for word. For example, one point of emphasis you want to make might be how you have experience with the exact type of software this new company works with.
So instead of just merely mentioning a company and a job title, you can say that you worked for Company A as a Developer, where you worked with Product X directly, just like they do.
Tell Me About Yourself Example Answers
Below is a sample answer to this question as written by and for me, your humble author, if I were to interview for another career advisor position.
Remember that your answer will most likely be a bit longer than this, as you’ll want to hit on key topics or words that were stressed in the skills they’re looking for in their job listing:
Other Ways of Being Asked This Question
You’re sitting there, having just introduced yourself to the interviewer and you’re so on edge waiting for the first question! Only, you don’t hear them say “tell me about yourself”, so what gives?
Interviewers like to mix things up so they may ask some other variation of the question such as, “Tell me about your past experience.” or “What have you been doing the past five years?”.
Regardless of how they ask the question, they are really just trying to understand how we see the job, ourselves, and how we value our work.