“Tell me about yourself.” It’s a common (and tricky) job interview question. Even so, many job seekers dismiss the question as an icebreaker designed to make them feel more at ease.
However, they should think about their response carefully because “tell me about yourself” is more than a throwaway opener for most interviewers. When hiring managers ask this open-ended question, they expect candidates to provide insight into their goals and priorities, giving them a better sense of who each job candidate truly is.
Not only that, but interviewers use this question to assess interviewees’ confidence, which gives them an idea of how new hires might present themselves to customers, clients, and colleagues if they get the job.
Knowing how to respond to the question, “tell me about yourself,” as a job seeker, gives you a great opportunity to highlight the job skills and experience that make you the ideal candidate for the job. And, because it’s a question that many hiring managers begin with, it’s also a good way to get off on the right foot.
Why do employers ask “Tell me about yourself?”
“Tell me about yourself,” or similar questions, are common at the start of interviews because they ease both you and the interviewer into the situation. It gives the interviewer a brief overview of your background and skills, as well as insight into what experience and qualifications you believe are most relevant to the position you’re interviewing for.
Employers are also aware that, despite being a common interview question, it has the potential to fluster or stump candidates. By answering this question correctly, you set the tone for the interview as someone who is confident, good under pressure, and attentive to the position’s qualifications.
Some interviewers may use your response to spark casual conversation to get to know you better, while others may move right into other interview questions after you respond.
What you should not say
Many job candidates make the mistake of answering this question with personal information. Some even begin telling their life story, beginning with their hometown and progressing through their college graduation.
Others, on the other hand, share descriptions of their current job’s problems, explaining that they applied for this position because their boss is a micromanager or their employer won’t allow them to work a flexible schedule.
And some job seekers simply summarise their resume, going over their work history and educational background point by point.
All three of these responses have the potential to derail your new job search. If you answer either of the first two questions, hiring managers will see it as a red flag — an indication that you’re not serious about the position or are simply trying to get out of a bad situation at your current job.
And if you choose the third approach, you’re passing up an opportunity. You can assume that the interviewers read your resume before inviting you to the interview, and they don’t need you to walk them through it.
Craft an elevator pitch
The best way to know how to respond to “tell me about yourself” is to make sure you explain how you’re suited for this particular job and, equally important, why you want it. Spend some time reviewing the job description in the recruitment ad for the position and researching the company before you begin crafting your selling points. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what the hiring manager is looking for in terms of skills and experience.
Next, write a brief script that highlights your post’s relevant skills, strengths, and areas of expertise. Then, explain why you’re applying for the job, emphasizing career-related motivations such as a desire to gain experience and take on additional responsibilities. Finish with a brief statement about why working for this particular company appeals to you.
Sample answer for “Tell Me About Yourself” interview question
An excellent response to “tell me about yourself” for a job seeker applying for a senior administrative assistant position with a clean-energy company is as follows:
“I’ve been an administrative assistant for three years. My current position in the finance department of a midsize company entails scheduling, meeting, and travel planning for four executives and 20 employees. I also assist in the preparation of correspondence, presentations, and reports.
“I’m well-known as a detail-oriented, well-organized team player.” I never miss deadlines, I’m an excellent communicator, and I can handle multiple tasks at the same time. My supervisor always mentions how much he appreciates my professionalism and enthusiasm for the job in my performance reviews.
“With this experience under my belt, I’m looking for a chance to advance in my career.” I’d like to do so in an organization like yours that works to improve the environment, which is something I’m very interested in.”
The Bottom Line on how to answer, ‘tell me about yourself’
Be clear and concise. Don’t take too long with your response. You are not required to tell the hiring manager everything that you believe makes you a strong candidate. Just give a few key details that will pique their interest in learning more about you, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful interview.