Tell me about Yourself – Interview Question with Answers

tell me about yourself

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This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. This is one of the first questions you are likely to be asked. Bonus points if you’re able to identify how the position you’re applying for aligns with how you envision your future. 
 
No matter how you choose to respond, write out your answer in advance and then read it aloud to ensure it sounds natural. Try to keep it short and sweet, as you don’t want to come across as the type of person who endlessly drones on about themselves. 

What interviewer is trying to judge

When the interviewer asks you, “Tell me about yourself”, what is he trying to achieve? Well, for the interviewer, it’s an easy and open-ended way to start the conversation.
 
His ultimate goal for this interview is to find out enough about you to decide if you’re a good fit for the job opening that he is being paid to fill. In most cases, he wants to like you. His life will be easier if he can find a great candidate quickly. However, he is also on guard because a bad hire will reflect poorly on his judgment and possibly be a mark against him when it comes time to ask for a raise or promotion or bonus.
 
He is hoping that this question will get you talking. This question is almost always asked first, perhaps right after some chit chat about traffic and the weather.
 
Your answer to this question will dictate the interviewer’s first impression of you and will set the tone for the entire interview, letting you lead with your strongest selling points.

Pre-requisites

Sometimes—even knowing that you should avoid addressing personal information and that your response to “Tell Me About Yourself” or similar open-ended questions need to be carefully planned—it can be hard to get started. To keep you on track, here are few questions to ask as you brainstorm ways to respond and structure your answer:

  • What qualities make you a great fit for this position? Think of what makes you stand out as a job applicant for this role. Perhaps it’s your years of experience or some highly desired specialization, training or technical skills. Review the job description closely and note the ways by which you exceed the requirements.
  • Why are you interested in the role? Brainstorm why this position excites you, how it fits into your larger career goals and why you feel it’s the best next step.
  • Why are you interested in the company or the industry? After you’ve spent time researching the company and the industry, you should have a better sense of the mission, goals, and trends impacting the industry. Do these align with the professional goals that you’ve set for yourself? What do you like and respect about the company as a whole? What excites you about the future of the industry? As you start building your story, tie together similarities among your professional goals, the future vision of the company and industry trends you feel are especially important.
  • With all the above in mind, ask yourself, What is a positive trait or characteristic that I’ve had for a long time that will serve me well in this role? For example, have friends or colleagues described you as especially organized, curious, entrepreneurial or generous? Think about how you’ve thought of yourself or how others have seen you. Then think of recent examples from your life when you embodied that characteristic.

Tips on what to include and what to avoid

1. Choose the Right Starting Point for Your Story (IMPORTANT)

Your goal when answering, “tell me about yourself,” is to give a brief, concise walkthrough of your career story that will show off relevant pieces of experience. 
 
You want to start at a point in the past (like how you began working in this field), and end up in your current situation. So the first thing to decide is where you’ll begin the story…
 
If you’re a recent graduate: Start with the fact that you just graduated, and explain why you chose this career path or field of area of study.  
 
For example, you might start your answer like this:
“I graduated with my degree in Economics two months ago. I chose that field of study because I’ve always been interested in finance and money, and a couple of family members told me it leads to great career options, too.”
 
If you have 1-8 years of experience, start with the moment you graduated and walk them through your employment experience since then.
 
Here’s an example of how you’d start your interview answer in this situation:
“I graduated with my degree in Industrial Engineering six years ago and immediately went to work for a small design firm in Chicago. Since then, I’ve…”
 
And if you have 8-20+ years of experience, you can start with a mid-point in your career. This will keep your answer from getting too long.
 
For example, if you’re a manager, you could start with how you first became a manager. If you’ve been working for 25 years but have only been a sales professional for 12 years, you could begin with how you got started in sales.
 
Here is an example of how to begin your answer to “tell me about yourself” as a very experienced candidate:
“I first started managing people twelve years ago, when I was promoted from Customer Service Associate to Customer Service Supervisor. Since then, I’ve…”
 

2. Highlight Impressive Experience and Accomplishments

As you tell your career story, explain key accomplishments you’ve achieved, the work you’ve done, the skills you’ve learned, and the key career moves you’ve made. Were you promoted? That’s always a great sign and worth mentioning.
 
Did you accomplish something significant like solving a big problem for your last employer?  That’s great to mention, too. Did you build new skills or overcome challenges? Get specific! Tell details.
 
But random impressive facts aren’t enough. You should be thinking about how this ties in with the company you’re talking to.
 
Mention past experiences and proven successes as they relate to the position. Begin by re-reading the job description. Take note of the required skills that you have and identify recent stories that demonstrate them (review the STAR method to practice telling great stories in your interviews). Ideally, you should draw primarily from recent professional experience. However, volunteer work can also support your narrative while demonstrating a commitment to your community.
 
Focus on strengths and abilities that you can support with examples. When you start building the script of each example, focus on details and outcomes that you can quantify, if possible. For example, stating that you “improved customer service” is less impactful than “increased customer service response rates each quarter by 10 percent–15 percent.” If you don’t have the exact information, estimate a realistic value.
 
In a great tell me about yourself interview answer, list accomplishments like:
  • Cut costs X%.
  • Raised quality X%.
  • Increased revenue by X%.
  • Trained X employees.
  • Saved X hours per week.
  • Received X professional award.
  • Boosted customer review scores X%.
  • Slashed waste X%.

3. Conclude by Explaining Your Current Situation

Finally, the best way to finish your story is to bring them up to speed on your current situation. Why you wanted to apply for their job, what you’re looking to do next, etc.
 
For example, you might end your answer by saying:
“…and that’s why I wanted to interview with your firm. This position seems like a great opportunity to advance those skills I just talked about, and continue building my career and challenging myself”.
 
Consider how your current job relates to the job you’re applying for. Is it a more senior role? If so, explain how you are taking on more responsibilities in your current position. If you are making a lateral transition to a role with different skills, describe how your current skills translate into the new position.
 

4. Keep Your Answer Work-Related

When employers ask, “tell me about yourself,” in an interview, they usually want to hear about you as a professional. So the safest approach is to keep your answer work-related and share your career story, rather than personal details.
 
You can show more personality as the interview goes on, but it’s risky to share too much personal info when answering, “tell me about yourself.”
 
It could lead to your answer getting too long, or it could cause you to leave out important professional information that the interviewer was looking to know!
 

5. Be Concise When Answering (2 Minutes or Less!)

When they say “tell me about yourself,” it’s going to be tempting to give a long-winded answer. It’s such an open-ended question.
 

Things to avoid

While answering the “Tell Me About Yourself” interview question, there are a few important tips about what to avoid. If you are not prepared, there is a risk that your answer will become long-winded and unclear. This may undermine your chance at the position. Here are a few things to remember when you begin building a script for your response:
  • Avoid mentioning personal information such as marital status, children, political or religious affiliations, etc. These can be highly sensitive topics that might work against you as a candidate. Such details should not be factors for the employer in determining your ability to perform the job.
  • Don’t list multiple, vague strengths without supporting examples. Instead, you may want to choose two or three qualities about yourself. Support each with short, polished stories that can be substantiated by your work experience.
  • Don’t summarise your resume word for word. Instead, discuss high points that are relevant to the position.
  • Don’t rush into conversations regarding what you’re looking for in the role or how the company can benefit you. Save such topics for the final stages of the interview process when they are “sold” on you as a candidate and you have more leverage.

Sample Answers

Example Answer for Experienced Candidates:
“I graduated with a Business degree in 2010, and was offered an account management position from a telecommunications company I had interned with. I loved working with customers and managing and growing my accounts, but the industry we were in just wasn’t very appealing to me. After that, I stayed a full year and learned a ton about how to build and manage accounts successfully and  I ended up becoming a top performer in my group before leaving. I left at the 1-year-mark to pursue a very similar position within an industry I’m much more excited about- healthcare. I’ve been at this healthcare startup space for 2 years with this company and I feel ready to take my career to the next level so that’s why I’m currently looking for a new opportunity.”
 
Example Answer With No Experience:
“I graduated with a degree in Engineering two months ago. I chose that field of study because I’ve always been interested in math and physics, and a couple of family members told me it leads to great career options. One of my key accomplishments during my academic career was speaking at a conference on the topic of energy-efficient window design, based on research I had done for one of my senior-level classes. This led to an internship that I just wrapped up, so I’m actively looking for a full-time position now.”

 

Sample Answer for a Software Tester

“Firstly, thank you very much for giving me this golden opportunity. I am Sapna Sharma. My father, Mr. Shyam Sharma is a teacher and my mother a homemaker. I have 2 other siblings and they are still in school. I completed my engineering from Annamalai University in 2014 and since then, I have been working as a software tester. During my under graduation, I completed several projects on testing, where I excelled in my work and even got certificates for the same. Now, I am interested in expanding my career graph by joining your reputed organization as a software tester where I also look forward to attaining people management opportunity in my area of work.”

How Possibly an Academician cum Trainer Could Answer this Question

“I have been engaged in the education industry for the past 4 years. My most recent work was at a Play School as their Branch Manager. I was personally responsible for coordinating and managing the day to day operational matters of the school. With my leadership abilities and strong communication skills, I was able to develop a healthy atmosphere driven by team spirit amongst the teachers and the lower staff as well. I played the role of a mentor where I taught the teachers life skills which in turn, they passed on to the children attending the school. Now at this point of time, I am looking for a company that values teamwork and the group dynamic, where I can leverage my experience and learnings to my as well as the organization’s benefit.”
 

An Answer Fit for a Professional with around 5 Years of Experience

“Hi, I am Manisha Singh. If you talk about my educational background, I completed my Bachelor of Engineering degree in 2006. After that, I changed my line of profession and got into writing for the English language always remained my first love. I started writing for a news magazine following which I got involved in some serious kind of writing. I started preparing resumes, essays, and statements of purpose for students aspiring to go abroad for higher education. I supplemented this with blog writing where I gained exposure in online content. Working in all these spheres gave me an overall experience in the field of content creation and editing to enhance which, I am looking to join your organization for the further development of my skills.”

A Software Engineer’s Answer to the Question

“Born and brought up in Patna, Bihar, I studied in a convent school and it was around my ninth grade where I developed a keen interest in Internet and Technology. Following my interest, I pursued my Bachelors in Computer Application from Women’s College, Patna. As part of my curriculum, I particularly found the subjects of Computer Networks and Design of Algorithms highly intriguing, as these subjects created in me a passion to study the computer related courses in much more detail. Alongside, I also started preparing for my Master of Computer Application course. Besides my curriculum, I participated in various events pertaining to art and culture held in my college. Talking about my profession, now I am qualified computer programmer where I work on various programming languages such as C, Java, PHP, JavaScript, C++, Python, Shell, Ruby, Objective-C and C#. Besides my work and academic, I am extremely passionate about playing Guitar, which is a great stress-buster for me.”
 

An HR Professional’s Take on the Question

“My name is Shreya. I am from Noida. My experience as an HR officer has given me the opportunity to specialise in delivering trainings and I have conducted several trainings on various HR related topics in the past years.  My strengths lie in  organising learning modules, creating instructional activities and presenting concepts. I am go-getter and intend to put in my efforts towards channelizing my knowledge and skills while moving ahead with my career in your organisation.”
 

How to Mould the Answer for a Sales Executive

“Being part of Sales team at I for over 4 years gave I was a part of sales team for 3 years in Talent Plus Plus, Gurgaon. My efforts increased the sales by 40% grew the customer base in the Northeast. Sportspersons are given a lot of weightage in this company and I am very much interested in football. I have also played at national level and was involved in coaching. It is important to me the company holds the same values.”

How a Sales Supervisor’s Answer Possibly Could Look Like

“My name is Gaurav Dev. I am from Noida. I have worked for 3 years in Mamsys Technologies as a Sales Supervisor. During this stint, my responsibilities included selling computers and its parts along with which, I have also had the opportunity of managing a 5-member team. I would like to emphasise on the fact that my team has always outperformed other teams and managed to spike the sales volume every quarter. For this, I as well as my team have received several awards also. Thus, my qualification and background as a reliable resource to my past company makes me a suitable candidate for the position of a Sales Manager at your reputed firm.”

This is how an Academic Counsellor could Answer the Question
“I have been working in the Study Abroad industry for the past 10 years. I have always enjoyed interacting with people of varied profile which brought me to select counselling as a career. My job profile entails me to counsel students aspiring to go for further studies to reputed international universities. My profile gave me an opportunity to study the world geography, their education pattern and also about the various courses being offered at world class institutions. It also enabled me to interact with students and professionals with high acumen, brainstorm with them and come up with out of the box solutions to their queries related to international education, which highly intrigued and stimulated my mind and personality on a whole. If you notice, the answers are brief and to the point. The interviewer does not really want you to list out things that are already mentioned in your resume. They want to see first how comfortable you are in your own skin and second how you can put that across to the interviewer. As mentioned at the start of the article, it is an ice breaking question and if you manage summarise your profile with confidence and a genuine smile…. there you go… the rest of the ride becomes a bit easier.”
 
Few more Examples:
“I’ve been working in marketing for the last two years since graduating from Cornell and I love it. I’m currently working as a marketing coordinator at a fashion e-commerce startup. I’m responsible for our social media marketing presence and also work closely with our marketing manager on running our marketing events, which is a lot of fun. Previously, I spent a year as an assistant in the Global Marketing team at American Express. That was a great experience. I supported two VPs in the group, managed their calendars, handled expense reports, and made sure everything in the office ran smoothly. I loved how every day was a bit different and I got to work with great people who had a lot to teach me about marketing. I also volunteered to work on some creative projects outside of my role because I realized how much I loved the creative side of marketing and wanted to get some experience. I helped coordinate a few big client marketing events and worked on copy for a few email newsletter campaigns. Unfortunately, due to a reorganization of the team, my position was eliminated and that’s when I was recruited for my current position. Although I like my job, at this stage of my career, I realized I need to find a company where I see a long-term career path and I think this position would be a great fit with my skills and goals.”
 
“I began my career in retail management but a few years ago, I was drawn to the healthcare space. I’ve always been skilled at bringing people together and working towards common goals. My experience in successfully leading teams and managing stores led me to consider administration and I’ve been building a career as a driven health administrator for the last four years.”
 
“In my current role at XYZ Medical Centre, the efficiency of the office has been a personal focus especially as it relates to patient outcomes. I set and oversee goals related to department budget and patient volume. Last year, I worked with our IT department to implement a communication system for scheduling procedures and protocols to ensure that all departments were adequately staffed at all times. With our new online scheduling portal, we increased communication efficiency by 20 percent. To stay informed about their ongoing concerns, I hold regular meetings with physicians, nurses and other healthcare staff. In my role, I also manage marketing and advertising efforts on behalf of the Centre. I’ve been really enjoying that part of my work and I’m especially interested in bringing the experience I’ve gained as well as my commitment to efficiency to the team at ABC Health. I’m also an avid reader and I love to hike. On weekends, you might find me at the local bookstore or exploring hiking trails in the area.”
 

“I am a self-starter with strong interpersonal skills. I work efficiently both as an individual contributor as well as along with a team. I seek new challenges and try to think out-of-the-box while looking for creative solutions to a given problem. Besides the details given in my resume, I believe in character, values, vision, and action. I am a quick learner and believe in learning from my mistakes for I strongly feel that this virtue will take me ahead in life and career.”

“I can sum up my entire personal and professional life in three words – I can win! My dad and my current boss, both would vouch for the fact that I have a havoc wrecking never-say-die spirit! It is impossible to subdue me, no matter what. I also make sure that this attitude becomes contagious within my team. Some of my colleagues say that I encourage my teammates as a football coach during crunched situations!”

“I am a dynamic figure. In my mind, I am often climbing mountains and crushing huge icebergs under my pirate ship! I have been known to remodel the electricity supply system of the entire city during lunch breaks. In my free time, I compose poetry or paint, which shows that I am an artistic person who can also manage free time efficiently! I agree that I love to work hard, but I am also a social butterfly and can party all day and night long for two days in a row! I am a great cook too and can stir up my favorite thirty-minute pasta dish in under fifteen minutes. I am an expert roller skater having performed at several Skate Shows and won a handful of them. I am also an automobile maniac and a gadget freak. Honestly, I love this question and can talk for hours about myself but I feel I should stop now. :)”

“I am an abstract artist, a civil engineer at heart, and a ruthless bookworm. I have a great dressing sense and I love to follow fashion trends closely. Being a cleanliness freak, I like to keep my den and my work desk spic and span at all times. I am not an outgoing person, and love to stay indoors with a book instead of partying in a regular weekend. I love my pets, yes I have four dogs and they are my family now. If I do go out, I prefer to go on solo trips. Last summer I toured the entire East and West Malaysia. I have a weakness for fresh flowers, which obviously means that gardening is my hobby.”

“I am a sportswoman (man) at heart. I can hurl a tennis racket, a cricket bat and even a golf chipper at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. The laws of physics do not apply to me! I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket, yes I am a diehard foodie. While on vacation I strictly follow a well thought out budget to travel as long as possible, which means I have great negotiation skills. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in half and full marathons. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a rice cooker and a toaster oven! I have won cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at New Delhi.”

“Hi, I am Shakeel. I am from Delhi. I completed my English Honors from Hindu College which is affiliated to Delhi University. I completed my twelfth grade from Delhi Public School with 89% from CBSE Boards. My family includes my father who is an engineer, my mother who is a lawyer and my brother who is pursuing his MS in Computer Science from Cornell University. I love playing chess and have represented my school in various district and state level chess competitions. I am also a part of Rotary Club where I have participated in community service at various schools teaching the underprivileged and visiting a number of old age homes. Being part of the Rotary Club has given me a different perspective of life which makes me appreciate what I am and where I am.”

All the best!

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