Career Insight

How to Answer the Dreaded “Tell Me About Yourself” Job Interview Question

tell me about yourself job interview question

By Catherine Reed

When it comes to infamous job interview questions, it’s hard to beat the classic, “Tell me about yourself.”

It takes a mere seven seconds for the hiring manager to form their first impression of you. Since it’s frequently the first question you face, you’ve gotta nail it. Otherwise, you could end up kissing the job goodbye, all before you even get to the technical or behavioral interview questions. Yeah, no pressure…

But don’t panic! You can answer this question and you will answer it like a boss. All you have to do is approach it the right way. If you want to take your response to the next level, here’s how to make it happen.

It’s (Kind of) a Trap!

“Tell me about yourself” seems like an open invitation. You might think about waxing philosophical about who you are deep down. Or, you might feel like your personality, hobbies, or star sign are fair game. Don’t fall into this trap.

You aren’t being asked what you may think you’re being asked. While the hiring manager does want to learn more about you, all they really want to know is what you can do for the company. Can you provide the business with value? What do you bring to the table concerning this role? Will you mesh with the culture?

In most instances, this question is unintentionally misleading. Now that you understand it, you have an idea of what you should and maybe shouldn’t share. But this is only part of the equation.

Do Your Dang Homework

Let’s shift over to what the interviewer actually wants to find out when they ask you to talk about yourself. Is it possible to prepare for this question? Yes, by doing your dang homework.

Begin by scouring the job description. It’ll provide a slew of information, including any must-have skills or other hiring priorities. These are clues about what the hiring manager is looking for in your professional skills and goals. It’s a job interview so, of course, the main purpose of the meeting is to find out if you possess those capabilities and aspirations.

But don’t stop your research there: head over to the company’s website and social media pages. Learn about the organization’s mission and values. This information will let you talk to the company’s priorities.

Additionally, dig into blog posts and reviews which showcase the company’s culture. After all, over 90 percent of business leaders believe the quality of their company’s culture is important, so the hiring manager is going to focus on candidates who align with or elevate the culture.

Ultimately, a vacant position represents a problem for a company. You have to showcase yourself as a solution. Your best chance to accomplish this comes when you’re knowledgable about the role and the business, so doing your research is essential.

Tell an Engaging Story

It’s essential to use a narrative approach when telling the interviewer about yourself. It’s all about storytelling.

After you’ve researched the company, it’s time to craft your narrative. Consider what you have to offer and how it aligns with the organization’s or hiring manager’s needs and priorities. Think of prime examples from your work history that speak to those points.

Your goal is to find clear examples of you excelling in ways that’ll matter to the hiring manager. Focus on experiences showcasing your technical prowess, soft skills, or anything else. Practice telling a few stories to a friend or family member before the interview, this way they’ll be ready in your back pocket when you’re asked to talk about yourself. The key is relevancy and a dab of presentation.

Embrace Brevity

“Tell me about yourself” is an open-ended prompt. As a result, some candidates don’t know when they should stop answering. This can lead to rambling, which isn’t great. When you can’t keep it concise, you can come off as scattered or unprofessional.

So embrace brevity. Make your points and do so quickly. Limit yourself to about 90 seconds; use this as a final target when you practice for the interview.

Remember, this question is typically an icebreaker. There’s going to be plenty more time during the interview to get into the details of what you have to offer. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) explain everything right now. Don’t show all your cards at once!

Close with What You’re Looking For

Sometimes, figuring out how to wrap up your response feels hard. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. Finish answering with a short statement about what you’re hoping to find in a new position.

You’ll want to keep it value-oriented, so don’t go off on a tangent about looking for higher pay or a better job title. Instead, describe how you want to apply your skills to help the company succeed. For example, “I’m looking for an opportunity to become an integral part of a strong team and positively impact [insert company priority here],” can work well. It wraps things up nicely while keeping the message focused. For bonus points, tie your goal back to something you found out about the company in your research.

By using the tips above, you can navigate the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question with ease. For more advice on answering tough interview questions, check out Pathrise’s list of 47 behavioral interview questions from top tech companies. What are you waiting for? Start practicing now so when your next interview arrives, you’ll know how to craft the perfect response. Go get ‘em, tiger.


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