How to Ace the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

“Tell me about yourself. ”

Interview questions can sometimes feel a bit awkward. And since you are trying to impress your recruiter, you can’t be too modest. On the other hand, being too cocky is also a bad idea. How to do it right?

Read on and learn all you need to know about answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question.

‘Tell Me About Yourself’ — Why Do Recruiters Ask This Question?

An older worker shakes hands at a job interview
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There’s a reason behind each and every question the interviewer asks you. And unless you know what the reason is, you’re likely to fail your answer miserably. Why do recruiters ask this question?

Well, there are five main reasons:

  1. To allow you to introduce yourself.
  2. To smoothly start the interview without stressing you out.
  3. To set the tone and direction for the entire interview.
  4. To get a sample of your soft skills in a real-life situation.
  5. To get to know you professionally.

Recruiters only know you from what you put on your resume (and maybe from a brief conversation on the phone), so they want to get to know you better. Remember that 78% of employers claim that personality is the most desirable quality in employees. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on that.

The way you talk and behave will give them a glimpse into your soft skills:

  • Are you confident and calm while you’re speaking?
  • Do you maintain eye contact? Are you a good communicator?
  • Can you establish rapport?

Your answer could also determine what questions come next. If you win the recruiter over immediately, your entire job interview can go pretty smoothly.

Of all the common interview questions the recruiters can ask, this one seems most relaxed to begin an otherwise stressful conversation. Still, it’s quite meaningful. Answering it correctly will allow you to show self-esteem.

Different Ways of Asking the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Question

Woman and man talking across desk.
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Don’t expect that specific question to be asked precisely like that. A recruiter can try to get the same answer from you, by slightly rephrasing it, so keep your ears open.

Here are some variations of the “tell me about yourself” interview question:

  • Can you please describe yourself?
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • I don’t like resumes, let’s talk like people. I’d love to learn more about you.
  • Can you tell me more about your background?
  • I’ve seen your resume, but I am sure there’s more to you than that document.
  • Tell me something about you that’s not on the resume in front of me.

And these are just some examples of many ways of asking the same question. So now, let’s see how to answer tell me about yourself in an interview.

How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Interview Question

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Before we see some examples, let’s find the best way to structure your answer.

1. Use a Simple Formula

Young female candidate laughing at job interview
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Here’s a simple formula for answering the “tell me about yourself” question:

  1. Start with an important strength the hiring manager is looking for. Mentioning key skills and relevant achievements is always a good idea.
  2. Say how that skill or quality helped your employer in the past. Explaining how those traits helped the previous or current employer shows you know well that you’re really here for your recruiter and for the benefit of the company, not the other way around.
  3. Make sure you give metrics to show your real-life impact. Quantifying shows you know very well what you are talking about and can give you extra impression points.
  4. Explain how this new opportunity will help you grow your talents. It shows you have thought about your career goals and can’t wait to accomplish them with the new employer for mutual benefit.

Keep in mind that knowing this formula isn’t enough to give a good answer. It will only help you if you know how to make your answer relevant to the position you’re after. Let’s find out!

2. Make Your Answer Relevant

Job interview
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Interviews happen after your resume has gone through a selection process. It passed the applicant tracking system and was marked as an ATS-friendly resume, meaning you know how to write a resume, and know that relevance is key.

Now it’s time to make sure that what you plan to say is relevant, too. The first step involves revisiting the job offer.

There are surely certain hard and soft skills mentioned. Mention your recent accomplishments and work experience where they can be found. Perhaps some relevant coursework can be found in your education section.

As you can see, there’s a lot to find on your resume. Use everything that’s relevant to the job opening.

3. Show Your Personality

Senior businesswoman or older worker smiling and using a clipboard or tablet to take notes during an interview or meeting
BongkarnGraphic / Shutterstock.com

Being yourself is important because recruiters really want to learn something about you. The way you answer the tell me about yourself interview question helps them identify what kind of person you are. Focusing strictly on what they want to hear might seem fake and forced. And just like with lying on a resume, you want to avoid that impression.

It might be a good idea to share things from your additional resume sections, such as:

  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Voluntary Work
  • Certificates and Licenses
  • Relevant Publications
  • Language Skills

It’s also how to answer Tell me about yourself with no experience. Plus, done well, they can mirror and confirm both hard skills and soft skills wanted for the position you’re after.

4. Know Your Audience

Smiling man in a wheelchair working and in a meeting or interview
Cast Of Thousands / Shutterstock.com

You know you need to have a tailored resume that answers the specific job opening. Remember to also tailor your answer to the person you’re talking to.

Different people can interview you at different stages of your recruitment process.

If you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer in an HR-related startup, you wouldn’t discuss what type of tablet stylus pen you love the most with the CEO of your company, or even with the hiring manager. But you can do it when talking with the creative director, who speaks your lingo and knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Here’s a good interview tip: Always tailor your communication style to your audience.

5. Practice a Lot and Follow Good Examples

Older woman in a job interview
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It’s not just what you say that counts, but also how you say it. The goal is to be able to say exactly what you want, just the way you want. To do that, you might need to practice a bit.

Remember, the way you deliver your answer will give the recruiter a glimpse into your communication skills and interpersonal skills. Practicing will help you smooth your answer, and it will help you if the stress kicks in.

According to the Columbia Southern University, it’s also one of the most effective ways to prepare for an interview. Repeating your answer a couple of times will help you achieve that part of your interview, but don’t memorize it because it will make it sound unnatural.

You know how to create your “tell me about yourself” job interview answer. Now it’s time for some examples that will help you get inspired.

Tell Me About Yourself: Examples of Best Answers

Young woman doing video interview
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

The following are “tell me about yourself” answer examples and explanations on why they work well.

Tell Me Something About Yourself — Sample Answer

Interviewer
Gutesa / Shutterstock.com

Q: “Tell us a bit about yourself.”

A: “I really enjoy providing robust software solutions. I’ve led a software engineering team of 10 programmers at FuzzyX Solutions for three years. Our proudest moment was receiving the 2018 Bossie Award.

“Before that I worked for two years as a software engineer at SurgeWallop. I slashed security breaches by 70% by winning full employee buy-in for our Principle of Least Privilege drive. It’s been a great run, but I’m hoping to join a high-performing DevOps team like the one at Brass LAMP Dev.”

Tell Me About Yourself Answer — Entry-Level Candidate

businessman wearing glasses and headset having virtual team meeting on his laptop
Ground Picture / Shutterstock.com

Q: “Tell me about yourself.”

A: “I’m a junior copywriter. During my month-long internship at Twilio Creative Agency, I participated in over 20 brainstorming sessions and created text for social media posts for our top clients working in the beauty industry, boosting the reach of posts by 15%. That led to a 5% increase in sales and generated profit that was estimated at over $20,000.

“In my free time, I write poetry and songs for my indie band, Lazy Shark. I’d love to keep improving my creative writing skills and deliver the best ideas for a modern social media agency, such as SomeSoMe.”

Tell Me About Yourself Sample Answer — Experienced Candidate

Older woman works from home on her laptop
Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock.com

Q: “Tell me something about yourself.”

A: “I thrive in a fast-paced office where I can work on ratcheting up efficiency. At Castle Rock Mineral we often had over 100 customers a day come through the doors. I was able to cut scheduling errors by 25% and resolve complaints 50% faster than the previous assistant.

“Before that at TD Dental, I helped raise patient satisfaction scores 20% by streamlining our intake flow. I’m ready to grow into a position where my efficiency can make a difference to a larger team. That’s why I’m so excited about this role.”

Tell Me About Yourself Interview Answer — Manager Position

Group Meeting
g stockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Q: “Tell me about yourself.”

A: “I love using my talents to bring more business to a worthy product. I worked as marketing manager at Ninequist Interactive for three years. During that time, my team and I presided over a period of 40% revenue growth.

“Before that at Spintegrity, I was able to increase conversions for email campaigns by 25%. I’m ready for a bigger challenge, and I would thrive as a marketing manager in a fast-growing tech firm like Sequoia5 Global.”

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