Here’s How to Crush the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question (Plus a Sample Answer)

Here’s the Best “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview AnswerWhether you’re just starting your career or have been in the game for decades, you’ll undoubtedly have to answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question each time you apply for a new position. This is the most common and important question to get right, so it’s understandable if thinking about it makes your palms sweaty. After all, how do you effectively summarize who you are in just a few sentences?

Have no fear! In today’s post, I’ll walk you through the key elements needed to craft the perfect answer. I’ll also help you understand what your interviewer really wants to know and share some tips about what not to say. If you’re ready to crush this question once and for all, keep reading.

What Does Your Interviewer Want to Know?

The key to crafting a winning interview strategy is first understanding the purpose behind every question. While your interviewer may throw in a few curveballs, recognize that they’ve generally designed each behavioural or situation question to:

  • Establish personality characteristics, such as your likely reaction in a given situation (e.g. can you stay calm under stress or think on your feet?);
  • Gauge how you might interact with current staff and other key people (e.g. how do you approach conflicts or disagreements?); and
  • Understand your skills, goals, and how all that fits within the context of the company’s needs, culture and direction.

When it comes to the “tell me about yourself” interview question specifically, your interviewer’s trying to get a sense of your career journey and what you bring to the table as far as this role is concerned.

3 Ways to Screw Up Your Response

The beauty of this question is that it’s an opportunity to give interviewers a glimpse into your personality, story, and what makes you unique and valuable. But that room for creativity and authenticity also opens up the door to several potential pitfalls! When providing an answer, here are three things to avoid doing or saying:

Making Your Response Too Long (or Short)

Most people either hate or love talking about themselves, so there’s a risk of speaking for too long or not talking for long enough. The other mistake here is not keeping the interview length in mind. For instance, if the interview is only twenty minutes long, a one-minute answer may be ideal. If it’s an hour, you might want to extend your answer to three minutes.

Getting Way too Personal

Unless somehow relevant to the job, this is not the time to talk about where you were born, your political or religious leanings, or your home life. Remember, your interviewer is mainly interested in who you are within the context of the role and organization.

Dwelling on Negativity

While hating your current job is a valid reason to seek new opportunities, it’s not exactly the wisest theme to frame your response around. Keep things positive, or at the very least, neutral.

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

This question isn’t nearly as complicated as most people make it. All you have to do is craft a short elevator pitch based on where you’re at in your career. Here’s how to respond in three easy steps:

Step 1: State Your Current Status and Mission (Present)

Identify where you are right now, some strong personal characteristics, and your overall purpose. Think of this as declaring your personal mission statement!

Step 2: Highlight Your Resume’s Strongest Points (Past)

Describe the critical parts of your career journey by focusing on measurable results. You can do this no matter how much work experience you have. For example, if you’re a recent graduate without employment experience, you can focus on any volunteer work and highlight the impact you were a part of creating.

The greater your experience, the more you have to work with, so beef up your response with your biggest career wins (i.e. specific projects) over the years!

Step Three: Loop Back to the Current Opportunity (Future)

Circling back to the job opportunity will help you connect your “why” to the role. This is your chance to show where you’re heading and how you plan to add massive value to your potential new employer!

A Sample Answer to “Tell Me About Yourself”

Alright, you’ve got the basic elements. Now, let’s review an example of how to bring them together. Say you’re applying for a Senior Project Management position in the tech industry; here’s how you might answer this question:

Interviewer: “Hi, Jessica, it’s great to meet you. Why don’t you start by telling me a little about yourself?

You: “Sure, I’d love to!

[Present] As an environmental enthusiast fighting for a sustainable planet, I’ve dedicated my six-year career to my role at Next Level Waste Management Ltd. I’ve had the privilege of supervising an eight-person team to ensure that every project has been completed on time, on budget, and within scope. In fact, we recently completed the Benter Cove project, which saw a 16% increase in marine life along the Coast after decades of deterioration.

[Past] Before that, I was a student volunteer at Heritage University, participating in various sustainability initiatives. My proudest accomplishment was influencing the school board to install touchless water filling stations across campus, which saved thousands of water bottles by the time I graduated.

[Future] While I’ve enjoyed marine-related sustainability efforts, I see myself becoming a part of the movement to reshape the tech industry. That’s what attracted me to this role; I believe my planning, organization, and people skills would add tremendous value to the types of projects your company is known for.

Remember, this is just a sample! Tweak it according to what makes sense for your interview.

There you go; a simple, three-step formula to answering the “tell me about yourself” question, with an example. Now you have the tools to impress any interviewer. But, if you’d like tailored guidance to help you dominate even trickier questions, book a one-hour coaching session with me to boost your confidence!

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