How To Answer Tell Me About Yourself
In a job interview, you can almost always expect the Hiring Manager to ask you the question “Tell me about yourself”. The answer seems easy enough as it is. After all, who knows more about you – than you, right?
But this is a job interview. You’re not talking to a stranger you’ve just met at a party. You’re talking to a stranger who’s tasked to find the best candidate to fill a vacant position in the company.
Answer the question incorrectly and your job search will continue. Answer it correctly, and you’ll set off a cascade of questions that could open the door to a new career.
Why Do Hiring Managers Ask “Tell Me About Yourself”?
If someone asked you “Tell me about yourself” at a party, you would probably share your hobbies and interests as a starting point in the conversation. A Hiring Manager won’t find much value in learning that you love cooking Mediterranean food and playing flag football every Sunday.
While the question appears to be social, in the context of a job interview, the question “Tell me about yourself” takes on a different meaning.
Similar to a social setting, job interviewers ask the question to break the ice. They know you’re probably nervous and want to put you at ease. However, the question is not a cue to talk about your likes and dislikes.
The job interviewer isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a new hire.
In addition to getting you to relax, a Hiring Manager will ask you this question to gauge your hard and soft skills, particularly how you communicate with people you’ve met for the first time and how you behave within a professional setting.
It might seem nothing more than having a casual conversation but hiring managers will use the question to navigate the direction of the job interview. The next set of questions will depend on the information you share.
Experienced job interviewers will pick out certain words and phrases in their answers and know exactly which questions to pull out from their hats.
Thus, “Tell me about yourself” isn’t small talk. Giving out the answers a Hiring Manager is looking for will lead to big results.
If we’ve got you worried – don’t be! We’ve taken out the guesswork by presenting the best ways to tell the job interviewer about yourself.
3 Tips On How To Answer Tell Me About Yourself
Job seekers who go to the interview with the mindset of “winging” their answers will fumble and stumble out of the running.
Follow the 3 Ps for the job interview: Plan, Prepare, and Practice.
- Plan – Review your resume; identify the skills and experiences that make you the most qualified candidate for the position.
- Prepare – Review the job ad; align your qualifications with the job description.
- Practice – Do role-playing; ask a friend to act the role of the job interviewer or practice your answers in front of a mirror. Practice until your answers come across naturally.
Don’t hesitate to use the 3 Ps. No one’s watching and the time spent will improve your chances of getting hired.
Tailor-fit Your Answer
One thing to keep in mind is that the Interviewer might not ask you “Tell me about yourself” but instead give a variation that essentially means the same thing.
- “Care to tell me about your background?”
- “Please take me through your resume.”
- “How’s your story thus far?”
- “Before we go over your resume, how would you describe your life so far?”
- “So where are you right now at this point in your life?”
To come up with the right answer, keep in mind what this interview is all about. The Hiring Manager is looking for the ideal candidate for the job. Therefore, you must tailor-fit your answer to the requirements of the position.
Remember the 3 Ps: Plan, prepare, and practice.
Let’s assume you’re applying for the position of Area Sales Manager. The job requires someone with at least 2 years of work experience in the field of sales, familiarity with CRM programs, fluency in Spanish, and a pleasant, optimistic disposition.
As soon as you’ve made yourself comfortable in the interview chair, the Hiring Manager asks you, “Tell me about yourself.”
Here’s a good answer:
“I worked for Teller and Benson Organics from 2018 to 2020 where I sold organic fertilizer to corn farmers in the state of Iowa. It was a great learning experience and the challenge of consistently hitting my sales quotas helped develop my character. After 2 years, I made the decision to resign and focus on improving my prospects for career advancement in the field of sales by learning Spanish, taking up business communication courses, and getting immersed in the latest innovations in sales CRM technology. Also, I’ve been following the growth of your company which has been making inroads with your organic cattle feed in Texas. That’s why I learned Spanish because your clients in Texas are located in Hispanic communities.”
Why is this a great answer to the question?
The response covers the applicant’s past to his future. He discussed his previous tenure with Teller and Benson Organics, what he has been doing since he resigned, and his goals for the future.
His answer fits perfectly with the requirements of the job. Take note of the subtle hint that he consistently hit quota at his previous job.
The Hiring Manager will be impressed with the applicant’s knowledge of the company and the latest developments in business.
No doubt, the Hiring Manager will appreciate the time the applicant took to research and learn more about the company he wants to work for. It shows that the applicant is desirous of landing the job because he came into the interview room prepared.
Share Your Story… But Keep It Professional
Storytelling is a wonderful way to capture the attention and interest of any person, the job interviewer included. Sharing your personal side will help the interviewer gauge who you are and assess if you’ll be a good fit for the company.
However, some stories can trigger emotional cues and you might find yourself veering off course. Share your story… but don’t lose sight of the context of the question. This is a job interview after all. Tell your story but keep it at the professional level.
For example, you’re applying for the position of Physical Therapist at the rehabilitation department of a hospital.
The Hiring Manager proceeds to ask you, “Tell me about yourself”.
A good starting point would be to share why you wanted to become a Physical Therapist:
“Before becoming a Physical Therapist, I worked as a certified Personal Trainer at Lifestyle Fitness. When my father developed Alzheimer’s and his osteoarthritis got worse, I resigned from my job to take care of him. It was during this period that I realized my skills as a Personal Trainer were not enough. I split time with my brother in taking care of our father so I can attend courses at Sun Valley Community College and become a Physical Therapist. My knowledge greatly helped in taking care of my father and I decided to make Physical Therapy and rehab a full-time career. After my father passed away last year, I pursued and successfully acquired my PT certification. So far I’ve done volunteer work in geriatric centers such as Golden Years Home but I feel I’m ready to contribute to the continued success of your program here in Hobbs General Hospital.”
The story of the applicant is certainly captivating. He was able to seamlessly tie in his motivation for changing careers and the passion he developed for the work performed by the Physical Therapist.
The job interviewer would have been certainly touched by such an endearing story. But the emotional content was expertly moderated by the job applicant who concluded his story by sharing his recent professional experiences as a PT.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
You were thrilled after getting notified by HR that you’ve been scheduled for a job interview. And rightly so because you’re only a few steps away from getting hired. Once the excitement has died down, it’s time for a reality check.
There might be others HR considered for the position. You have to ace the interview with flying colors. Keep this thought in mind on interview day to help you curb your enthusiasm.
Let’s say you’re being interviewed for the position of Software Developer. The company you’ve admired for years contacted you for an interview. This is your dream job!
The interview begins.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“I’ve been passionate about technology since the time I was introduced to a computer. That was my toy growing up. Reading about computers was story time for me. You can say that I knew what I wanted to do in my life at the age kids dreamed of becoming superheroes. I started learning about computer repair, assembly, and troubleshooting in high school so I can fix our home computer. Website design and development was a natural transition for me and taking up Computer Science at Compton University was an easy decision. While summers meant vacation for some, I used the downtime to study and get certified in Microsoft and Oracle. My first job was at Jump Point Innovations as a Front End Developer but I took the opportunity to apply for your open position because my specialization lies in Android operating systems.”
The applicant’s response offers a nice mix of humor and professionalism. Using the computer as a metaphor for toys and children’s books reveals the light, warm-hearted side of the applicant.
He didn’t miss a step in narrating his transition from computer repair to website design and programming. Finally, he concluded his answer by informing the interviewer why he applied for the job by revealing a key selling point – his qualification as a programmer for the Android OS.
The information the applicant provided has made it easier for the interviewer to know how to carry out the job interview. You can be assured that the interviewer was taking note of key points from the answer that he would use as a basis for the next set of questions.
The key takeaway from this article is that when asked about yourself, don’t lose sight of what this is all about – getting the job. It’s a professional question, not a personal one.
Keep within the context of the question and compose your answer with the requirements of the job in mind.
Structure your answer in an organized way. You can do this in chronological order by starting out from your past, touching on the present, and sharing your plans for the future.
You could also start out by sharing your purpose or the “why” you decided to embark on this career. Storytelling is a proven effective way of sharing your why – only if you can manage the emotional triggers.
Yes, getting a job interview is a big accomplishment but it’s only half the job done. Stay grounded and focused on the task ahead.
Remember, your objective in the job interview is to convince the Hiring Manager that you’re the best candidate for the position. Thus, your answers in the interview must ably support this claim.
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