Although no job interview is alike, there are some common questions that interviewers like to ask. One of the most commonly asked questions is, “Can you tell me about yourself?” But this question can be tricky to answer. After all, it’s incredibly open-ended.
When responding, you’ll want to focus on what makes you qualified for the role and not get too caught up in discussing your personal life or hobbies. With that in mind, the following guide will help you better understand what interviewers are looking for when they ask the question and how you should answer it.
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
This question is one of the most common questions interviewers ask because it allows them to get an idea of who you are, both as a professional and as a person. In this way, they can better gauge whether or not you’ll be a good fit for the role.
Therefore, this question is an opportunity for you to share more about your professional accomplishments and skills, as well as your personal interests. How you answer the question can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates. A well-crafted response will give the interviewer a better sense of why they should hire you for the job.
Common Variations Of The “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Although it’s one of the most commonly asked interview questions, interviewers may phrase it differently. For example, the following are a few variations of the “Tell me about yourself” question.
- “Walk me through your resume?”
Interviewers will often ask candidates this variation of the question if the candidate has a lot of experience or has been out of the workforce for a while. The interviewer wants to know more about your professional journey.
For instance, you can highlight why you took certain positions, what you learned from them, and how those experiences have helped you excel in your current role.
- “Tell me more about your career journey?”
This question is similar to the “Walk me through your resume” variation. However, if the interviewer asks this question, it’s more of an invitation to describe how you got started in your career, and what career choices led you to this point.
- “How would you summarize your resume?”
This question is usually reserved for candidates who have extensive industry experience. If you are asked this question in an interview, you’ll want to focus on your most recent roles and experiences and how they prepared you for this opportunity.
- “Can you tell me more about your background?”
This question is designed to obtain a brief overview of your personal background. For example, you can briefly talk about where you’re from, what made you pursue your career, and how your educational experiences have helped you excel in your current role.
How To Answer The “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Whether an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself or they use another variation of the question, there are a few ways to respond. The following are some tips to help you tailor your answer in a way that gives the interviewer the details they want while also being engaging:
1. Emphasize Your Experience And Successes
When answering this question, the first thing you’ll want to do is highlight examples of your experience, emphasizing only those that are most relevant to the current role you’re applying for. Use these examples to demonstrate how you used your skills and knowledge to help the company succeed.
When doing so, focus on using the specific situation, task, action, and result (STAR) method. Providing specific examples using the STAR method will help the interviewer better understand your experience and how you could apply this experience to the open role.
2. Describe How Your Last Job Relates To The Job You’re Applying For
You’ll want to focus on how your last job (or current job) relates to the one you’re applying for. Doing so will help demonstrate why you’ll be a good fit for the position right off the bat.
For example, if you’re applying for a sales position, you could talk about how your last job as a customer service representative has helped you hone your communication and persuasion skills.
You can also use this opportunity to share how you’ve been successful in your last role and how you can replicate that success in the new position. But, again, be sure to use specific examples when doing this.
3. Highlight Your Strengths And Abilities, Backed Up With Examples
After discussing your past experiences, you’ll want to focus on your strengths and abilities. Point out how you developed your strengths and how those strengths have helped you succeed in the past.
Be sure to back up your claims with specific examples. For instance, if you’re applying for a managerial position, you can talk about how your leadership abilities have helped you successfully manage a team in the past. Give a specific example of a project or situation where you utilized your leadership skills to achieve success.
4. Include Personal Yet Useful Interests
Although the interviewer will be primarily interested in your professional experiences, you can also include some personal interests relevant to the job. For example, suppose you’re applying for a position that requires a lot of travel.
In that case, you can mention how you love to explore new places and how you’re excited about the opportunity to travel for work. You can even speak about specific experiences involving places you’ve visited that are relevant to the company’s work.
Besides being relevant, talking about your personal interests also gives the interviewer some insight into your personality, which will help you stand out from other candidates.
5. Format Your Response
Be sure to format your response in a way that is easy for the interviewer to follow. Start with a brief introduction and then move on to your past experiences.
For example, you can briefly tell the interviewer where you’re from and what college you attended (if you attended college) before you begin talking about your work experiences. Be sure to transition smoothly between each point in your answer.
You’ll also want to keep your answer concise and to the point. The interviewer will likely have other questions for you, so you don’t want to spend too much time on this question.
Example Answers For The “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
Understanding what the interviewer is asking for is one thing; formulating a detailed, engaging response is another. The following are a few examples that can help give you a clear idea of how to answer this question.
For Experienced Candidates
The following is an example of how you can tell an interviewer about yourself if you are a candidate with substantial work experience:
“I’m currently a regional sales manager for a construction materials manufacturer. I’ve been in this role for about four years and was promoted from sales representative after consistently meeting and exceeding my quotas. In my current role, I manage a team of 10 sales reps. I am responsible for developing new business opportunities in our territory.
Before my current role, I worked as a sales rep for another construction materials manufacturer. I was consistently one of the top performers in my region and was recognized by my managers for my ability to close deals and build relationships with clients.
I’ve always been interested in the construction industry. When I grew up in North Carolina, my dad was a contractor, so I often went to job sites with him and helped out when I could. That’s where my love for the industry developed. My first job out of college was also in sales, so I’ve pretty much been doing this my whole career.
I’m excited about this opportunity because it would allow me to utilize my experience and sales and management skills. Based on my past experiences and successes, I’m confident I would be a valuable asset to your team.”
For Candidates With No Industry Experience
Everyone has to start somewhere, which means you may not have any professional experience under your belt. Fortunately, you can still draw on past experiences that relate to the position you’re applying for. The following is an example of how to tell an interviewer about yourself even if you don’t have industry experience:
“I’m currently a student at XYZ University, and I’m looking for an entry-level position in the sales industry. While I don’t have any professional sales experience, I have experience working with customers in other settings, including when I was growing up.
In fact, my interest in sales started when I was just a kid. I would set up a lemonade stand in my neighborhood and would always try to find new and innovative ways to increase my sales.
In my current role as a server at a local restaurant, I’ve developed strong customer service skills. I’m always polite and professional with customers, no matter how challenging they may be. I’m also quick to resolve any issues that may arise. My manager has commended me on my ability to diffuse situations and find solutions to meet the needs of customers.
I understand this position doesn’t require experience, but I believe my customer service skills would transfer well to a sales role. I’m a quick learner and I’m confident I can succeed in sales.
I’m excited about this opportunity because it would allow me to utilize my customer service skills in a new way. I believe I can grow and develop in a sales role, and I’m eager to learn more about the industry. Based on my past experiences, I’m confident I would be a valuable asset to your team.”
When you’re asked to talk about yourself, the interviewer will expect you to touch on your current job. If you don’t have a current job, you’ll need to mention what you’ve been doing while you’ve been unemployed. For example, you can take the following approach:
“I’m currently unemployed, but I’ve been actively seeking new opportunities. I’ve been in the accounting field for nearly 10 years and have experience working in various industries, including the retail, manufacturing, and service industries. I’m a certified public accountant with a degree in accounting from XYZ University. My first job out of college was in the accounting department of a manufacturing company. In my previous role, I managed a team of accountants, prepared financial statements, and oversaw the budgeting process for a retail chain.
Although I enjoyed the role I had at my previous job, I left because the company was downsizing. I’m currently seeking a new opportunity that would utilize my experience and skills in accounting. I’m particularly interested in this position because I’ve wanted to work in a new industry, and this seems like a perfect fit.
I believe that I would be a valuable asset to your team. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m eager to put my skills to work in a new role.”
Do’s And Don’ts When Answering That Interview Question
You can answer the question in many ways, but there are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” that you should be sure to keep in mind. The following are a few do’s to try and include in your answer, and a few don’ts you should avoid:
- Do exemplify your personal strengths: Try to use the opportunity from this question to show off a little bit. This question is your time to shine and make a great first impression, so highlight strengths that you believe will be relevant to the position and will allow you to do a good job.
- Do keep your response to two minutes or less: The interviewer isn’t asking for your life story, even if the question is broad. They just want to know a little bit about you. Be sure to keep your response concise and to the point.
- Do be specific and quantify your outcomes: When possible, provide specific examples of your work and quantify the outcomes. For example, if you helped increase sales during your time at another company, explain how you did so and by how much.Doing so will help the interviewer understand the scope of your experience and what you’re capable of.
- Do highlight what sets you apart from other applicants: Focus on what makes you unique compared to other candidates, whether it’s your skills, experience, or personality. Doing so will help you stand out from the crowd and give the interviewer a reason to remember you.
- Do fit the role to your current responsibilities: There’s no point in bragging about skills and experiences if they have absolutely no relevance to the job you’re applying to. Instead, focus on experiences and responsibilities that are most applicable to the role you’re interviewing for.
- Do practice your answers out loud: Most interviews will ask some variation of the “Tell me about yourself” question. As such, prepare for it before your interview by practicing your answers out loud. Although you don’t want it to sound rehearsed, a little practice will go a long way.
- Don’t provide highly personal information: Avoid discussing your marital status, children, political affiliations, or religious beliefs. This information isn’t relevant to the job, and it could potentially alienate the interviewer or make them uncomfortable, especially if they have opposing views.
- Don’t give multiple vague examples of your work experience: Listing your skills and knowledge without providing examples of how you’ve utilized them is unhelpful as it doesn’t help demonstrate your professional expertise. Instead, keep the interview engaged by always backing up your claims with specific examples.
- Don’t summarize your resume word for word: The interviewer has already read your resume, so there’s no need to regurgitate the information. Instead, take the opportunity to elaborate on a few key points and fill in any gaps that your resume may have left.
- Don’t memorize your response: You don’t want to appear robotic and unnatural. Instead, you’ll want to try to answer the question as naturally as possible, so avoid memorizing it word for word. Instead, focus on the overall message you want to convey and the key points you want to hit. Doing so will help you sound more confident and relaxed during the interview.
Leave A Good Impression On Your Future Employer
The “Tell me about yourself” interview question is one of the most common questions candidates get asked in job interviews. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.
The key to answering this question is to give a brief, concise, and positive response highlighting your strengths and skills, while also providing the interviewer a glimpse into your personality.
While there is no one perfect way to answer this question, it helps to know what you should do and what you should avoid when giving your response. Additionally, be sure to research the company and the role before the interview to tailor your answer to the specific position. In this way, you’ll be ideally positioned to answer the question well and ace your interview.