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How To Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question in 2024 (With Examples)

a job interview taking place

Job interviews often begin with a seemingly simple question: “Tell me about yourself.”

However, this question is trickier than it seems. You must provide a brief yet complete answer, sharing your work experience and skills and explaining why you’re a good fit for the job — all within a brief timeframe.

In this guide, we will provide tips on how to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question successfully, along with examples of compelling answers tailored to various professional scenarios.

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question in Job Interviews? 

Hiring managers ask the “Can you tell me about yourself?” question in job interviews to:

  1. Break the ice: The question serves as an icebreaker, providing an opportunity for both the interviewer and the candidate to ease into the conversation. It helps set a positive and conversational tone for the interview.
  1. Assess your communication skills: How well you communicate and articulate your thoughts is a crucial aspect of the interview process. The question allows a hiring manager to assess your verbal communication skills, clarity of expression and ability to convey information in a structured manner.
  1. Gain insight into your professional journey: By asking about your professional background, a hiring manager gains insight into your career trajectory, key achievements and the experiences that have shaped your professional identity. This information helps them understand your qualifications and suitability for the position.
  1. Understand why you applied for the role and whether you’re a good fit for it: Your response to this question provides a hiring manager with insights into your motivation for applying to the company and the specific role. They are keen to understand how well your professional goals align with the company’s mission and values, as well as the requirements of the position.
  1. Identify your skills and strengths: As you talk about yourself, a hiring manager is listening for the key skills and strengths you choose to highlight. This helps them evaluate how well your skills align with the job requirements and whether you possess the qualities they are seeking in a candidate.
  • See how confident you are: The way you present yourself in the initial moments of the interview reflects your confidence level. The “Tell me about yourself” interview question allows a hiring manager to gauge your self-assurance and how comfortable you are discussing your professional background. 

reasons hiring managers ask this question

Common Variations of the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question

Hiring managers often have their own ways of asking the “Tell me about yourself” question, and while the wording might vary, they’re essentially seeking the same information. Here are a few variations you might come across

  • “I’ve got your resume here, but I’d love to hear more about you.” 
  • “Can you walk me through your resume?” 
  • “I’d be interested in hearing more about your professional journey.” 
  • “Tell me a bit more about your background.” 
  • “Can you elaborate on your key professional experiences?” 
  • “Help me understand your career trajectory.” 

How To Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question Successfully 

To answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question like a pro, follow these tips:

Share Relevant Work Experience and Achievements 

Start by sharing key aspects of your work experience that directly relate to the job you’re interviewing for. Tailor your answer to align with the requirements outlined in the job description.

Example: “In my previous role as a marketing manager, I successfully planned a social media campaign that resulted in a 25% increase in brand visibility and a 15% growth in customer engagement.   I also implemented targeted strategies to enhance customer retention, resulting in a 20% increase in repeat business. These experiences not only reflect my ability to drive measurable results but also highlight my strategic approach to marketing.”

Highlight Your Skills With Examples 

Emphasize your skills by providing concrete examples from your professional history. Whether it’s your leadership abilities, problem-solving skills or adaptability, back up your claims with specific instances that showcase your strengths in action.

Example: “One of my key strengths is my ability to analyze complex data sets and derive actionable insights. In my last role, I implemented a data-driven approach that optimized our marketing strategies and led to a 20% increase in customer conversion rates.”

Show Your Personality Without Getting Too Personal 

Briefly mention hobbies that offer insights into your intellectual development or highlight your community engagement. Sharing interests such as reading, volunteering or participation in team sports can provide a glimpse into your character.

Including these personal interests adds a human touch to your professional narrative, offering the interviewer a well-rounded view of your personality and diverse skills. Still, remember to keep it short and relevant, maintaining a professional tone throughout.

Example: “Aside from my professional endeavors, I have a passion for learning new skills. Currently, I’m taking an online course in graphic design. This course serves as a creative outlet while underscoring my dedication to continuous improvement.

Additionally, I actively volunteer with local organizations, particularly in literacy programs. This blend of learning and giving back enriches my personal life and reflects my commitment to growth and community engagement.”

Format Your Answer Effectively 

To ensure clarity and conciseness in your response, make sure to organize your answer using a structured format. Two effective formulas to consider are the “Present, Past and Future” or “Past, Present and Future”.
formulas for formatting the response

The choice between these formulas depends on the relevance of your roles to the position you’re applying for. If your most recent role strongly aligns with the required skills and qualifications, start with the present.

Conversely, if your past experience is more relevant to the job than your current position, starting with the past would be a better idea.   Tailoring your response to these formulas provides a cohesive and logical flow to your answer, making it easier for the interviewer to understand your professional trajectory and alignment with the desired position.

Be Concise 

Keep your response concise and focused. Aim to provide a well-rounded overview without delving into excessive detail and telling your entire life story. This not only respects the interviewer’s time but also showcases your ability to communicate effectively.

What Not to Say When Answering the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question 

When responding to the “Tell me about yourself” question, it’s crucial to be mindful of what to avoid in order to present yourself in the best light. Here are some things not to say when answering this question:

Personal Details Unrelated to the Job 

Avoid sharing personal information that is unrelated to the job. While it’s okay to briefly mention hobbies or interests, keep the focus on those that demonstrate relevant skills or characteristics.

Example: “I love spending weekends watching TV shows and playing video games. Oh, and I have three cats.” 

Rambling or Excessive Detail 

Resist the temptation to provide a lengthy autobiography. Keep your response concise and focused on key professional aspects. Rambling can make it difficult for the interviewer to follow your narrative.

Example: “I was born in a small town, went to XYZ School, majored in… and then I worked at this place for three years…” 

Negative Remarks About A Previous Employer

Refrain from making negative comments about your current or previous employer. Such comments can create an unprofessional image and may raise concerns about your ability to work collaboratively.  Example: “I left my last job because my boss was impossible to work with and the company culture was toxic.”

Generic Statements Without Examples 

Steer clear of making vague or generic statements without providing concrete examples. Back up your claims with specific achievements and experiences.

Example: “I’m a hard worker and a team player, and I’m really good at problem-solving.” 

Unrelated Career Pivots 

If you’ve had a diverse career path, avoid delving into roles or experiences that are unrelated to the position you’re currently interviewing for.

Example: “Before my career in finance, I tried my hand at acting and even ran a small bakery for a while.” 

Overuse of Technical Jargon 

While showcasing your expertise is important, be cautious not to overwhelm the interviewer with excessive technical jargon, especially if they may not be familiar with the terms.

Example: “I implemented an API to enhance the UX/UI, leveraging agile methodologies and SCRUM practices to streamline the SDLC.” 

5 Sample Answers to the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question

Sample Answer for Applicants With No Previous Experience

“Hi, I’m Sarah Thompson, a recent graduate with a degree in Marketing. Although my professional journey is just beginning, I honed my analytical and problem-solving skills during my internship at XYZ Agency. There, I collaborated on a targeted marketing campaign that resulted in a 15% increase in customer engagement. I’m eager to apply my skills and enthusiasm to contribute meaningfully to your team.”

Sample Answer for Career Changers

“Hi there, I’m Emma Rodriguez. While my background has predominantly been in finance, I am thrilled about transitioning into the field of project management. My experience in financial analysis has equipped me with a keen eye for detail and process improvement. In my previous role at FinancePros Ltd., I played a key role in streamlining budgeting processes, resulting in a 20% reduction in reporting errors. I’m eager to apply my skills and bring a fresh outlook to the project management team at XYZ Projects.”

Sample Answer for Technical Roles

“Greetings, I’m Alex Turner, a software engineer with expertise in Python and machine learning. In my previous role at DataTech Solutions, I led the development of a predictive analytics platform that increased data processing efficiency by 25%. My proficiency in programming languages and tools like TensorFlow and PyTorch has been a cornerstone of my career. I’m excited about the prospect of bringing my technical skills to Alpha Innovations and contributing to its cutting-edge projects.

Sample Answer for Experienced Professionals

“Hello, I’m John Mitchell, a seasoned marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. In my previous role as Marketing Manager at TechSolutions Inc., I spearheaded a comprehensive rebranding initiative, increasing brand visibility by 20% and driving a 30% uptick in lead generation. I bring a proven track record of strategic marketing and a passion for innovative campaigns. I’m excited about the opportunity to leverage my expertise for the success of ABC Tech.”

Sample Answer for Leadership Positions

“Hello, I’m Olivia Foster, a results-driven leader with a track record of success in healthcare administration. In my role as Director of Operations at Wellness Dynamics, I led a cross-functional team in implementing process improvements that resulted in a 20% reduction in patient wait times and a 15% increase in overall patient satisfaction. My strengths lie in strategic planning, team development and operational excellence. I look forward to bringing my leadership expertise to Green Health Systems and contributing to its continued growth.”

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FAQs About the “Tell Me About Yourself” Prompt

The best answer to “Tell me about yourself” in an interview is a concise, strategic response that consists of:

  1. Introduction: Briefly introduce yourself.
  2. Professional experience: Highlight relevant work experience and accomplishments
  3. Skills and qualifications: Emphasize key skills linked to specific examples

Customize your response based on the job and practice for a confident delivery. Tailor it to your unique background while maintaining a balance between professionalism and personality.

Ideally, your response to the “Tell me about yourself” question should be concise, lasting less than a minute. This timeframe allows you to cover essential points without delving into excessive detail.

Yes, rehearsing your response is highly recommended. While you don’t want to sound scripted, practicing ensures you convey key points confidently, maintain a clear structure and effectively highlight relevant aspects of your background.

Focus on highlighting your strengths and transferable skills. Emphasize experiences relevant to the job, even if they are from non-traditional work settings or extracurricular activities. Use this opportunity to showcase your adaptability, willingness to learn and how your unique background contributes to your suitability for the role.

Stay composed and address the follow-up questions with a similar approach. If the unexpected question relates to your initial response, build on the information you’ve already shared.

If it’s a different topic, answer concisely, ensuring your response aligns with the overall theme of presenting yourself as a qualified and strong candidate. Adaptability and clarity are key in handling unexpected inquiries.

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