Tell me about yourself interview question and example answers

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

Hannah Mason
Interviews

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

Hannah Mason • Sep 06, 2022

Examples of how to answer "tell me about yourself" in an interview

The dreaded ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview question is one of the most feared and misinterpreted interview question of all.

Technically it’s not even a question, it’s more of an invitation to speak, it’s so open-ended that it can be difficult to know where to begin and where to finish, and what to add in-between.

However, it's highly likely that you'll be asked "tell me about yourself" in a job interview situation at some point in your career, so you need to know how to answer this particular interview question well.

Coming up

In this article, I’m going to unpack the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question, and completely demystify it, I’m also going to give you a word-for-word example answer so that by the end of this article, you’ll be confident to answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question in your next job interview.

Why do interviewers ask the ‘tell me about yourself’ question?

Although this isn’t technically a question, it is considered to be one of the most common ways for interviewers to start an interview.

Most people have been asked ‘tell me about yourself’ at least once in an interview and if you haven’t, your time will come!

You are most likely to be asked ‘tell me about yourself’ right at the beginning of your job interview, and this question is actually a great opportunity to kick off the interview in a really strong way, provided you get it right, of course.

Remember, most interviewers will recall the beginning and end of your interview the most clearly. It’s important to start off strong.

There are three reasons why interviews ask this question;  

1. The interviewer wants to see how you handle answering an unstructured question.

Answering unstructured interview questions requires that you possess a good level of communication skills. It’s easy to waffle on and to end up saying nothing of value, it’s also too easy to deliver an answer in a way that leaves the interviewer confused.  

Interview preparation is vital because it’s the time when you take everything that you think you should say and distill it down the golden nuggets, structures such as STAR are helpful for achieving this.

2. The interviewer wants to see direct evidence that you are qualified for the role.

The interviewer is not interested in your favourite colour, your hobbies or your high school experience, unless of course it’s relevant to the role, but that’s unlikely!

Instead, they want to hear about what makes you qualified for the role. The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is an opportunity for a candidate to tell the interviewer what they want to hear and to reassure them that they have the right person in the room.

3. The interviewer wants a quick summary about you.

Perhaps not everyone on the interview panel had a chance to read your CV in detail. This opening question is a great opportunity to tell everyone in the room a little about who you are and can act as a spring-board into more questions.

Focusing on the right elements of your experience can help ensure the conversation is centred on things you want to discuss.

Keep SHE in mind when answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

As we look at the ‘tell me about yourself’ question in more detail, we’ll keep the SHE method in mind.

The SHE method stands for Succinct, Honest and Engaging and that’s a great foundation for answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ question.

It’s a reminder that ‘tell me about yourself’ is not an invitation to ramble endlessly, but rather an invitation to engage the interviewer and leave them wanting to hear more.

As I said above, it’s your opportunity to tell the interviewer what they want to hear, however, remember to be honest and not to embellish the facts.

With that in mind, let’s look at how you should answer ‘tell me about yourself’.

How to answer the tell me about yourself question

I’m going to talk you through my three-part technique for answering the tell me about yourself question. It’s a tried and tested approach that I use when preparing all of my clients for job interviews.

When answering an unstructured and open-ended interview question like ‘tell me about yourself’, it helps to structure your answer in a way that helps you to be succinct, enables you to communicate key information and makes your answer memorable.

Three steps to answering ‘tell me about yourself’

We’ll break the answer down into three parts; present, past and future. Each of the three parts of the answer must link back to the job that’s being interviewed for and clearly evidence that you possess the skills and experience that they require.

First let’s make sure that we’re clear on what the interviewer is NOT looking for when they ask you ‘tell me about yourself’

• They are not looking for your life story, this is a job interview

• They are not looking for a blow-by-blow account of your career history

• They are not looking for you to go through your CV line by line

It’s important that you know these three things up front, as they are the most common mistakes that candidates make when answering the tell me about yourself question.

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Section One – Present

Begin by briefly telling the interviewer who you are now and what you’re doing now. Think of this as setting the scene and providing some essential grounding information.

Example: I’m Hannah and I’m a Performance Marketing Manager at Microsoft. I’m currently responsible for optimizing $6MM of ad spend across various channels and I oversee a team of 3 who I’ve trained up to be fantastic at their jobs.  

Remember, we are including the information that is most relevant to the role you are applying for.

If there are lots of elements to your role then make sure you highlight the part of your role most relevant to the position you are applying for.

Section Two – Past

Now begin to paint a picture around your career growth, remember not to ramble, this is not a blow-by-blow account of the last 10 years! It’s an opportunity to build on the introduction and further demonstrate your suitability for the role.

It can be helpful to frame this section in a narrative, people love stories, stories are engaging, easy to listen to and memorable.

Framing otherwise mundane facts into a story helps to soften them and make them more interesting and endearing.

Example: Growing up, I always struggled to know what I wanted to do, I was equally strong in maths and creative subjects and it felt like I could go in any direction. I landed in marketing by chance and it quickly became clear to me that the analytical, data-driven aspects of the role were where I thrived. Before joining Microsoft, I was promoted through various roles at Uber and actually won an award for my work which contributed to them adding 2 million new users in one month. Prior to that I was working for a start-up as a Digital Marketing Associate.

The interviewers will have your CV in front of them so use this as an opportunity to highlight a couple of key achievements that relate to the role.

Section Three – Future

This is where you tell them why you are interested in this role and why you’re excited to be speaking with them today.

Example: Whilst I have a clear career path at Microsoft, I’m keen to get back to my roots working for industry disruptors. I love using my creative side to innovate, and I think that your company is really well positioned to leverage novel marketing approaches to become a household name. I’d love to part of that journey.

I find that many people struggle to know where to end the ‘tell me about yourself’ question. Finishing by looking to the future provides you with a positive and natural finishing point.

Let's put these three sections together

I’m Hannah and I’m a Performance Marketing Manager at Microsoft. I’m currently responsible for optimizing $6MM of ad spend across various channels and I oversee a team of 3 who I’ve trained up to be fantastic at their jobs.  

Growing up, I always struggled to know what I wanted to do, I was equally strong in maths and creative subjects and it felt like I could go in any direction. I landed on marketing by chance and it quickly became clear to me that the analytical, data-driven aspects of the role were where I thrived. Before joining Microsoft, I was promoted through various roles at Uber and actually won an award for my work which contributed to them adding 2 million new users in one month. Prior to that I was working for a start-up as a Digital Marketing Associate.

Whilst I have a clear career path at Microsoft, I’m keen to get back to my roots working for industry disruptors. I love using my creative side to innovate, and I think that your company is really well positioned to leverage novel marketing approaches to become a household name. I’d love to part of that journey.

How can you prepare for the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question?

The tell me about yourself question is one of the questions that you can and should spend time preparing for.

As I mentioned, it’s a great opportunity to begin the interview in a really strong and engaging way.

If you answer the tell me about yourself question well, you can set the tone for the whole interview, reassure the interviewers that you do indeed have some of the skills that they are looking for, and leave them wanting to hear more!

Prepare for this question by listing the key necessary skills for the role

Before your interview, go through the job description and highlight some of the most prominent required skills and experience.

For our example above, you might have noted the following skills:

• Coaching and leading a team

• Multi-million-dollar market budge management

• Digital and Performance Managing

• Working for Start-ups and Industry Disruptors

Brainstorm how you can fit these into the three sections of your answer listed above; present, past and future.

The aim is to incorporate these key points into your ‘tell me about yourself’ answer so that right at the beginning of the interview, you have already shown you are a good fit for the role.

Next begin to build these elements into a story

Try to weave an element of story into your answer, this could best fit into the ‘past’ section. People love to hear stories, a story makes you more memorable and is a great way to engage the interviewer.

Drawing people into a brief story helps to create a vivid image in their minds, use this question to highlight some of the most important skills and build an interesting narrative around it.

Don't forget to show a successful career evolution in your story, take the interviewer though some of the career steps that you have already make, demonstrate how you have already progressed and how this next opportunity makes sense for you.

Now end by clarifying why you want to work for this company

Don't forget to tell the interviewers what attracted you to the opportunity and why you want to work for the company.

They will be expecting you to cover this off, and it will give them the assurance that you are definitely interested in the opportunity, every company wants to employ someone that's excited about the role, for example, you could mention how the vision is very much in line with your own.

In conclusion

You should expect to be asked the "tell me about yourself question" in any interview that you attend.

It's one of the key interview questions that you need to answer, but don't be fooled by its simplicity, there is a lot riding on this question and its your opportunity to deliver a stand out answer.

If you would like more support with your interview preparation, click here to schedule a 1-on-1 session with me.