Tell Me About Yourself: How to Impress in an Interview
Feeling the pressure of an upcoming interview? You are not alone, everyone experiences nerves ahead of a big interview. Even the most experienced professionals feel the pang of nerves ahead of walking into their interview, but what separates the successful candidates from those forgotten as soon as they leave the room is the answer to this frequently asked question; Tell me about yourself.
This question is often asked at the beginning of an interview to break the ice and help you feel more comfortable during the interview process. For those of us who aren’t comfortable bragging about our achievements this simple question can throw us off course. While this question may seem simple enough to answer, rattling off an overview of your employment history won’t make you stand out, in fact it could damage your chances of fulfilling the role.
Different Ways This Question Can be Asked
Although “Tell me about yourself” is the most common way of phrasing this question, each hiring manager is different and may phrase the question differently. It’s best to prepare yourself for the following variations of the question so that you aren’t stumped by the change in phrasing. Take a look at these common variations:
- I have your resume here, but tell me more about yourself
- Walk me through your resume
- I'd be interested in hearing more about your career
- Tell me a bit more about your background
- What should I know about you that's not on your resume
Don't panic if you come across a further variation, focus on sharing your story based on the following guidelines.
Why This Question is Asked
Asking for a brief summary of how you see yourself allows the hiring manager deeper insight into who you are and answers all important company culture fit questions.
While gaining an understanding of who you are as an individual, the way you respond to open-ended questions such as this one speaks volumes about how you’ll interact with the larger team and does a lot in showing how quickly you are able to think on your feet.
A job interview in essence is a conversation, asking an applicant to introduce themselves at the start of the conversation leads to an organic discussion of their experience, their skills and importantly their fit with the existing team and company as a whole.
What to Highlight & What to Leave Out
Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of reciting your resume, your interviewer has seen your resume and more than likely has it in front of them while meeting with you. What your interviewer is really looking for is to form a connection, put you at ease and gain some insight into who you are as a person.
If you’re applying for a role at a fast-paced startup focused on creating a sustainable food economy, it’s in your best interest to mention your passion for food, sustainability and small-scale local farmers. While your experience, education and hard skills are important to include in your answer they have already been included in your application, now is your moment to bring a personal touch and show why you’re the best fit for the role.
It’s important to be honest with your answers, try to avoid including information that you feel will impress if it’s not true. This could come back to you later in the application process or should you be the successful new hire and forget you mentioned something that is brought up later on in a conversation with a colleague.
With this in mind, focus your answer on highlighting your personal interests which don’t directly relate to your professional experience:
- Share a passion, whether that be painting, knitting, chess or baking, any of these go a long way towards creating the personal connection you want to form with your interviewer. Who knows, maybe you both enjoy baking.
- A healthy habit you enjoy, mentioning your love of yoga, hiking or long-distance running shows that you have a healthy and energetic side.
- Past-times like reading, crosswords or Sudoku highlight your intellectual pursuits.
- Mentioning volunteer work helps to demonstrate your commitment to supporting your community and shows that you’re an empathetic person.
- Guiding roles like volunteering for PTA, fundraising or donating time to guided tours shows that you’re comfortable with engaging those around you and handle attention well.
Remember one of the variations of “Tell me about yourself” we listed above is, “What should I know about you that’s not on your resume,” use this as your opportunity to show who you are beyond your qualifications and outside of working hours.
Now that we’ve covered what to include, let’s take a look at what details are best to avoid:
- This isn’t the time to share your life history or summarize yourself into a sentence. Be aware of how much or how little you are sharing, too much can lead to your interviewer disconnecting and becoming bored and too little can leave them wondering whether they should hire an enigma.
- Stay away from topics that can cause friction, politics and religion are best left out of the conversation unless you’re absolutely sure that your views will be well receives and further present you as a good company culture fit.
- Avoid implying that you’re more invested in a hobby over your career. This could lead your interviewer to thinking that you aren’t passionate about the role and could raise red flags about your commitment to your work.
- Leave personal information out of your narrative. Your interviewer doesn't need to know any personal information about your parents, siblings, partners or children.
How to Structure Your Answer
Now that you have an understanding of what to include in your answer and what to avoid, you may still feel a bit nervous about how to present the information in an easily digestible way. That’s why we’re sharing this simple formula to help you construct your answer.
This structure is the easiest way to ensure you don’t omit key details and end on the high note of your future.
Past, provide a brief overview of where you are currently. This can include what your current role is, a brief mention of the tasks you perform on a daily basis and a hobby or passion. Bonus points if these tie in to the requirements for the role.
Present, touching on how you go to where you are today shows that you have the drive to grow your career, expand your skills and knowledge and are a hard worker. It’s appropriate here to mention any education, past roles or volunteer experience helped you to grow.
Future, the all important last step. Focusing on future goals here allows your interviewer to see that you’re interested in growing and learning and whether you see yourself at the company for the foreseeable future. Bonus points if you include how the position you’re interviewing for aligns with your future goals.
Tips to Make You Stand Out
Preparation is key to crafting a stand out answer for this commonly asked interview question, take a look at our top tips on how to weave a winning introduction:
Use a mix of personal & professional: A smart mix of personal aspects helps to provide background on who you are, including a few key professional skills in this will show how you will add value to the company should you be chosen for the role.
Be sure to mention that you are passionate about the work that you are doing and are excited to help the company meet its goals through the addition of your unique skills.
Planning is key: Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses ahead of your interview, this will serve you two fold as you’re bound to be asked to share these at some point in the conversation. Highlighting the strengths you are able to bring to the role allows your interviewer to picture you in the team and shows that you’re serious about the position.
Keep it short & focused: Remember you’re not sharing your entire life story, be sure to keep it short by mentioning 3 or 4 of your key strengths. This doesn’t mean that you’re limited to just these strengths for the interview, there will always be times during the conversation in which you can highlight specific areas in which you have contributed to growth or impressive outcomes. Keep them in your back pocket.
Tell Me About Yourself Sample Answers
The best answers to this question are crafted from honesty, are concise, and are delivered confidently. Keep in mind that your goal with answering this question is to share something interesting about yourself that highlights who you are as a person outside of work thus providing deeper insight into how you would fit into the company and team.
It’s a good idea to come prepared with a few points to touch on, when sharing your introduction pay close attention to tying these in with the skills and qualities listed in the job description.
Tell Me About Yourself | Sample Answer 1
When I’m not working, I like to spend time exploring outdoors with my dog and partner. We love to go hiking, exploring the natural beauty of the city and enjoy walking around town and finding new places. I find that a surprising amount of people are interested in meeting my dog, and I really enjoy meeting and talking with new people. I feel that communication is one of the most important aspects of my professional life as well and use every opportunity to fine tune these skills. When I talk to people, I enjoy being able to guide the conversation and find that this ability has helped me greatly in different situations in the workplace.
This response works as it melds a seemingly unrelated fact about you with the ability to communicate in and outside of the workplace. Often we undervalue the importance of communication, but this is one of the most important skills hiring managers look for.
Tell Me About Yourself | Sample Answer 2
I enjoy doing charity walks a few times a year. Most recently, I participated in the Walks for Wishes and I have a few events planned for the coming summer and fall. I enjoy walking for relaxation with friends after work and on the weekends. I enjoy the fresh air, discovering new routes, and connecting with new people. I also like the fundraising aspect, which has helped me fine tune these skills and has been useful in my professional life. I’ve learned how to connect with people to encourage them to increase their commitment to the cause.
This response works as it helps to create a connection in the hiring manager's mind between your hobbies and the skills they’ve listed as important for this role; responsibility, leadership and community-mindedness. Also, hobbies that involve fitness activities demonstrate energy and a commitment to health.
Tell Me About Yourself | Samples Answer 3
Something that I’ve recently discovered my passion for is geocaching. The challenge of finding caches and spending time outdoors with friends is something I really enjoy. I like using my problem-solving skills to find the ones that are really well-hidden. Learning how people hide things—and where people are likely to look—has helped me tremendously in my design work. It’s all about learning to see things through someone else’s eyes.
This answer works as it demonstrates your ability to learn from experience and work as a team, as well as demonstrates your adventurous spirit.
You now have a good base of knowledge on crafting the perfect answer to this frequently asked job interview question. Remember to keep it personal, tie in desired hard and soft skills into your answer, keep it short and leave room for more discovery.