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A Complete Guide to Answering “Tell Me about Yourself” in an Interview

Are you preparing for an important interview?

If you’ve made it through to the interview stage, there is a good chance the employer is interested in you. However, there are usually a lot of other people also being interviewed for the same position.

answering tell me about yourself in the interview

The key to effectively landing the job you want is being able to provide interesting answers to questions. There are several standard questions that the interviewer is likely to ask.

So, I decided to write a complete guide to answering “Tell Me about Yourself” in an interview to help you prepare.

Why Do Employers Always Say, “Tell Me about Yourself”?

It is common to hear this question from interviewers at the start of an interview. The question is designed to break the ice and ease both people into the interview. However, like many open questions, this question can be rather tricky to answer well.

What to know…

Ideally, the interviewer is looking for a short version of your skills and employment background. Of course, if the employer has read your resume, they will already know this information. However, the answer to the question indicates which qualifications and experience you feel are most relevant to the job position.

It’s all about confidence…

Most interviewers are well aware that this question makes many candidates nervous and confused. That is why being able to answer this question confidently is so essential. It shows that you perform well under pressure and are able to present your skills clearly and concisely.

Variations on “Tell Me about Yourself”

While the question is most commonly phrased as tell me about yourself, this is not always the case. There are also several variations that the interviewer could use instead. It is essential to listen carefully for the different variations so that you can use your prepared response.

Walk Me Through Your Resume

By no means should you answer this question by repeating all the information on your resume. What the interviewer is actually asking for is unique information that fleshes out some of the critical points. Instead, you should think of this question as being, tell me something that’s not on your resume.

Tell Me Something Unique about You

Although this question may sound like an invitation to talk about your private life, this is not the case. It is important to highlight something unique about yourself that is related to work in some way. If you have a specific interest or hobby, try to find a way to tie it to your job skills.

answering tell me about yourself in interview

Planning Your Answer

Even though this is a common interview question, it is crucial to plan your answer carefully. You need to try and keep your answer as concise and to the point as possible. Here are some brainstorming techniques that will help you to come up with the perfect answer.

Your Best Qualities for The Position

You need to work out what makes you stand out as the perfect applicant. Make sure that you read the job description closely and work out precisely what is required. Think about examples of how you not only meet but actually exceed the requirements.

Why Are You Interested in The Role?

Of course, the main reason that most people apply for jobs is that they want a paycheck. However, your interviewer needs to know that you are interested in more than simply making money. Review your career goals and work out how this job position is aligned with them.

Why Are You Interested in The Company?

Before you attend an interview, it is vital to spend time researching the company and the industry. You need to be familiar with the goals of the company and identify the aspects that you respect about it. As you craft your answer to the question, highlight aspects of your own goals that align with the company and industry.

Your Positive Traits or Characteristics For This Role

Make a comprehensive list of all the positive aspects of your working life, such as having excellent organization skills. Think about examples of how these characteristics have helped you in your career. Try to draw parallels between these characteristics and the needs of the company.

A Unique Background Aspect

Because this is one of the top common interview questions, most answers tend to get repeated over and over again. Try and work out a few ways that will make your response interesting and unique. Perhaps your passion for the industry also spills over to some of your hobbies or other interests.

How to Answer “Tell Me about Yourself”?

Because this is one of the primary questions, it will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Ideally, your response to the question should take no more than two minutes. Here are some key points that you may want to touch on in your response…

Talk about Past Experience

Reread the job description, paying close attention to the required skills. Draw on recent experience to illustrate how you have the required skills and can execute them well. Try and paint a vivid picture for the interviewer rather than simply listing your skills.

answering tell me about yourself in interviews

Connect to Your Current Job

Illustrate how your current job has prepared you for this new role and challenge. Ideally, this new job should be more of a challenge that you can rise on. Explain how the skills you have already learned will translate to your new job.

Focus on Strengths and Abilities

If possible, focus on an example of how you improved the company at your current or previous job. Perhaps you brought in new customers or helped to improve the customer service team. Try to give exact facts and figures if possible that could be translated to the job you are applying for.

Highlight Your Personality

Part of conducting a winning interview is establishing rapport with your interviewer. Therefore, it is good to highlight and reveal aspects of your personality without giving too many personal details. Mentioning personal interests and hobbies briefly is an excellent way to end your response to the question.

Format Your Response

Once you have worked out your response to the question, you need to format and edit it. Make sure that your answer is as clear and concise as possible. After all, this is likely to be one of the first interview questions, and there are plenty more to come.

Top tip…

If possible, restrict your answer to three impactful sentences that are packed with information. You can organize these sentences as past, present, and future. They should reflect your background, where you are at right now, and your aspirations for the future.

How Not to Answer “Tell Me about Yourself”?

A Complete Guide to Answering “Tell Me about Yourself” in an interview has to include the ‘not do’s’!

Knowing exactly what not to say during an interview is just as important as knowing what to say. There are many common mistakes made when answering this question, usually due to lack of preparation. Here are some things you want to shy away from when giving the perfect response.

The Resume Rehash

It is common for interviewees to go over their resumes when they are asked this question. The main problem with this is that they tend to start with the oldest and least relevant work experience. By the time they get to anything relevant, the interviewer is likely to have already lost interest.

answering tell me about yourself in the interviews

How to avoid this?

Touching briefly on some of the key and most exciting parts of your resume is acceptable. However, the interviewer is likely to have read your resume and may even have it in front of them. If the interviewer needs clarification on anything you have already written, they are sure to ask.

In some cases, the interviewer may actually ask you to walk them through your resume. Even then, you need to avoid taking this too literally. Mention a few of the highlights and allow space for the interviewer to ask questions and make comments.

Being Too Modest

While you do not want to come across as boastful, it is essential that you are seen as a strong candidate. Being too humble about your achievements makes it sound as though you doubt their validity. This also invites the interviewer to disregard your achievements and ultimately disregard you.

Selling yourself…

Many jobs require some element of sales as part of the regular workload. This may be pitching products and services to clients or making presentations. This is your chance to show that you recognize your worth and can make other people recognize it.

There is no need to brag or use hyperbole in order to get your point across. Telling your interviewer that you are the best salesperson in the world is unlikely to win you points. Simply state your skills in a persuasive way and let the interviewer give you the praise you deserve.

Talking about Your Private Life

Unless the interviewer specifically asks you, there is no need to reveal your relationship status. Anything that you do after working hours is your own business. Unless it ties directly to the job you are applying for, it is best to skip these details altogether.

Hobbies…

Some people believe that talking about their hobbies makes them sound like well-rounded people. However, talking too much about one’s private life indicates that you put a lot of emphasis on free time. If asked, mention hobbies that can translate to work, such as learning a new language and networking.

Rambling

This question, at least in the eyes of the interviewer, is pretty straightforward. Therefore, it is essential to avoid overthinking it, which could lead to you rambling on. Avoid telling long stories that go nowhere and focus on short and snappy sentences that capture your interviewer’s attention.

Memorizing Your Response

While it is important to work out what you want to say, your answer should sound fresh and natural. Instead of memorizing the reply word for word, make a mental note of three key points to touch on. This will give you room to interact with the interviewer and craft a natural-sounding reply.

Researching Interview Questions

It can be an excellent approach to familiarize yourself with all common interview questions according to job type. Check out these Hostess Interview Questions! Or take a read of Cook Interview Questions.

Interviewing with company chains…

We’ve also got top expected interview questions per company, like our Walgreens Customer Service Associate Interview Questions, our Dollar General Interview Questions, our Del Taco Interview Questions, our Disney Store Interview Questions, our Levi Strauss Interview Questions, and much, much more! Just type your potential employer into our search box to check!

We’ve even got the low down on the entire job application processes for many of these companies, like the Staples Application, the KFC Application process, and a complete Safeway Jobs Application breakdown!

Additional resources…

Of course, if you want to interview like a pro, it’s well worth investing in something like 60 Seconds and You’re Hired!, Get That Job! or 101 Toughest Interview Questions. You can simply never be over-prepared for an interview.

OK, back to today’s article…

Final Thoughts

Creating the perfect answer to this standard interview question can be tricky. However, getting the answer just right is likely to go a long way to securing the job you want. It is good to work on your response and spend time roleplaying it with friends or family members.

Confidence and charisma go a really long way in a job interview. In addition to what you actually say, you need to work on the way that you say it. Even if you’re nervous, make sure you focus on the speed of your words and your body language while talking.

Good luck with your interview!

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About Eugene Casey

Eugene works in a busy employment agency in Chicago and has nearly 20 years of experience in finding clients the perfect job. His philosophy is simple, the right match for the right position is nearly always a win-win for both the employee and the company.

When he isn't working or writing for us, he enjoys cooking and exploring the United States, one state at a time.

He lives with his wife Lisa and their two German Shepherds, Wilber and Gus.

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