Have you ever been in a situation where you’re asked this seemingly simple question, “tell me about yourself,” and you freeze? Yea? We all have. The craziest thing about this is that the question is about yourself; you know yourself better than anyone else but still, struggle to properly answer this question in an interview.
Knowing how to sell yourself is more than just being confident, it is a skill you can use in many other places other than an interview. When you have to talk about yourself to friends, you go on and on, but once this question comes in an interview setting, you feel your tongue dry up. Don’t worry, and it happened to a lot of people too at one time or the other.
This question is somewhat difficult for a job seeker to answer because the interviewer is not their friend and this question requires a slightly different answer than the one you would normally give to your friends.
When an interviewer asks this question, they expect to hear what is essential to the job seeker, what they have achieved that is relevant to the job, how they generally see life and how confident they are expressing themselves. This will help them to gauge if you’re a good fit for the role and how you will present yourself to clients and customers alike.
As you can see, the “tell me about yourself” question in an interview setting is not the same thing you see when casually talking to friends. This is why people freeze when asked the question and why we’ve put together this guide to help you master what to say and how to say it to ace this part of the interview.
Why Do Recruiters Ask this Question?
Understanding why recruiters ask the “tell me about yourself” question will show you what is required and what you should talk about when answering the question. Here are some of the reasons recruiters ask this question.
- A good ice breaker: before an interview starts, you can feel the tension in the room, everybody is uptight and conscious of everything they do, to break the ice and ease the tension, recruiters ask this open-ended question that allows the job seeker to lead the interview and ease into the flow. Job seekers get to ease their tension by talking about themselves without a particular thing in focus. Don’t get it twisted, even though the recruiters do not specifically indicate a topic, and they have an idea of what they want you to talk about
- To ascertain your confidence level: Talking about yourself in interview scenarios has always been an issue for many. With many people struggling for direction and confidence. This is why recruiters use this question to see how confident a job seeker can be when answering this tricky question. Recruiters want to see how you can articulate an open-ended question without clear directions
- To know you on a personal level: besides having a good resume, recruiters want to also know you personally. They want to know what tickles you, your goals, and how you see life in general. They can quickly pick up a hint from the way you answer the question. Every role requires some individual characteristics. They will also be looking to see if yours matches the company’s tone
- To know your achievements: what better way to know your achievements than from the horse’s mouth? You can tell your story better than what is written in your resume (you should). So allowing you to talk about yourself will let them see your achievements in your perspective and emotions. They also get to know what is most important to you as you don’t have the time and/or cannot talk about everything. So typically, the things you mention would be quite important to you
From just knowing what recruiters want to know from the question, you’ll already get an idea of how to answer the “tell me about yourself” question.
How to Answer Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question?
Armed with the knowledge of what recruiters want, you can see a clearer picture of what is required of you. How do you answer the question “tell me about yourself”? Bear in mind that you may be faced with variations to the question instead, like “Run me through your resume” or “Walk me through your background”. The recruiters want to know the same things mentioned above.
Tell a Story
The concept here is to connect everything you’ll be mentioning to one big idea. So no, you do not have to be a storyteller. The story here is being able to connect all the parts of your answer, so it flows naturally. This makes it interesting, valuable and also makes it easy for you to remember.
Making disjointed statements will not only bore your interviewers but will reduce the weight of your achievements. Being able to articulate an exciting answer to the question will also be seen as confident and comfortable on your part.
Start with a Strong Point
You have to captivate the interviewers into your story by starting with a strong, relevant point. This should be something high on the recruiter’s priority list. The aim is to immediately pique their interest and make them listen to the rest of your story with keen interest.
You can find important strengths the company is looking for by going through the job advert as they are often mentioned there. You’ll also find this by researching the company and knowing what is important to the company in general.
Go into Specifics
Many people tend to stay vague and in general terms when answering this question instead of going into specifics. Talking about some specific scenarios will throw more light and give your achievements or skills more meaning.
Take a look at these two statements and tell me which sounded more genuine and powerful to you: “I helped my last company grow” and “I helped increase my last company’s revenue by 200% in 3 years”, the second statement, right?
This is what being more specific on some scenarios does to your statements. While you cannot talk about specifics all through when answering the question, touching one or two in detail will help.
Only Mention Relevant Information
No one wants to know if you were a good footballer in high school when applying for a finance role. You want to only mention relevant information when talking about yourself. Information that will help you land the job. And no, it doesn’t mean you should only talk about your educational background and leave out other aspects.
Keeping the information relevant is easier said than done, especially in a high-pressure situation. You may find yourself going off target a lot. A good way to keep yourself in check is to always ask yourself quickly if the information you’re about to share will help you get the job.
Make sure to tailor your answer to the role you’re applying for. Doing this will keep your answers relevant even though you’re talking about the non-educational background.
Keep it Professional
Even though the question is asking you about yourself, never make the mistake of turning it into an informal discussion. Sometimes, because of the nature of the question, you may be tempted to bring in informal terms and mannerisms. That is a recipe for disaster. Never forget this is an interview, and professionalism is vital at all times.
Keep your answers professional and to the point, but don’t be robotic. This leads us to the next point.
Be Passionate Where Necessary
In a bid to keep it professional, you may begin to sound like a robot and make your answers less genuine and more like crammed work. This is why sprinkling passion across your answers in measured proportions is important.
Being measuredly passionate about your answers will show that you’re passionate about what you do and not just for the money. It’ll also help sway the recruiters as your statements carry more weight. Be careful here, though, as there’s a thin line between passionate and unprofessional. Keep your passion and emotions to a minimum.
End With How You See Yourself in the Role
Remember you started strongly by going with a high-priority strength the recruiter is looking for? Now you can end on a high note too by tying your experience to the job and explaining how you can fit in and what you intend to bring.
To do this, you can use your past or present experience to explain how that will help you in your new job and why it makes you a great fit for the job. Talk about your goals and how the job fits into your long-term plans.
Examples of How to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
I promised to give you example statements on how to answer the question. Many people find this to be easier to grasp as it is straightforward and can be tweaked easily.
Use the Present – Past – Future formula. Ideal if you’re currently holding a similar role – “thank you for the question. I’m currently working as a junior data analyst at Great Opium, where I gather, clean, and analyze the company’s data alongside other analysts. Before that, I was an information analyst at Kiran, where I worked for 3 years. At this stage in my career, I would like to focus on a specific type of data analytics and coupled with my love for tech, and I see this job as the perfect place for me to build on that.”
No experience? No problem. If you do not have experience, you can tailor your answer this way – “I’m a graduate of business management from the University of Massachusetts where I learned the rudiments of handling a business. I gained a lot of experience during my internship at Gold & Sachs, where I worked with top business professionals in handling business problems. This opportunity presents me with the chance to build on my long-lasting hunger to help businesses grow.”
Are you looking for something concise? Here you go – “I joined Goldman fresh out from New York Institute of Technology, where I spent the best part of 3 years learning. At Goldman, I helped the company increase its revenue by 200% within the first two years by discovering a leakage in the factory’s mainframe. I’m looking to provide this keen eye for details to help this company grow while also developing my on-site capabilities.”
What You Should Not Do
There are certain things to avoid when answering this question that can hamper your chances of landing the job. Here are some of the DON’Ts:
- Avoid clichés: these recruiters have handled a lot of interviews and are used to the clichés already. Immediately you start to use all the regular clichés like “I work well under pressure” and “I’m a people’s-person” you begin to lose them
- Do not include personal, irrelevant answers: the question may be about yourself, but they do not want to know how many times you eat a day. Avoid sharing irrelevant personal information
- Do not cram: instead of cramming the answer to this question, practice. It’ll help you immerse yourself into the answers that you can answer in the most detailed way without getting confused when the recruiter interrupts
- Do not recite your resume verbatim: while most of what you’ll be saying will already be in your resume, you do not want to recite your resume out again for the recruiter. Instead, tailor your answer to the stage of the interview and what is most important at that level
First impression matters, and being typically the first question you’re asked at interviews, you want to give the best impression possible. Don’t let this put unnecessary pressure on yourself though, see it as an opportunity to shine and lead the interview.
With the help provided in this guide, you should no longer fumble when asked the “tell me about yourself” question.