How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Job Interview Question (With Examples)

It’s not meant to be a resume review.

Written by Jeff Link
How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Job Interview Question (With Examples)
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UPDATED BY
Brennan Whitfield | Apr 12, 2024
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The “tell me about yourself” job interview question is not actually a request for you to walk through every item on your resume. Rather, it’s a chance for you to set the stage for the rest of the interview and establish why you’re the right person for the job.

How you respond to the prompt plays a key role in the direction the interview takes. It shapes the interviewer’s perception of your personality, accomplishments and enthusiasm about the position.

3 Steps to Approach the 'Tell Me About Yourself' Question

  • Explain why you’re passionate about your specialization or field of study.
  • Provide specific examples that illustrate your passion.
  • Connect past accomplishments to the potential role.

To give yourself an edge in the interview process, thoughtfully craft a response that’s succinct and yet still provides specific evidence of your qualifications.

Read More26 Job Interview Tips to Make a Lasting Impression

 

Why Do Interviewers Ask the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Question?

Hiring managers usually ask this question to hear what you’re passionate about and the impact you’ve made in previous positions. While you talk, they’ll be assessing whether your interests and accomplishments are relevant and transferable to the position you’re seeking at their company.

It commonly comes up early in an interview, when hiring managers typically form their first impression of a candidate. Jeremy Schifeling, principal product marketing manager at Khan Academy and former career adviser, said the next 25 minutes of the interview are largely spent “collecting evidence to confirm what I’ve already decided.”

“What seems like a throwaway question to both hiring managers and to job interviewees is actually the exact opposite,” Schifeling said. “It’s probably the most important question in the entire conversation.”

 

Variations of ‘Tell Me About Yourself’

Sometimes the “tell me about yourself” question will be asked other ways, such as:

  • “Tell me about your background.”
  • “Walk me through your resume.”
  • “Describe yourself.” 
  • “I’d love to hear more about your journey/career.” 
  • “Tell me something about you that’s not on your resume.” 
  • “I have your resume in front of me, but tell me more about yourself.” 

 

How to Answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’

To answer “tell me about yourself,” focus on overviewing your present career and passions, highlighting your past experiences and then connecting all of these elements to your future goals. Here’s how to do it step-by-step.
 

1. Overview Your Career and Why You’re Passionate About It

When answering this question, begin with a thesis statement that expresses your career holistically and, in particular, why you are passionate about your field or specialization.

 

2. Highlight Skills and Impact and Provide Examples to Support Them

Next, highlight your skills and the impact you made in your previous roles by providing concrete examples. Use these details to illustrate your career passion and emphasize quantifiable outcomes.

 

3. Connect Your Career Passion to the Role You’re Applying For

Finally, conclude with a remark that connects your passion and accomplishments to the role you are applying to. Express how your experiences have prepared you to take on a new role, and what you hope to contribute to and gain from it.

 

How to Structure a Response to ‘Tell Me About Yourself’

The goal is not to ramble, but also not to sound too rehearsed. Instead, devise a brief, purposeful response that offers the interviewer specific examples that relate your passions to the job.

'Tell Me About Yourself' Answer Template

  • Open with a brief statement of passion.
  • Offer evidence of relevant experience.
  • Include concrete details to support your examples.
  • Connect examples to the responsibilities of the prospective job.
  • Conclude by linking your passion to the company mission and values.

 

1. Open With a Thesis Statement

Structure the response as a five-paragraph essay — a formula rooted in storytelling, not a regurgitated checklist of resume items.

“I don’t want to give the employer all the messiness of my career,” Schifeling said. “I want to give them a simple story they can grab onto, just like a journalist uses a hook to grab people’s attention.”

The opening sentence operates much like a thesis statement. Here’s what Schifeling might say, were he asked the “tell me about yourself” question in an interview for his current position:

“All my life, I’ve tried to bring two things together: The power of education and technology to help students in need. From the time I was a kindergarten teacher back in Brooklyn, to doing it every day at Khan Academy as a marketer.”

 

2. Connect Your Passion and Experience to the Job

The passion, evidence and tie back (PET) method is another way to structure a streamlined response to the “tell me about yourself” question.

It’s an interview response technique that begins with a statement of passion, followed by evidence of that passion and a concluding remark that bridges a candidate’s experience with the company’s mission and the duties of the job description. 

PET is similar to the five-paragraph essay, but with the evidence section condensed to emphasize experiences that are highly relevant to the position and that show the candidate’s enthusiasm and energy.

 

3. Showcase Your Working Style and Values

Jo-Nell Sieren, a career adviser for design, interactive arts and media students at Columbia College in Chicago, coaches candidates to emphasize how their school and professional experiences showcase their individual working styles and values. 

A software engineering or graphic design student who wishes to differentiate themselves might discuss their contributions to a hackathon, game jam or conference panel. A mid-career UX designer seeking to convey their social values might point to a human-centered design project that emphasizes their empathy for end users.

Whatever the case, keep the executive summary of your professional background brief, typically one minute or so.

 

‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Example Answers

Answering the popular “tell me about yourself” interview question is different for every person, depending on their level of experience, education and desired career. Here are some examples to steer you in the right direction.
 

General Example Answer

“When I was studying business in college, I didn’t necessarily see myself working in HR, but I’m grateful my career led me in that direction. Being part of a people management team has given me valuable insight into how to put together an effective support system for employees. I actually spearheaded the effort at my current employer to expand the company’s benefits package. It had been several years since those offerings had been touched, and so I led a project to modernize things, to ensure our employees had access to things like mental health resources and financial support for professional development. I bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the table that I think have thoroughly prepared me for an HR manager job.”

 

Example Answer for Recent Graduates

“I’m a writer at my core, and my love for storytelling carried from childhood all the way to university. I started studying marketing because I wanted to be able to help craft meaningful brand narratives. In my coursework, I’ve handled dozens of projects focused on content creation, like writing SEO articles and developing video concepts, but I also have real-world experience from my internship. Even though I was the most-junior person on my team, I made some really significant contributions and got to get hands-on with the creative process. Getting that taste of the professional world has me excited to kickstart my career, and I’m hoping your agency will be a good fit for me to continue learning and growing.”

 

Example Answer for Switching Industries

“I started working in finance straight out of college. I was able to hit the ground running because the hard work I put into my internship as a student luckily paid off and the company that I was with offered me a full-time position. The four years that I’ve spent in this job have helped me hone my analytics and financial forecasting skills. I’ve always been pretty good with numbers, but what’s really given me an edge is taking the time to develop the patience and resourcefulness to communicate what can be incredibly complex information to people who come from all kinds of educational and professional backgrounds. This work has laid the foundation for my career, but I’m ready to branch out and try something new. So I’m looking forward to stepping out of the financial sector and putting those valuable skills to the test in a different kind of industry as a business analyst.”

 

Example Answer for Experienced Candidates

“I’ve worked in software development for the past decade and have extensive experience in building and deploying mobile apps. In my current position, I led a recent project to launch what has become one of my company’s most successful games on both Android and iOS. Of course it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to participate in software projects that let me stretch my creative muscles, but it’s also felt really great to be growing into my leadership potential. I’ve enjoyed getting to mentor and coach younger developers as I took the reins on guiding some projects to completion. That’s why I’m looking to move into a role with more leadership and management responsibilities.”

More on Interview QuestionsHow to Answer Tough Interview Questions Like a Pro

 

Tell Me About Yourself - A Good Answer To This Interview Question | Video: Dan Lok

4 Tips for Answering ‘Tell Me About Yourself’

1. Don’t Just Walk Through Your Resume

The classic misguided advice is to walk hiring managers through your resume. Don’t do it.

“Here’s where I went to school. Here’s what I majored in. Here’s my first job. Here’s my second job,” is a boring way to begin the conversation and comes off cold and like a robot going through the motions, Schifeling said.

 

2. Ask a Check-In Question to Build Rapport

The “tell me about yourself” question is a great opportunity to ask clarifying questions, Marielle Smith, vice president of people at Narvar, said.

“Did I answer your question? Is there an area you’d like to hear more about? I want to make sure I’m answering your question,” Smith said, suggesting several possible approaches.

Touching base with an interviewer is a good way to tease out which, if any, aspects of your professional story they’re interested in exploring further. It also helps establish rapport, suggesting you are empathetic to their concerns and can communicate efficiently in an office environment.

 

3. Tell an Anecdote that Hooks the Interviewer

Incorporate a good professional story when answering the “tell me about yourself” question. Consider something with a compelling hook, concrete evidence and a touch of warmth that leaves an indelible impression. 

Hiring managers are more likely to be receptive to a refreshing anecdote that entertains them. Really, the answer is less important than what its delivery conveys about the candidate.

Schifeling and other hiring leaders also advise you to respond succinctly while emphasizing your enthusiasm and value to a potential employer.

 

4. Own Your Story, Even If You’re a Misfit

Perhaps the key takeaway, Schifeling said, is to own your story. That means being unafraid to put yourself out there, even at the risk of appearing as an outlier for a role.

Schifeling tells the story of an entrepreneur he coached who worked in the online education space, helping photographers grow their businesses. She had an impressive track record as a business owner but initially refrained from sharing it in interviews, for fear her unconventional background would scare off potential employers.

“She was trying to take all this incredible stuff she had done and boil it down to seem safe,” he said. “She was actually ruining all her advantages: Running her own business, managing a [profit and loss] statement. Like, she had been responsible for the success of other people around her but she felt she had to put all that to the side.”

When she reframed her strategy to lead with her experience as a business owner, her luck changed.

“In fact, what she was able to do is not only get a job offer at a super competitive firm in the Denver area, but then go back to her existing employer with that offer, and turn it into a $60,000 promotion,” Schifeling said.

In the end, she chose to tell the interviewer about herself — to own her story — rather than model her response after an imagined “right answer” or a perfect candidate she thought they had in mind. And that’s what made the difference.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

An effective answer for "tell me about yourself" involves:

  1. Outlining your career and why you're passionate about your field or specialization.
  2. Using concrete examples to highlight your strengths/skills and the impact you've made in your previous roles.
  3. Connecting your accomplishments and passions to the role you're applying for now, and emphasizing what you hope to contribute to and gain from the role.

When introducing yourself in an interview, do the following:

  1. Greet your interviewer confidently, introduce yourself with your full name and express that it is nice to meet them.
  2. Show enthusiasm for discussing the specific role and express gratitude for meeting with your interviewer.
  3. Briefly go over your current role or degree, background and expertise you can bring to the open role. 

Dawn Kawamoto and Rose Velazquez contributed reporting to this story.

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