The first question that you are most likely to get asked in an interview is, "Tell me about yourself."
Your answer to this interview question will set the tone for the rest of the interview.
Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer.
(Quick tip: This is not where you say, "I make a great curry, I've adopted a dozen furry children, and I enjoy moonlit walks on the beach.")
Don't take it personally, but the recruiter is not asking you about your personality or favorite Netflix original; they want to know if you are the right one for the job.
So if you're looking for a job and you believe you are the right fit, this is your chance to show them!
That's why you want to practice your answer before the actual interview.
How not to answer this interview question
Before we get into how you should answer this basic interview question, let's discuss ways that you don't want to answer it.
Don’t talk about your personal life, hobbies, etc.
Let's face it, some personal information you offer could actually be sensitive.
You are under no obligation to discuss your marital status, whether or not you have children, your current political leanings, or any religious beliefs you hold.
You definitely do not want to mention something that might potentially work against your chances to land the position.
In short, stay away from subjects that are irrelevant to the interview and the prospective job.
Also, stay away from extraneous details that will not help the hiring manager determine if you are the right recruit for the job.
Don’t make yourself look better than you are.
I know ... you want to come across as smart, efficient, and (if possible) perfect.
However, it will work against you if you begin listing tons of vague qualities.
No doubt you have aspects of your personality that would make you a great fit for the job.
But don't start listing them all.
Choose a couple of specific qualities relevant to the position.
If possible, convey these strengths with a brief narrative, or story.
Everyone loves a good story and providing a short one that offers proof of your experience can help your situation as you answer this basic interview question.
Don’t offer a verbatim resume spiel.
If you've made it to the interview, that means the recruiter has already reviewed your resume.
You don't need to repeat it all.
Only mention aspects of your resume or work experience if they're relevant.
Don’t get ahead of yourself.
Now, this just might be your dream job; you're thrilled just to be interviewed by this illustrious company.
You are full of ideas and suggestions because you want to come across as knowledgeable and cutting edge.
Stop right there.
Remember, all they have asked so far is, "Tell me about yourself."
You don't want to come across as arrogant or presumptuous.
Because you do not yet have the job, you should not discuss things like:
- Your hopes for this job
- What benefits you’re looking for
- Your ideas to transform the company
- Ways that working with this company can help you
Keep your focus on techniques and methods you have used to effectively operate in previous positions.
Trust your interviewer to make the connection.
How to answer "Tell me about yourself"
Okay, now that you know what not to say, here's a technique you can easily follow as you answer this basic interview question.
Use the "past-present-future" method.
Let's discuss exactly what this method looks like.
Start by talking about the past.
Explain what experiences you have had.
Focus on aspects of your experience that are most relevant to the job.
Outline the skills you have gained through your previous job, education, projects, etc.
Lead into the present.
Next, discuss how your past job experiences lead you to where you are now, in your present.
Spend a moment talking about your current job position.
If you do not currently have a job, mention why you are currently unemployed (keep it short and sweet).
Speak positively about your previous work position, even if it wasn't the greatest job opportunity.
Talk about your strengths, successes, and achievements related to your line of work.
End with your future.
Without going overboard, mention your eagerness at the potential of the job you are interviewing for.
Talk about what makes you the best fit for this particular opportunity.
(Preparing for a big interview? Learn How to Answer the 16 Most Common Interview Questions.)
Sample answer to "Tell me about yourself"
This article would not be complete without a specific example of how to answer one of the most basic interview questions: "Tell me about yourself."
Here's an example for someone who has previous experience in management:
“Well, I come from a management background, having worked at The Sales Guys for over five years. While at TSG, I managed our sales team of roughly eight sales reps.
My team was constantly exceeding quota every quarter due to the great work environment that we had created. I am currently looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to manage a larger team.
I have a passion for renewable energy, cars, and sales so I can’t think of a better place to be interviewing then right here at Tesla. I would love nothing more than to bring my sales management expertise into the growing and amazing team here at Tesla.”
Here's something absolutely crucial to remember:
Your answer should vary, depending on the job.
The example provided above would only be appropriate for a sales/management position.
If this same person were interviewing for an engineering job, that pitch would not be very effective.
An engineer would focus more on specific skills they hold.
They would mention ways they have used those skills to benefit companies they previously worked with.
Bonus tip: Practice makes proficient
Practice might not make perfect, but it sure does help you grow proficient in your response.
You want to sound natural when you answer, "Tell me about yourself."
- The last thing you want is to sound like you are reading from a script.
- However, you want to practice your answer before going into the interview.
- Don't trust your ability to "fly by the seat of your pants." (This rarely goes well.)
Preparation is always the best plan, and this also goes for job interviews.
Closing: Get help for your next interview
I hope you will feel more confident next time you are asked, "Tell me about yourself," in an interview.
To see more interview questions and answers, check out the 50 Top Job Interview Questions & Answers.
If you still need some extra help refining your pitch, feel free to reach out to us at Find My Profession.