How To Answer: Tell Me About Yourself (Examples Included)

Heidi Scott Giusto

What are the top three things to know about responding to “Tell me about yourself” during an interview? “Tell me about yourself” is your chance to orient the interviewer to your professional strengths and fit for the organization. If you stick to the three factors to consider and strategies outlined below, you’ll be sure to ace it the next time you are asked to talk about yourself.

Factor to Consider 1
The interviewer may not have read your resume or cover letter.

One pitfall interviewees can succumb to is assuming the interviewer spent time preparing for the interview by reviewing the candidate’s application materials. As an applicant, you must remember that oftentimes the interviewer is a busy professional who merely fits in an interview among his or her daily tasks. Even if the interviewer read your application materials, it is possible that was a week or more before the interview date. In other words, the interviewer may or may not come to the interview prepared.

Is it irritating that the interviewer might not be as ready as you are? Yes.

It is worth getting upset over? Absolutely not. In other words, don’t waste your energy on things you can’t change.

Strategy Provide a big-picture overview of your professional background. Think about orienting the person to who you are. How would you tell someone at your family reunion—who you haven’t seen since childhood—what you’ve been doing? These are broad strokes we are talking about here. For instance, “I’ve been an engineer for almost 20 years for two different companies that work with government defense contracts.”

Factor to Consider 2
The company will want someone who is not only qualified but also a “good fit.”

You need to know what will make you seem like the best fit for the job and company. Research the company and its needs in advance of the interview. Do this by reading the company website, talking to anyone you know who works there, and researching the company and its employees on LinkedIn.

Hint 1: Consider switching your LinkedIn settings so your name isn’t visible if you decide to look at the profiles of anyone other than the person or people interviewing you.

Strategy Focus on information that is relevant to the job posting and company’s needs, which will position you as a strong fit for the job. If, for instance, you know the company is in the midst of a corporate reorganization, you can introduce your experience successfully navigating the changes of a restructuring.

Factor to Consider 3
The interviewer might want information about your professional background, your personal life, or both.

You can ask the interviewer a clarifying question of what she is most interested in learning. Poising a well-worded question can demonstrate confidence and build rapport by engaging the interviewer.

If the interviewer states she’s interested in your professional background, share information that aligns with the advice provided throughout this article.

You must consider other factors if the interviewer says she’d like to hear something about your personal life. This topic is important, so it’s worth discussing in depth.

Do not share anything that could encourage someone to discriminate against you unless you are willing to potentially lose a job offer.

Digging Deeper

Take time before the interview to reflect on what you are willing to share; you do not want to walk away with any regrets. Think about things like: marital status, sexuality, religion, politics, children, and disabilities (your own or a family member’s).

Talking about your children during an interview is less common than talking about them to existing coworkers. Women professionals need to be particularly thoughtful about discussing children during an interview, although men working in notoriously demanding fields might also consider how much they share. Children might be a topic many professionals are content with saying, “Forget it. If they don’t like I have children, I don’t want to work here.” People earlier in their careers often don’t have this luxury and must make careful decisions on this topic.

Think about sharing things in your personal life that are unlikely to raise a red flag. For instance, does it sound better to share your love of reality TV or your fondness for running marathons? Marathons can cause the interviewer to associate positive terms with you such as “healthy,” “fit,” and “dedicated,” whereas mentioning reality TV might prompt a conversation about your favorite shows—or visions of you laying around on the couch for hours on end.

Some people feel strongly they do not want to hide anything, which is certainly a valid point. But it is also important to think about how others perceive your response. When answering “Tell me about yourself,” it’s best to play it safe when sharing personal details and to not dwell on any one particular aspect of your personal life.

Strategy We all have countless personal details that we can reveal. Use that to your advantage by learning about the company and its culture and then sharing information that is complementary.

This strategy might not work for all companies and organizations, but it might be ridiculously simple for others. For instance, it works from a strategic perspective to mention your pastime of baking if you are interviewing for any position at a bakery—but not so much if the interview is at a law firm. Likewise, professing your love of hiking, canoeing, camping, and all things outdoors might be a perfect response if you are interviewing for a position in a state park or recreation area.

Putting It All Together with Sample Responses

Each of the following answers is concise and relevant to the employer’s needs.

Scenario 1
Interviewing to become a health, safety, and environment specialist for a local manufacturing company

Sample Response “My wife and I have lived in the Pittsburgh area for 15 years and are quite settled here with no intentions to move. Since living here, I’ve been a health, safety, and environment specialist for two manufacturing companies. I enjoy what I do, and I’m interested in continuing in the same field—but for a company that isn’t closing!”

Takeaway This response accomplishes several things. First, it shows the person is settled in the area, which might be enticing for an employer who has seen people leave the geographic region. Second, it shares “safe” personal information. It is highly unlikely someone would discriminate against a candidate in a heterosexual marriage. Third, it educates the interviewer on the candidate’s background in a role that is similar to the one he is interviewing for. Last, it explains why the interviewee is looking for a new job.

Scenario 2
Interviewing for a pharmaceutical sales representative job across the country

Sample Response “I’m originally from North Dakota but moved to Indiana to get my MBA, where I’ve lived ever since. I’m interviewing for this position—in California—because my husband got an offer here for his dream job. We agreed he could not pass up this opportunity, so I’ll be quitting my job as a pharmaceutical sales representative and moving here in two months. Even though I’m used to traveling for my job, there is no realistic way for me to continue to cover my territory from California. I’m very excited at the opportunity of bringing my skillset and 12 years of experience to the market here.”

Takeaway This answer gives a broad overview of the interviewee—where she grew up, the highest degree she has, and why she is moving across the country. It shows the applicant is relocating to the area regardless of the outcome of the job interview, which the company might find attractive for a couple of different reasons. The company knows the candidate is serious about being willing to move—she will not reconsider her interest in relocating to California—and the candidate is less likely to negotiate for moving costs because she has already stated her clear intentions to move to the area with or without a job offer. The answer ends on a strong note of her enthusiasm and experience in the field.

Scenario 3
Interviewing to be a customer service representative for a call center

Sample Response “I have six years of experience working in customer service in three different industries: healthcare, IT, and retail. Most recently, I completed a one-year contract with an IT company where I worked in their customer call center. I answered up to 100 calls a day, which exceeded the expectations of 80 per day. During downtime, I helped edit a training manual because I’ve also worked as an editor. My boss told me that he wished he could have offered me a full-time, permanent position, but the company was on a hiring freeze when my contract ended. This is a field I really like, which is why I’m interested in another customer service position.”

Takeaway This client stuck to professional aspects of his background, sharing the accomplishment of answering 25% more calls than was expected each day, being entrusted to edit a training manual, and having a boss who had wanted to hire him for a permanent position. These accomplishments showcase that he is a good employee. The response also shares the interviewee’s broad background in customer service by stating the various industries he has worked in and also explains a work gap.

Final Word

Carefully thinking about how you pitch yourself during this opening question can help set you apart from the competition.

About The Author

Heidi Scott Giusto

Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD, is a Certified Employment Interview Professional and holds additional certifications in resume writing and motivational coaching. She earned her doctorate degree from Duke University. Heidi delights in helping people succeed when the stakes are high by coaching them to excel at all stages of the job application process.


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