Why Do They Use The Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”?
Go to almost any interview at nearly any stage of your job search, and you will likely be asked this question. At later interview stages, it's often intended as just a means of self-introduction. A way to warm up the interview and get a candidate more relaxed with their interviewer. But if you're asked the question in the early stages of a job interview, they're likely interested in your current career path and goals to judge if they align with this job.
A less open-ended question could be asked to get this information. For example, "Why do you think you're a good fit for this role. But open-ended questions are particularly popular as a sales technique and encourage a more extensive response than closed-ended ones. As the "tell me about yourself" has become more or less industry standard question used to gather this information from job seekers.
Because this is an open-ended question, frequently, a job candidate isn't clear on what the perfect answer is that the hiring manager wants. It's also true that many hiring managers aren't clear on what they need to hear from the candidate to convince them they are the right fit for the job. The same question could be asked by different interviewers, and the same answer provided, and they may each have a different opinion on it.
As a result, the best answers to this question come from candidates who are clear about what they want the hiring manager to know about. The worst answers come from candidates who tell their entire life story because they're unclear on what they want to communicate.
What Will Help The Hiring Manager Decide If You're A Fit
The hiring manager isn't asking this question to hear your life story. They want to infer from the answer. You give that you have the technical skills to do the job and that you'll fit into the company culture. So, you need to take them through your professional journey.
We don't recommend you just walk them through your resume from start to finish. Instead, you identify key points in your past experience where you did projects or demonstrated skills that reflect what they need in this current position. It's also worth mentioning any training programs you've completed that are relevant to the job.
The interviewer will also find helpful insight into how you've used soft skills in your professional life. To land this information well, you'll need to creatively communicate those soft skills. You'll need to "tell" your interviewer about your abilities and "show" them. For example, you can't just say, "I love collaborating"; you'll need to describe an incident in your professional history that demonstrates that you love collaborating.
Don't waste time explaining your academic background. Talking about your standards, a bachelor's degree doesn't differentiate you from other candidates. This is unless the knowledge and skills developed in an academic career align closely with the role's requirements. For example, Research Scientist roles recruit heavily from candidates with an academic background because so much scientific research happens in academia.
When you're asked to answer "Tell me about yourself", the interviewer is unlikely hoping you share your personal interests with them. The only time sharing personal interests makes sense in an interview is when those interests align and offer some advantage to the role. For example, a cybersecurity candidate who mentioned participating in hacking competitions in their spare time could pique the interviewer's interest and gain an advantage over other candidates. Whereas a Project Manager who explains they enjoy cycling isn't going to gain any advantage by sharing that information.
Some career coaches will encourage you to identify and mention shared interests with an interviewer to take advantage of similarity bias (one of the common biases interviewers are at risk of). We don't advise this as interviewers are looking for this behavior. Attempts to manipulate your interviewer won't be well received.
In a final response, you must outline how your application fits your goals. You can take individual responsibility, lead an organization, or accomplish a critical corporate mission. The final part is your life story: you tell the long-term interests of the role and the company in its total. Talk about the jobs you are currently seeking and the ways of applying these to achieve a successful career goal. It helps you align responsibilities to your values, ensuring your desire matches your company's needs.
How Can You Use The Job Description To Help?
Every career coach will tell you that the foundation to landing any job interview question is to ensure you really interrogate and understand the job description. Experienced candidates will spend a long time deconstructing a job description and extracting insight into the current job's requirements from each line. This insight will help you predict what interview questions you might be asked in the interview process, and you can also use this data analysis to shape how you answer "Tell me about yourself."
A good answer will demonstrate a professional background that logically leads to the current role you're interviewing for. It will mention the critical functional skills for the position and provide sufficient personal details about your personality and attitude to show you're aligned with the company culture.
If you're attempting a career switch, you must explain how your career path has led you to be interested in this job. You'll need to highlight skills you've developed that are also transferable to this new job. As with people who aren't making a career change, provide sufficient personal details about your personality and attitude to show you're aligned with the company culture.
Be prepared for follow-up questions. If you capture the interviewer's interest, they may use follow-up questions to dig deeper to validate your claims or understand your skill level.
Can You Use The Same Answer At Every Job Interview?
It's essential to make your answer relevant to the current role you're interviewing for. So, some level of tailoring will be necessary. However, if you're applying for positions in the same job family, then it's very likely that the functional skills sought will be precisely the same. For example, data analysis, executive assistant, and account management roles will all be very similar across companies and industries.
What if You're Applying For Your First Job?
When applying for jobs for the first time, when you answer "Tell me about yourself," it's inevitable that you won't be able to talk about your professional journey. In this case, you should focus on your academic background and find examples from school, clubs, or part-time jobs that demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
Additional Tips for Answering the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question
Practice answering the questions with a loud voice if possible. You can demonstrate confidence by answering a question, and your confidence shows your preparedness. Run your answer by someone else and get their feedback. Try to speak with passion.
What are some example answers?
Example answer: Applying for a Marketing Manager role at DANZ
"I am an experienced marketing professional with over 7 years of experience delivering strategic campaigns for consumer brands. In my most recent role, as a Marketing Consultant at Vanarsdel, I led the efforts to reposition several companies. I boosted their sales through integrated campaigns across digital and traditional media.
I particularly enjoy managing end-to-end campaign execution across media mix to engage consumers and drive acquisition. For example, at Vanarsdel, I led an integrated campaign to promote a new e-commerce site for a specialty grocery client. I developed a multi-channel strategy encompassing paid search, social media ads, affiliate marketing, email nurturing, and retargeting. By coordinating these tactics and diving deep into performance, we increased site traffic by 90% and conversions by 110% within the first 3 months.
I've been fortunate to own campaign strategy, execution, and performance analysis, which has prepared me well to fully manage integrated marketing efforts. I enjoy coordinating moving parts across media, partners, and internal teams to drive business results and acquire new audiences in a data-driven way. This aligns well with your needs to execute integrated campaigns in the French market.
Branding is an aspect of my work that I've always loved. For example, I led a brand repositioning campaign at Lucerne Publishing for one of our outdoor lifestyle magazines. Through consumer research and competitive analysis, I identified an opportunity to emphasize the brand's focus on sustainability and position the magazine as "the voice of eco-adventure."
I developed this new messaging strategy and worked closely with our design team to refresh the visual identity and website. We also partnered with sustainable gear brands on a social media content series highlighting eco-friendly outdoor activities. In just 3 months, we increased social media followers by 20% and magazine subscriptions by 15% among our target sustainability-minded audience.
I feel the ever-evolving media landscape makes your need to find new ways to connect consumers with entertainment a really exciting opportunity in which I have a good track record. For example, I pioneered using Instagram stories and influencer marketing at Lucerne Publishing to increase engagement among our target 18-25-year-olds. By partnering with micro-influencers in fitness and extreme sports, we were able to authentically engage this hard-to-reach audience. This campaign helped grow our Instagram following by 15% in just 2 months. I always seek emerging media channels and creative ways to build genuine connections with target audiences.
I'm seeking a role that will give me experience in international markets, as I'm keen to work in a global company. Part of my 5-year plan is to work in an international location. With my proven experience executing strategic campaigns across media mix, passion for innovating consumer engagement, and skills adapting global brands for local markets, I am confident I have the expertise and drive to take on the Marketing Manager role and expand DAZN’s leadership position in French sports entertainment.
Example answer: Applying for an Administrative Assistant role in a health service provider
I have always been helpful and keen to find opportunities to make other people's lives easier. So when deciding on a career, doing some kind of Executive or Admin assistant role made a lot of sense. I've had the privilege to support leaders across various industries, including education and technology. Most recently, I provided comprehensive administrative assistance to high-level executives at ABC Corporation. This involved complex calendar management, event coordination, document preparation, communications, and relationship management.
The variety of my work is one of the most appealing aspects of what I do. But that often comes with juggling many priorities, which I've become very skilled at. For example, in my current role, I regularly coordinate multiple executives' travel and meeting schedules while compiling sensitive reports under tight deadlines and supporting their teams' admin requirements. On one occasion, when my executive was traveling internationally, an urgent business need required an immediate analysis of sales data and presentation creation within 24 hours to inform a strategic decision. I rapidly gathered the needed data, created detailed slides, and coordinated with our global team to deliver this presentation while ensuring all the logistics were handled for the international trip.
I'm solid at paying attention to the details, which is critical when juggling multiple things. For example, recently, when I was compiling a report for my manager to present to the board, I noticed an inconsistency in the data that could have led to inaccurate conclusions. The actual content of the report isn't necessarily in my scope, but by flagging this early and investigating the source, I prevented potential embarrassment for my manager.
In my most recent role, I've been introduced to CRM management systems, which has sparked a new area of interest for me. I managed the contact database and sales materials for a 15-person sales team. This information was scattered across individual emails, scattered spreadsheets, and pieces of paper. To improve efficiency, I led the consolidation of everything into a centralized CRM system with updated, digitized sales collateral. This saved the team hundreds of hours of wasted time looking for information while also helping their sales targeting capabilities.
In the future, I'm keen to find new ways to utilize technology to improve the efficiency of the teams and people I support. I understand this role supports a large group of geographically dispersed people using legacy management systems. I'd be very excited to use my skills and new areas of interest to help improve their cohesion and effectiveness.
Example answer: Applying for an Account Executive role
With over 10 years of sales experience, I've been lucky enough to work for fast-growing startups and large corporations, leading teams, developing client relationships, and implementing sales strategies that drive growth. I have very high standards for myself and am constantly looking to exceed my personal best performances. Most recently, as a Sales Executive at Resume Worded, I exceeded revenue goals by 21%, optimizing our sales process and building partnerships with key accounts. That's a personal best.
Throughout my career, I've particularly enjoyed leading teams. I get great satisfaction from mentoring my team to achieve their potential, and I find the diversity of personalities and approaches endlessly fascinating. For example, in my last role with Polyhire, I oversaw an underperforming sales team of 12 people. By mentoring each team member to understand their strengths and development areas, I created customized coaching and training plans. I also implemented new motivation programs like team incentives and recognition programs. Over the next year, this team exceeded their annual revenue target by $100K.
Analytical skills are a vital part of my skill set. Understanding client needs and market data is a fundamental part of my process in preparing for engaging with a new client and partnering with them long term. At Growthsi, I leveraged data analysis to secure contracts with multiple clients and grow revenue from our top-performing clients. I leveraged tools like Salesforce CRM, Tableau, and Excel to analyze client data and industry trends. Combining historical sales data, customer profiles, web analytics, and market research reports in Tableau, I gained actionable insights about customer behavior, unmet needs, and market positioning for critical accounts. I was able to develop tailored solutions addressing their unique pain points. This led to signing 12-month contracts with 3 top-performing clients worth over $150K in total contract value.
In the next 5 years, I aim to lead a sales organization of 50+ reps and manage $50M+ in revenue.
Longer-term, I aim to get a senior executive sales role where I can leverage my experience building top-performing sales teams to drive strategy for an entire company or business unit.
This Area Sales Manager role aligns well with my near-term goals while providing opportunities for me to take on greater responsibilities. And I feel my drive and strengths in people leadership and analytics would add value to your organization. Working for a respected CPG leader like yours would allow me to make broader contributions to the success of a major brand. I see this as an exciting next step in my professional journey, where I can also add tremendous value."
Developing your answer to this critical interview question takes time. We've offered some sample answers here, but it's worth seeing if you can find sample answers for your specific role. Google is your friend here. Whatever you include, make sure it reflects your professional journey and your soft skills.