How you respond to the “Tell me about yourself” question can set the tone for the rest of the interview. In addition to learning more about you, interviewers want to see how well you handle open-ended questions. Your response should highlight your best qualities in a way that is brief, honest and confident. In this article, we help you prepare a great answer to the interview question "Tell me about yourself."
Planning your answer to "Tell me about yourself"
To form a detailed, thoughtful response, you should answer a few questions about your career and your job. Ask yourself these questions before each interview:
- What qualities make you a great fit for this position?
- Why are you interested in the role?
- Why are you interested in the company or the industry?
- What are the positive traits or characteristics you possess that will serve you well in this role?
What qualities make you a great fit for this position?
Think of what makes you stand out as a job applicant for this role. Perhaps it's your years of experience or some highly desired specialization, training or technical skills. Review the job description closely and note ways that you exceed the requirements.
Why are you interested in the role?
Brainstorm why this position excites you, how it fits into your larger career goals and why you feel it's the best next step. This step helps you create a focused response that gets the attention of the hiring manager.
Why are you interested in the company or the industry?
After you've spent time researching the company and the industry, you should have a better sense of the mission, goals and trends impacting the industry. Do these align with the professional goals that you've set for yourself? What do you like and respect about the company as a whole? What excites you about the future of the industry? As you start building your story, tie together similarities among your professional goals, the future vision of the company and industry trends you feel are especially important.
What are the positive traits or characteristics you possess that will serve you well in this role?
This question is a good time to describe your characteristics and how they make you a good fit. Consider your best traits, such as being positive, motivated or creative. Check the job posting to see if the employer listed any specific traits that you could include.
How to answer “Tell me about yourself”
Hiring managers could ask a few different types of questions to start the interview. Other examples include “Walk me through your resume,” “Tell me something about yourself that's not on your resume” and “How would you describe yourself?” You can use the following steps to craft a good response for any of these questions:
- Mention past experiences and proven successes as they relate to the position
- Consider how your current job relates to the job you're applying for
- Focus on strengths and abilities that you can support with examples
- Highlight your personality to break the ice
1. Mention past experiences and proven successes as they relate to the position
Begin by rereading the job description. Take note of the required skills that you have, and think about recent stories that demonstrate them. Ideally, you should draw primarily from recent professional experience. However, volunteer work or academic experience can also support your narrative. It can be helpful to quantify your successes to give the hiring manager a clearer perspective. For example, a salesperson could detail their sales numbers or a supervisor could explain how many people they oversee.
2. Consider how your current job relates to the job you're applying for
Describing how your current responsibilities translate to the open role shows you're capable of excelling within the position. If you're applying for a job with a higher level of responsibilities, explain that you're willing to accept more tasks and learn more to advance your career. For a move into a new field, pick one or two duties that relate to the new job to show you have transferrable skills.
3. Focus on strengths and abilities that you can support with examples
When you start building the script of each example, focus on details and outcomes that you can quantify if possible. For example, stating that you “improved customer service” is less impactful than “increased customer service response rates each quarter by 10–15%.” If you don't have the exact information, estimate a realistic value.
4. Highlight your personality to break the ice
Since the “Tell me about yourself” interview question is about getting to know you, it's a good idea to share your personality with your interviewer. You may want to briefly mention hobbies that demonstrate intellectual development or community engagement, such as reading, playing music, participating in sports or volunteering, or those that showcase personal discipline and achievement, such as learning a new skill or training for a half marathon. Discussing personal interests is a good way to end your response while maintaining a professional tone.
Example answers to “Tell me about yourself”
Seeing an example can be helpful, though the answer to each person's “Tell me about yourself” will be different. Here are two example answers that can help you craft your own response:
Example 1: “I began my career in retail management, but a few years ago, I was drawn to the healthcare space. I've always been skilled at bringing people together and working toward common goals. My experience successfully leading teams and managing stores led me to consider administration, and I've been building a career as a driven health administrator for the last four years. I recently earned a certificate in healthcare administration, and I plan to start taking master's classes soon.
In my spare time, I help organize 5Ks in the community for various causes. The most recent race I organized had over 1,000 participants.”
Example 2: “In my current role at BC Medical Center, the efficiency of the office has been a personal focus—especially as it relates to patient outcomes. I set and oversee goals related to department budget and patient volume. Last year, I worked with our IT department to implement a communication system for scheduling procedures and protocols to ensure that all departments were adequately staffed at all times. With our new online scheduling portal, we increased communication efficiency by 20%. To stay informed about their ongoing concerns, I hold regular meetings with physicians, nurses and other healthcare staff.
In my role, I also manage marketing and advertising efforts on behalf of the center. I've been really enjoying that part of my work, and I'm especially interested in bringing the experience I've gained and my commitment to efficiency to the team at Madeline Health. Outside of the office, I'm an avid reader and I love to hike. On weekends, you might find me at the local bookstore or exploring hiking trails in the area.”
Tips for answering “Tell me about yourself” in an interview
Follow these tips when you're preparing your response:
- Practice your response. Write down an outline of your answer, practice it in front of a mirror. Watch your facial expressions to make sure they match your answer, and try to keep your response to two minutes at most. You can also practice your answer in front of a trusted friend or colleague to get helpful feedback.
- Keep successes to the past two years. If you can, focus on recent achievements from the past two years to give hiring managers a better perspective of your work. You can talk about workplace successes, recent classes you took, certifications you earned or volunteer work.
- Use work-friendly responses. While you should show your personality during the interview, it's better to avoid any answers that mention religious or political affiliations. Hiring managers can better focus on your accomplishments when you keep your response work-friendly.
- Focus on yourself. When an employer asks "Tell me about yourself," they want to hear all about you and your work. It's good to relate your experience to the open role, but keep the focus mainly on yourself. You can continue to translate your skills and experience to the job throughout the interview, and you can learn more about the company when the employer asks if you have any questions toward the end of the interview.