Updated: Jul 19
It's an interviewer's staple and one of the interview questions candidates dread the most. Whatever job you're applying for, there's almost no doubt this question will crop up at some point during the interview. Its open-ended nature and ambiguity are what makes it so tricky - just what does the interviewer want to know? Well, stress no more. We've found some tips on how to answer the "Tell me about yourself" question to impress a recruiter or hiring manager in your next job interview.
How to answer the question, "So tell me about yourself?" in an interview
1. Keep in mind why interviewers ask this question
The reason this question is asked is so interviewers can assess whether you're suited to the job, as well as if you will fit in with the company culture and the other staff. Hiring managers will consider if you're a good fit in addition to considering your hard skills and if your previous work experience is relevant to the job you're hiring for.
Keeping this in mind,
- Tell them about your work experience and qualifications and how they relate to the job you're applying for.
- Treat this question is an opportunity to establish a good rapport with your interviewer. This helps to break the ice and give them a fuller glimpse of who you are as a person outside of your 'professional-at-work' personality.
- Include more personal aspects of yourself such as your interests in your answer, in addition to things like your qualifications and professional experience. Just make sure you don't get too personal. See below for more on this.
2. When talking about yourself on a personal level, include things that show you to be a good fit for the job - and don't get too deep
It's safest to focus on personal interests, and you could include things like:
- Sports and exercises you practice - this portrays you as someone who is healthy with lots of energy and an amount of discipline.
- Roles in which you interact with other people and exercise your social skills, such as a tour guide, PTA chair, social club committee member, and so on
- Hobbies you truly enjoy, be they arts and crafts, surfing, geocaching, hiking, ball dancing... The list goes on. It doesn't hurt to show your passion for something.
- Volunteer work - this indicates you have compassion for others and a level of care and commitment.
- Mentally engaging activities such as playing chess, reading a lot, or doing crosswords. These draw attention to your intellectual side.
3. Build your answer around the 'present-past-future' structure
Try using a 'present-past-future' formula to easily compose your answer using its framework, as suggested by Alison Doyle, a highly regarded job search authority at The Balance Careers, an expert-led career advice site.
This is a great tip if coming up with an answer is overwhelming, and helps you make sure you include the most important bits of information about yourself in your answer, as well as ending it in a positive, interesting way.
The formula goes as follows:
Present - Give a short outline of where you are in your life at the moment. You could include your present job, a side project you're currently working on, or a personal passion or interest.
Past - Show the interviewer where you've come from by briefly telling them about past experiences that have shaped you or been important, from previous jobs to volunteering or educational pursuits.
Future - Mention a future goal you have - if it is in line with the position or industry you're interviewing for, so much the better!
4. Give examples of times you succeeded in your current or past jobs
Demonstrate proven accomplishments or successes you've achieved in your present position or past jobs. Do this to illustrate that you are a competent person who performs well with visible results and who is able to go above and beyond in a role.
Note that you must tell the interviewer about times in jobs where you achieved proven success, which means giving examples of objective achievements. To help you produce a clear example, refer to the tried and trusted STAR method. Just follow its four steps, Situation, Task, Approach, and Result, as below:
Give the interviewer the context in which your achievement happened, for example by describing a certain challenge you, your coworkers, or your company were facing.
Then describe where you fit in the situation in terms of your role in it. What were your job duties, what areas of expertise did you have that could come in handy for solving the problem, or what part did you play in the challenge?
Explain what you did to help towards solving the issue.
Tell the interviewer the result of your contribution to the situation. Extra points if you can back this up quantitatively, so with numbers - for example, cutting company costs for a project by 20%, bringing in a million views in a month, etc.
5. Connect the dots for your interviewer
End your answer by explaining how your professional background and achievements, qualifications, and personal interests are pertinent to the job you're interviewing for and why they have helped to make you someone who will excel in the position.
How have they given you skills that align with those necessary for the role you're applying for, that are listed in the job description?
That having been said, last but not least...
6. Make sure you've read the job description before you go into the interview!
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is essential that you do this - along with research about the company - prior to the interview. It won't only help you to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question confidently, but will be useful to know for the entire interview. What's more, the interviewer will be able to pick it up if you don't actually know what the job fully entails.
Now, take these tips and use them to prepare for your next interview - good luck!