You sit down for your job interview. The interviewer smiles and says, “So tell me about yourself.”
This may seem like a simple way to ease into the interview with small talk, but don’t be fooled. Often, your answer to this question sets the tone for the rest of the interview. You should have your reply polished to perfection.
In this article, we’ll show you how to answer this question using the highly effective STAR Method. We’ll also provide several “tell me about yourself” examples to guide you in preparing your own impressive response.
The Interviewer’s Mindset
From the interviewee’s perspective, the “Tell me about yourself” question is too open-ended, often leading to confusion. What exactly is the hiring manager looking for here?
Naturally, the interviewer wants to ensure that you’re a good fit for the job. She wants to gauge how well you’ll fit the role and get along with the team. This question provides the interviewer with a first impression that can direct the rest of the interview.
In your answer, you should try to provide three key components:
- Who you are– A concise summary of your relevant work experience (or volunteer/academic experience)
- What you’ve accomplished- A brief highlight reel of relevant qualifications, awards, or recognition
- Why you’re here- Why you want this specific position at this particular company
By doing so, you’ll give the interviewer a clear understanding of your enthusiasm for the job, as well as why you’re a great fit, from the very start.
If you need guidance identifying your marketable skills, upload your resume to Chegg CareerMatch. We’ll generate a list of your employable skills, plus a list of jobs that match your qualifications.
Best, Good, and Bad “Tell Me About Yourself” Examples
Now let’s take a look at some “tell me about yourself” sample answers. We’ll also analyze what makes each response effective or ineffective.
I moved to Seattle three years ago from Arizona for the mountains and to pursue my passion for digital marketing at a local start-up. Being in a fast-paced environment where I was able to make a meaningful impact on the business through process improvement really solidified for me that digital marketing was the right career path for me. I love companies that focus on leaving a small environmental footprint, which I can tell is also important to your team. It’s really something that drew me to this open position. I’m excited by the thought of contributing my skills to this team!
Why is this a great example?
- It shows some personality through details about the relocation to Seattle but does not share too much.
- The candidate also demonstrates how her experience and achievements could be applied to the role to further the company’s mission.
- Lastly, she draws a clear line from her own values to that of the organization’s.
I’m a Chicago native and am interested in this opportunity because it seems like the perfect fit for my skill set. I really like graphic design and have a couple years’ experience as a freelancer working with clients. I could see myself working on your team because it seems like a great place to work and the benefits look incredible.
Why is this just a good example?
- The candidate draws a direct connection from his experience to the role.
- Where this answer falls short is specificity. What skills does the candidate have that make this job a “perfect fit?” What did he achieve in his experience as a freelancer? Why does this seem like a great place to work? If the candidate had given more tangible information, this could have been a strong answer.
I found this job online and decided to apply because it seemed interesting, and things at my current employer seem a little uncertain. They’re laying off a lot of people right now, so I wanted to see what other options are out there. As you can see from my resume, my skills would be a good fit for this role, and so it would be great to learn more about the position and company to see what you’re looking for.
Why is this a weak example?
- Firstly, because the candidate overshares about the situation at her current employer. Even if it’s honest, it comes across as lacking passion for the role she’s applying for.
- That leads to another problem: She never expresses why she wants this job at all.
- Lastly, this candidate relies too much on her resume to do the talking for her. A resume is a way for employers to learn more about a person before they interview her, but a successful candidate brings the text alive in a conversation.
Common Mistakes When Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”
Avoid starting your interview with one of these common blunders.
- Undersharing or underselling
It might be tempting to quickly breeze through this question. After all, you’re anxious to get to other parts of the interview that you’ve been rehearsing.
Take your time. The question may seem simple, but it’s important: This is your elevator pitch. Show up prepared to highlight who you are and how it’s relevant to the specific position you’re pursuing.
- Getting too personal
In a casual environment, “Tell me about yourself” can be a conversation starter. But remember that this is still an interview. The interviewer isn’t interested in hearing about your recent vacation, your childhood, or your stamp collection (at least not at this moment).
Steer clear from conversation about your personal life unless it’s relevant to your shared values or your ability to perform in this role.
It’s common to ramble when nervous. If this is an issue for you, make a script for your interview and do your best to stick to it.
Rambling makes you come across as unprepared, so be concise. It can also result in oversharing, which may lead to follow-up questions about something you didn’t mean to bring up, like prior workplace drama.
What If You Have No Experience?
You might be surprised that your passion and unpaid experiences can truly make you a competitive candidate.
Volunteer positions, skill-building events, and unpaid internships are all ways to bolster your experience, even if it didn’t carry a similar job title or come with a paycheck.
Here’s an example of a great answer when you have no direct experience:
I have been passionate about technology for several years. I used to spend my spare time on weekends coding apps. Once I got into college, I attended hackathons where I collaborated with other developers on campus. Having a team I could work with was one of my favorite parts of our hackathons, and from my research it seems like your company values collaboration, too. I would be excited to learn from others around me and contribute my skills and perspective to your team’s efforts!
Why is this a good example?
- It illustrates how the candidate is self-motivated and has been applying relevant skills for several years.
- It also showcases the candidate’s ability to work with others.
- Both of these qualities, in combination with the candidate’s background, make for a desirable candidate.
What If You Are Changing Industries?
If you’re changing industries, it’s important to come in with an honest, forward-facing attitude. Concisely explaining why you’re making this change and showing how this new endeavor is a positive change will set the proper context for your interview.
Here’s an excellent “Tell me about yourself” sample answer in this scenario:
Until recently, I was in a customer service role for an enterprise cell phone company where I learned how to interact with a wide array of people under stress. I realized through that role that I am extremely passionate about helping others and wanted to make an impact in the field of medicine. After getting my certification in phlebotomy, I couldn’t be more ready to jump back into full-time employment. Your facility seems like an organization dedicated to providing top-quality, holistic care to its patients, which is of utmost importance to me as well. I’m excited by the possibility of making a difference on your team!
What makes this a strong answer?
- It spends most of the time speaking to what the interviewer needs to hear most: that this is a qualified, passionate candidate.
- The background is helpful, but this candidate doesn’t spend any extra time elaborating on it because it’s irrelevant.
Practice–Whether You’re Job Searching or Not
You never know what opportunities will arise by having an engaging answer to a “tell me about yourself” type of question.
Whether you’re actively networking or get an unplanned introduction to someone at a company you’re interested in, having your elevator pitch ready can open doors to the career of your dreams.
Take this information, craft your answer, and try it out whenever you can. It might get you more places than you realize!
Of course, to get your foot in the door at any position, you’ll also need a resume. If you’re not sure where to start, Chegg CareerMatch can help. Our step-by-step resume builder is a quick, easy guide to creating a resume that’s sure to impress.
Check out our other “How to Answer” interview question articles: