One of the most typical interview questions (especially for screening interview, and first round of interviews), and in some extreme cases, it can be the only question you will get (they will either hire you, or send you home right after your answer).
But more often than not, it is an icebreaker question. The hiring managers simply try to ease the tension a bit, and get a basic understanding of your communication skills, motivation, and expectations. It also helps them to see if you experience anxiety in an interview.
* If you typically experience anxiety, be sure to read our simple guide on How to overcome interview nerves. Nevertheless, it is an important question. If you answer well, it will help you to relax, and you will build a good position for the rest of the interview.
Remember that many recruiters decide in the first three minutes of talking to you whether they will let you progress to the next round of interviews (it goes about an emotional decision, not a rational one). The tell me about yourself can actually be the only question you manage to answer during the first three minutes.
Sure, they will ask you many other questions afterwards, following the template they prepared. But in many cases they decide quickly and and the rest of the talk is just a formality (unless you manage to turn your fortunes around with some excellent interview answers to the tricky questions they will ask later, such as “What does integrity mean to you?“, or “Describe the most difficult decision you’ve ever made.“, and other.
If you want to see up to 10 premium answers to all these tricky interview questions, and basically have a superb answer ready for everything they may throw at you during the interviews, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Everything starts with Tell me about yourself question, but in any interview for a decent corporate job you will need to answer many other, more difficult questions…
What to remember when answering the question
First rule: Keep it simple and short. Do not go into details of your experience, education, or anything else. We will ask other questions that relate to your experience or education, later in the interviews. Just briefly introduce yourself, ideally in less than one minute. If we want to hear details, if something catches our attention, we will ask you to elaborate on it in your answer.
Second rule: Talk about things that matter. It is nice to hear that you have two brothers and live in a small city. But it has absolutely no significance for our decision in an interview. Try to speak about things that matter to us. To such belong: why you are a good adept for the job, what you seek in your career right now, the most essential skills and abilities you have, the value you can bring to our team, etc.
You see, from the first moment we should get a feeling that you believe to be the right match for the job. We should understand the things we will gain if we decide to sign a job contract with you. You can mention some details of your personal life–a hobby, or passion you have, just to show us that you have some life outside of work as well.
Life is more than just work after all…
* Do not forget to check: How to dress for an interview. Every detail matters, and you should do it right while you can…
Third rule: Answer the question. If we ask about YOU, you should not talk about your past jobs, former colleagues, or about our company. We are interested in you, your dreams, skills, and values, the reason why you apply for a job with us.
Many people actually talk about everything else, just not about them, when we ask this question. The key is to talk about you, but at the same time show us how everything that you have learned, done, and experienced in your life prepared you for the position you try to get with us. That is a key for a perfect answer…
A good answer depends on the position you apply for, the level of your experience, and also the person you talk to (HR Generalist, external recruiter, CEO of the company, HR director, etc). Let’s have a look at some common scenarios from the interviews. Hopefully you will find a good answer in one of the examples below.
Young man applying for an entry level position in an international corporation
I am Mario, 25 years old, and I have just finished my Masters in Economy. More than anything else I enjoy team work, and I am looking for my first job, ideally in a big company. I want to learn, and meet like-minded people in work. In my free time I like to run, read, and meet with friends. I try to have positive outlook of life, and take everything that comes my way as an opportunity to become a better person.
High school graduate with no experience, trying to get their first job (in a bank)
I’m Jenni, living here in town. I have just graduated from high school, and I can’t wait to get my first job. I am an avid book reader and learner, and I really enjoy spending time with other people. And I’d love to work as a bank teller.
I have a dog called Princess, and enjoy going for long walks with her. We often walk around this banking center, and it would be wonderful to work here.
Special Tip: We have 7 sample answers to this question for fresh graduates here: Fresh graduate – Tell me about yourself.
Man in his forties, trying to get a job, after being unemployment for some time (he applies for a position in HR department)
I’m Ron, I have graduated from XYZ college back in 2005, and I’ve been working with people ever since. They are my passion, my greatest hobby, and I believe that I’ve learned to understand them. As you can see on my resume, I have been unemployed for the past two years.
I experienced a crisis in my personal life, and I needed some time away from work. Firstly to solve things out, and later to reflect on my past, and think about the goals for the future. Now I am ready to return to work, motivated to try my best every day, and I hope to be an asset for your HR team. That is what I’d say about myself.
Do not forget to read: Why should we hire you, and not someone else?
Woman with a little child, trying to get a secretary position
I’m Liliana, thirty years old, single mother. I excel in administrative work, and believe to be a nice companion. I have strong organization and communication skills, and hope to use these skills in a secretary job.
I have studied your job description carefully and decided to apply, since the working hours suit me perfectly. You should know that my parents help me with my daughter, and I also have a nanny who comes to help. Apart from working I enjoy books and running. * You can check more sample answers for secretary and administrative jobs here.
Special Tip: Download a list of sample answers to “Tell me about yourself” question, and practice your own answer anytime later, even when offline, or right before the start of your interview:
Man in his late thirties, trying to change his career from teaching to programming
I’m Carl, and I have been working as a teacher ever since I earned my Masters Degree. But I found that the career in education is not really my cup of coffee, and for the past few years I’ve been learning various programming languages, mostly C++ and Java, preparing for a career change. Now I feel ready to make a transition.
I feel excited, happy to start something new, and understanding the software applications you develop in your company, I believe to be a great fit for the job you advertise.
Woman who was fired from her last job, looking for a position of an assistant principal, now in her fifties
My name is Caren, and I’ve been working in education administration for the past twenty years. My life is connected with education, because I try to follow my lifelong mission of improving the level of elementary school education in this county.
I have had some disagreements with my last superior, the school principal, and they decided to terminate my employment contract, which is all right with me. Now I want to focus on the future, not on the past. I have read a lot about your school, your vision and values resonate with me strongly, and I believe I have in me what it takes to be a great assistant principal at your school.
Another tough interview question: What are your salary expectations?
Man tries to get a job on an ecological farm, but has no experience in the field. He is trying to change his career
I’m John, I like to spend my time outside, walking in the nature, gardening. I’ve been working with computers for most of my life, and now I am looking for a radical change, since I am tired of corporate environment.
Understanding that I may look overqualified for this position, but this is exactly the job I want to have, and I am eager to learn to do it well. I believe that once you have a relationship to animals, once you feel for them, you will quickly learn how to take care of the, and how to do a good job on a farm.
Former prisoner, trying to get back on track and secure some job in retail
My name is Jeremy, and the first thing I want to tell you is that I’ve spent the last two years in XYZ detention facility. I’ve made some mistakes in my life, but I had time to think and reflect in prison, and I believe I walked out the prison gates a different person.
I like your retail store, I am strong and can handle manual labor, and I would be really proud to work for you. I hope you give me a chance to prove my abilities and strong working ethics in your store.
* If you apply for a job in retail, you can check 7 sample answers for this specific field: Retail interview – Tell me about yourself.
Young graduate, applying for a position in social work
I’m Marion, I graduated from social work at ABC College six months ago, and I am trying to get my first job. I feel for the children from divorce families and for orphans, and I would be glad to have a chance to work with them, and to help them to find their path in life.
I like to go out, watch movies, but I also read a lot, trying to improve my knowledge of human psychology, and understand better my target group–the children. Would you like to know more about my education?
Check also: What motivates you in work? Motivation of job candidates is often the deciding factor, especially in the interviews for entry level jobs and for manual labor.
Ambitious financial analyst applying for a job in a private equity firm
Hi, I’m Antony, I’ve been helping numerous clients to earn profits on their savings and investments, and I have a passion for numbers, and for trading stock. I also enjoy sports, and I am very competitive. In this stage of my career I believe to be ready to work in private equity, and since your company stands out in my eyes, I decided to apply for a financial analyst job with you.
Right mindset and attitude
These were sample answers to “tell me about yourself” question. We hope that you have found some inspiration in our answers, and that you will manage to prepare your great answer to the question.
Each of us is different, so is every interview. Nevertheless, motivation, enthusiasm, and positive attitude (nearly) always works. Show them that you are happy to talk to them, show them that it makes sense to talk to you. Answer the first question well, and get ready for the other questions.
Continue your interview preparation with us:
- Tell me about yourself – Software engineer.
- Tell me about yourself – Teacher.
- Customer service interview – Tell me about yourself.