“So, tell me about yourself
,” your interviewer
says over the phone. It's an age-old question but you think to yourself, “Um, everything? My last job? What I do for fun? What exactly does this person want to hear?”
Answering the dreaded and extremely open-ended interview question can leave you hanging with your jaw open. But before you allow an awkward silence to take over, have a game plan for how to answer this common interview question in a confident and strategic way. Think of this as an opportunity in your job interview to give an elevator pitch in your response and highlight the skills and work experience you have that are a good fit for the job description.
How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"
1. Start with a description that can apply to both your professional and personal self.
Use a simple phrase or sentence that captures the essence of who you are professionally. For instance, you might say, “I like to think of myself as a relationship engineer.”
2. Discuss your strengths.
Share your most recent accomplishments, as long as they align with the job for which you’re interviewing. For example, explain, “I connect graduates with top technology companies like STATS LLC and ReviewTrackers while helping them achieve their short and long-term goals.”
3. Continue with specifics on what you can bring to the table.
Job seekers need to stand out in a crowded field to a hiring manager. A sample answer might highlight your passion and skills: “I truly enjoy getting to know graduates as well as companies and helping them find their technical direction, so I'm very excited about bringing those strengths and interests of mine to this role."
4. Use examples of current projects.
Go on to discuss something specific that you're working on right now. For example: “Currently, I’m organizing a morning hiring event and personally inviting top tech companies in the Chicagoland area to attend.”
Tips for Acing This Question
• Don't regurgitate your resume.
At first thought, you think you should point to the highlights on your resume or discuss every goal you reached in each of your prior positions. But I’m going to suggest you do not do that. Nine times out of 10, the hiring manager or recruiter will have your resume in front of them during a job interview—or they’ve read it minutes before your discussion.
• Don't be too humble.
Remember: This is an opportunity to brag a little. That doesn't mean you should exaggerate or show the interviewer that you have a huge ego, but you shouldn't minimize your accomplishments, either.
• Use concrete examples.
Pepper your response with examples of things you did or ways you improved your company. If you can quantify your experience with figures and numbers, that will only make it stronger.
• Adjust your response according to the scenario.
In a phone interview, keep your response short and sweet. In a face-to-face interview, you can expand a bit. You'll also be able to gauge your interviewer's reaction, so you can tell whether she's responding well to your answer or appears bored. (If she looks bored, find a way to wrap it up gracefully.)
Examples of Responses to "Tell Me About Yourself."
Example #1: Over the phone
As an award-winning salesperson, I consider myself a relationship-builder first and foremost. Over the years at X company, I've maintained a strong sales record, winning X and retaining X number of accounts.
Example #2: In person
Marketing is truly my passion. Over the years, I've climbed the ranks at X company due to my passion for launching creative ad campaigns and developing innovative ways to gain new clients and build relationships with existing ones. For example, my social media campaign for Y product increased our following by Z percent. Currently, I'm working on a new project involving..."
The Bottom Line
Interviews are often going to be a blur after the job interview process from the hiring manager's perspective. They may phone interview more than ten candidates and narrow the in-person interview to several finalists, so having practiced answers to this open-ended interview question is a good idea. It can also be the first question in a face-to-face interview, so you want to start off on the right foot. In short, your response to this job interview question can segway into a discussion about why you're a good fit for the role as a job-seeker. It doesn't have to be a tough question and you don't need an interview coach to improve your answer to this common interview question. Remember to keep your answer succinct but specific! It doesn't have to be a tough interview question if you are prepared!
Molly is a Career Coach specializing in relationship building, communication, emotional intelligence and goal making. When not working, you can find her adventuring Chicago's hidden gems, playing pick-up soccer with friends and making plans to travel around the world.