Soft Skills

11 minute read

How to Nail the ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ Question at an Interview

Sylvia Giltner

Sylvia Giltner

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It’s impressive how trivial questions like “Tell me about yourself” can set the tone of the outcome of a job interview. You might think that an open-ended question like that is just there to get the conversation started, but in reality, there’s much more to it.

Often, job seekers take this question as an invitation to recite their work experience from top to bottom. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake, and this is how many people fail to create a good impression at a sought-after job.

Interviewers typically ask questions like these expecting that interviewees will highlight the qualities that make them the perfect candidate for the job. In this article, we’ll look into the best ways you should tackle the “tell me about yourself” questions at job interviews and learn to use the question’s ambiguity in your own favor.

Read on for our best “tell me about yourself” interview question and answer examples guaranteed to help you shine.

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1. Tap into a narrative

There are two critical reasons storytelling is beneficial during job interviews. First off, you can substantiate your claims about your outstanding professional qualities.

“Take the opportunity to speak about a few situations that would highlight skills that are important in your field or your particular job position. Moreover, this will provide you with the chance to convey how passionate you are about your career.”

—  Jenna Waters, Career Consultant at Online Writer’s Rating.

Secondly, storytelling modulates our beliefs and behaviors. According to a recent study, published by neuroscientist Paul J. Zak, exposing people to personal accounts, stories, and narratives increases their levels of oxytocin, a neurochemical that makes them feel “safe to approach somebody”.

Research suggests that increased levels of oxytocin can be observed after handshakes, hugs, and other physical interactions, and it is a signal that a person can be trusted, which in effect promotes a sense of empathy and kindness towards others.

As professor Zak suggests — “we are social creatures, we depend on others for our survival.” We can use these inherent human mechanisms to gain some advantage at a job interview.

Check out this video on how to use storytelling to deliver a compelling answer:

Interview tip: It’s best to refrain from providing accounts of irrelevant information. Focus on your career, highlight events that have to do with your professional qualities. Don’t go on rambling about where you spent your childhood unless that is somehow directly related to your career.

Think about the narrative you want to promote. What’s your story? Then condense that into a concise answer. For example, if you want to show your leadership skills then you might say: “I recently had to ask my team to put in 15 hours per week of overtime for a period of two months. During that time, I made sure that I was the first person in the office each morning, and the last person to leave. I didn’t want anyone to feel as if I was asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

2. Be prepared but don’t give it away

A good idea would be preparing an elevator pitch, which would convey why said company must hire you. While you must diligently prepare ahead of time, it is best to provide a slightly fuzzy answer, taking short breaks to think, as if you’re giving an answer on the spot.

The best way to create a pitch for your job interview is to shortly and clearly describe your professional skills and substantiate them by giving examples of how they were acquired or implemented to the benefit of your previous job.

Keep those ideas in mind, but don’t focus on creating an actual text and memorizing it. Instead, memorize the key points in your career and talk about them however it seems necessary, based on the mood of the interview. Moreover, canned answers aren’t really the best strategy at a job interview.

If you want to go the extra mile, it’s a good idea to practice your pitch in front of the mirror. Try giving a concise, yet exhaustive answer within 45-60 seconds by touching on all your critical professional skills but talking about them in a different order in every iteration.

“It’s essential that you repeat this exercise until you feel confident about the coherence and consistency of your answer. A well-structured pitch will put you light-years ahead of the rest of the candidates.“

— Angela McCoy, HR manager at Essay Supply.

People often underestimate the importance of job interviews. Millions of people have missed on a more professionally fulfilling life simply because they’ve underprepared for an interview.



Interview tip: It’s best not to just recite your resume back to your hiring manager. Help them navigate through the most essential areas of the document and highlight the most important parts. Don’t forget, your interviewer doesn’t know you at all, help them understand your personality and your value as a professional by stressing it in conversation.

Consolidate your key strengths into a few sentences. For example, say: “I’m an expert in retirement planning for middle-income families and individuals. I take great pride in helping people who work hard for their money to earn money from their investment portfolios.”

3. Focus on the organization

In order to succeed in answering job interview questions, it is imperative to frame the conversation correctly, which means focusing less on your personal information and more on what you can bring to the company. Think of yourself as a valuable asset. Be confident about the benefits you can bring to the table.

In order to stress the value you can bring to the organization, you need to identify a few strong skills you possess that would interest them. Keep it simple and focus on a handful of your key strengths. If you tell your potential employer that you’re good at everything, you might not be taken seriously.

Focus on what makes your candidacy relevant. Don’t just throw in a resume of your entire life.

“Perhaps, a good idea would be to observe how the interviewer responds to whatever you’re saying. Pay close attention to which topics seem to interest the recruiter more. Look for small giveaways like nods, smiles, slight exaltation, body posture, and such.”

— Veronica Wright, the Resumes Centre CEO.

Interview tip: Use the research you’ve done before the interview along with the cues you’ve received from the interviewer to come up with a great response on the spot. Imagine that the interviewer has let it out that they are searching for a new graphic design tool. You might say: “I’m passionate about technology and learning. I pride myself on my ability to dig into the most important parts of any new tech, and master it as quickly as possible.”


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4. Perspective, perspective, perspective

It’s always a good idea to provide your interviewer with a “three-dimensional” account of your work experience. These three dimensions are the past, present, and future. Help the interviewer navigate through your career and help them observe how you’ve progressed and grown over time.

“Start off by stressing where you’ve begun, your first relevant position and your Alma Mater. After that touch on your current position, speak about how your responsibilities have advanced over time. Further, state where you’d like to be and why exactly you’re at this particular interview and how it fits into the grand scheme of things.”

— Gina Wilson, HR manager at Flash Essay.

Interview tip: It’s best to refrain from focusing on what the company has to offer to you. At the job interview, you need to be on the giving end, rather than seeking to comfort your needs. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to disregard your needs entirely.

Hit every note by saying: “I’ve worked hard to establish myself as a stellar salesperson throughout my career. Now, I’m very interested in putting my leadership skills to the test. Eventually, I’d like to help an organization grow by developing and managing sales training initiatives.”

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5. The wrap-up

If you apply all of the recommendations above, you should end up with something that resembles a brief and punchy elevator pitch.

However, it must be crafted with the utmost attention to detail. First off, don’t forget that you don’t have to recite your resume all over again, but rather create a narrative. Tell an interesting story. By doing so, you’ll make the interviewer sympathize with you.

Secondly, you need to be ready for the battle, but don’t let your “opponent” know that you are. When telling them “about yourself” take a second or two to think, as if you’re coming up with the answer on the spot. Also, don’t forget to practice in front of the mirror.

When preparing your pitch, you need to be able to frame the conversation correctly. Focus on what the organization is looking for before you start asking about what the company is able to offer you. Describe the skills that are most relevant to the company at hand. However, don’t go overboard. Specify relevant skills only.

Lastly, when you’re answering the infamous “about yourself” question, it’s important to emphasize the progress that you’ve made over time. Start by mentioning your past and your background. Advance into your present and talk about where you are right now. And lastly, let them know where you’d like to be. Underline your aspirations and where you’d like to be in a few years from now.

Good luck!

Over to you

We hope you found our best “tell me about yourself” interview question and answer examples helpful.

If you’re looking to take your interviewing skills to the next level, brush up on your public speaking, body language or leadership skills with our soft skills courses.

You can also add some impressive credentials to your resume with a GoSkills certification in Excel, project management, or any other business-focused courses we offer that relate to your prospective job.

Eager to prepare even more for that upcoming interview of yours? Check out our other interview guides for specific industries. They’re no crystal ball, but we like to think they’re the next best thing:

11 Key Graphic Design Interview Questions and Answers

The Top 7 Project Management Interview Questions and Answers

20 Most Helpful CSS Interview Questions and Answers

6 Most Helpful Soft Skills Interview Questions and Answers

13 Most Helpful HTML Interview Questions & Answers

Startup Interview Questions: 8 Things Founders Will Ask You

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Sylvia Giltner

Sylvia Giltner

Sylvia is an HR Specialist, career counselor, and freelance writer. She is interested in self-development, psychology and helping people take control of their careers.

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