On the face of it, telling somebody “about yourself” should be pretty straightforward. After all, who is in a better position to answer questions about you than you?
Answering this question appropriately in an interview, however, is more complicated than you might imagine. Giving your interviewer your life story or exploring the deepest recesses of your personality hardly seems appropriate. You’re looking for work, not therapy.
But that’s what makes this question so hard. You somehow have to answer it authentically while saying something relevant – a challenging task indeed.
Why Do Interviewers Love This Question?
The purpose of the “tell me about yourself” question is more superficial than you might imagine. Mostly, it is not about trying to probe your unconscious or get the jump on your psychological archetype. Primarily, just want to get to know you as a human being, find out more about what makes you tick, and get a sense of what sort of creature you are.
For the most part, there is nothing subterranean going on here at all. Asking the question is just a way of opening up the conversation. Follow-ups will usually depend on the details that you reveal. It’s a way of opening up the dialogue.
Tips For Answering “Tell Me About Yourself” In An Interview
Given that this is the most popular interview question of all, how should you actually respond when your interviewer asks this question? Here’s our advice:
Talk About Past, Present, And Future (And Tie It To The Role)
Usually, when interviewers ask you to talk about yourself, they’re not looking for some deep psychological understanding of your impulses, emotions, or character logic. Instead, their goal is to find out a little more about what you’ve done and what you intend to do.
Tell me about yourself is a deliberately open-ended request. But because you’re free to say pretty much whatever you want, you must add your own structure.
One way to do this is to divide your response into the past, present, and future. Start by talking about your current role, what you achieved, and what it entailed. Then move on to telling the interviewer a little about your history and how you got there. At the end, discuss where you’d like your career to go and what you’d like to achieve.
Try if you can to link your aspirations back to the job in question. Discuss how you see yourself as an excellent fit for the role and how your history has led you right up to this point. Your goal should be to leave the interviewer in no doubt that it makes sense for you to be sitting in front of them.
Inject A Little Passion
Most interviewers will interview dozens of candidates when filling a role. Thus, those applying for jobs need to use strategies that help them stand out from the crowd. Don’t robotically go through the motions, answering the tell me about yourself by regurgitating your resume. Engage in a storytelling exercise and add a little passion.
Your goal here isn’t to discuss every last detail of your career; it’s to make yourself appear attractive. You want to selectively run through events in your working life, picking out highlights and then adding some analysis on top that connects to your values.
You could, for instance, say something like:
I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since I wrote a story to bring joy to my mother as a child.
That sort of emotive context can help make your application more real and engaging to the person interviewing you.
Tailor Your Response To Your Interviewer
How you respond to the tell me about yourself question also partially depends on who asks the questions. Often, as you progress through the selection process, you’ll find that different people with different perspectives want to speak with you and find out more about you.
If you’re talking to the person who will become your direct line manager, keep your answers fairly technical to demonstrate your competence. By contrast, if your conversation is with the CEO, you’ll need to broaden the scope a little and talk more about how you align with the enterprise’s general mission. If a person from HR interviews you, don’t bamboozle them with jargon. Stick with the basics like why you’re such a good fit for the firm.
Once you know how, answering the tell me about yourself question isn’t actually as challenging as you might think. Say something positive to segue into the rest of the interview organically.