Tell me about yourself is one of the most common interview question that you face during an interview.
But still, crafting a perfect answer is quite difficult for most of the people.
And it gets worse:
Because, it will most likely be the first question they will ask you in the interview.
But you are not alone! Many struggle to answer this question in the right way.
However, it’s not impossible.
That’s why I am writing this post.
Today, I will share you a very detailed answer that will increase your chances to win the Job.
Alright. Let’s start!
Tell me about yourself is a open-ended but trickiest interview questions that hiring managers love to ask. You may have come across its variants like ‘Say something about yourself’ or ‘describe yourself in few words’. Almost everybody has come across this question and stumbled upon it and many even hate this question.
People find this question vague and are not sure what they are meant to answer that will satisfy the interviewer. In this article we are going to discuss just that. What is the expected answer? How you can showcase yourself in best possible manner? How you can get a head on start with just a few minutes in the interview?
When they ask about you, it’s not about your name, family details, or hobbies. Its’ not even about how you started your career or the entire work journey, as most of you might think. The answer, in fact should sum up the qualities that you have and that will fit the current job position; and how your work experience will affect your success at the job.
The aim of this question is to get you talking. It gives the interviewer an insight into you. A proper answer to this question should show how you are a perfect fit for the job and how you are better than most of the others sitting outside.
Before going into the discussion of how you can tackle this question, let’s first take a dive into the interviewer’s head. What his strategy is? What might be the appropriate answer to him? What is expected of you?
Tell me about yourself – What is the hiring manager’s expectations
- No matter for what job you are giving an, there are some basic expectations from the candidate.
- The candidate should be able to understand his role in the company correctly.
- He should fit in the current working conditions.
- For experienced candidates, his past work experience should be able to glorify his current work.
- At the end of the day, he should be thinking of the overall growth of the company or institution.
And these two minutes of speech is your opportunity to leave your impression on the interviewer. You can emerge as a confident person with great oratorical skills or a nerve wreck who is good at work but not at handling unexpected situations. What the interviewer looks in your answer:
- How directly or vaguely did you answer the question
- Does the question pose any nervousness or confusion
- Whether the answer was satisfactory or confounded or lead nowhere
- Did you provide enough and relevant information
Also see : What are your strengths and weaknesses
In just one answer you will be a person
- Who will or will not be able to tackle difficult/ unknown situations.
- Who is clear minded and has understanding of what is expected from him.
- Who possesses not only the knowledge but also the way to showcase it in times of need?
How your answers meet these expectations
When I started going for interviews, my very first answers to these questions included my schooling information and how I excelled in my college. It may sound stupid but my answers started with ‘My name is….’ Of course, they knew my name. And nobody told me they were not interested in where I went to school or how much I scored during my sophomore year.
What your answer should contain is your current working or your interest in the subject related to the job. How long you have been there and are there any achievements in your kitty? Say, for example, for a programming job, some of the answers are given below. And I’ll also analyse and point out its effectiveness.
I’ve been a junior programmer at XYZ for past three years. I also got a charming bonus for this special project. We had a tight deadline and I and my team members were able to meet it. The Mason motors were really happy with the app that we created. Our team always excels in such tight deadline projects. I really like to deliver my tasks on time and also give the best possible solution. I aim to continue the good work and commit fully to my work here too even with more tight deadlines and complex projects that your company is known for. -Cool!
I’ve been programming for past five years. I am a good programmer and my employer likes my work. I was also a scholar student during my high school year. My friends call me bonding guy as I can easily make friends and bond with strangers. I’ve also worked as an editor for the annual journal during my high school. -Not so cool.
In the first answer, the candidate gives relevant experience. This experience is going to help in his current job too. Next good thing about the answer is the specifics that he has given like the name of the company and that of the client. Employers always love if they are able to verify the references given by the candidate. Working on tight deadline project with the team shows that the person is committed to work and also is a good team member. A company is ultimately about good teams working in coordination. So, if you are a good team member, it always is an added advantage. The answer also gives a brief glimpse of why you are changing jobs. This instantly gives you a bonus point.
As for the second answer, the candidate is vague about his previous experience. He mentions that his employer likes his work. But there is no mention of what qualities make his work likeable. The last two lines are simply an example of how even your good qualities or strong points are totally irrelevant here and don’t make up to a good answer.
Brewing up the perfect answer
First of all, there is no such thing as a single perfect answer. Each one of you is different and work in different areas. And hence the answer is going to change for each individual.
So, we will just make a few guidelines that you can follow to lead up to a great answer to the famous ‘Tell me about yourself’.
- Individuality: Never try to be someone that you are not. Always be yourself when giving an interview. And yes, don’t sound all too peppy and cheesy, agreeing at all the points and going on and on with praise. The key is to be precise and short and your answer should give a glimpse of who you are.
Works of the past: Always back up your answer with a relevant experience only. As in the example above, no matter how good an editor you may be, your employer for a programming job is not going to be interested in that. Cite those experiences which will help in current job. And if you have worked at multiple places, then give your latest experience or your most shining one.
- Awards and achievements: If you have been awarded for your work, be sure to mention it. It will make you stand out. But make sure that reward was during that experience that you are going to cite. And try to be modest when describing your achievements. You don’t want to sound haughty.
- Qualities: Lastly, end your answer with the qualities that make you a great candidate. Based on the area, you may be a good communicator, have a fluent speech, you may be good at leading a team, your commitment to work are a few examples that you can use in your answer.
- Why the change: Most interviewers will ask a direct question of why you are changing the job at a later stage in the interview. However, if you can just briefly point out the reason for the change, that will come out as a positive character. Make sure your reason for leaving earlier job is something that the company may benefit from like wider opportunities, bigger challenges, etc. Don’t go for petty reasons like bad environment, higher salary, or personal discomfort. Never ever go negative for your previous employer.
The bottom line is no matter how far your answer may be from being perfect, just be honest. Bragging about things that even you haven’t actually heard of is not going to help. Remember that episode of Friends, where Joey has to teach a dance routine to his fellow actors because according to his resume, he was a wonderful and experienced dancer. But we all know Joey dances like a duck.
Also, try to keep it to a precise length. Many people just go on rambling about their education, industrial experience, how they feel about work and what they like and dislike and so on. Never ever do that. You don’t want to bore your interviewer with a monologue from the very first question.
Also the answer should not be too short either like
I am a programmer and am good at it. My boss loves my work.
Such small answers are a complete no-no too. Never go beyond a minute or two for this answer. Summarise your experience, achievements and positive qualities in about seven to eight sentences.
Before formulating your reply, just answer these questions:
Why do you want this job?
The reason why you are working always affects the quality of your work. You are applying because you’ve studied it is not an answer. You should be passionate about your work.
I have a way with numbers and am able to figure out a way in any complex situation. – CA candidate
My family has been in jurisdiction for three generations. I have seen the workings of legal system from my early days and love the way a person’s life could be saved by us. – Legal Associate
Cooking is a blend of art and science and I aim to conquer both. – Chef
What makes you better candidate?
You have a great working experience. You have won many awards in this field. You love this field and want to explore it more and more. These can be the reasons why you are applying for this job.
I’ve worked with giants like IBM, and HP and have been their valued employee. I have a work experience of 10 years. IT Professional
I’ve worked with ABC publishing for three years and have also published two novels. My past employer awarded me with their Best Creative Writer award. – Writer
I’ve been working with Aslash Recruiters for past two years. I’ve been in touch with thousands of engineers and have never been wrong about their potential. – Hiring Manager
Will you fit here?
The reason for leaving previous job and the reason for selection of current job goes here. The interviewer should be informed that you know about the company and are willing to work there.
I’ve been looking for companies that work in rural areas. I always wanted to experience their way of living. – Mobile Retailers
Your company covers almost all the products of childcare. I’ve been working with company specialising in child bathing products. I’ve been looking to expand my area of work. – Product Manager
I’ve trained for calls outside US too. I want expand my experience to other countries too and your call centre provides that opportunity. – Call centre executive
These are the questions that are expected to be answered. Try to formulate an answer that covers all the topics in minimum sentences. Also, if there is a wonderful achievement that you’ve mentioned in your resume, do include that. It may have gone unnoticed. But don’t just go over and recite your resume. It already is there for them to read. You don’t have to read it to them.
A bit of research before answering : “Tell me about yourself”
Before you go for the interview, do a simple research about the company and the job position that you are applying for. You may not have to use it but it definitely will be reflected in your answer especially when you’ll be explaining why you think yourself appropriate for the job.
Till now, I have just assumed that you have a glorifying work experience and have been promoted and given incentives and are the candidate that everybody is after. But what if, you are just out of the college or not so bright one. We will embark upon these two scenarios one by one.
A word for the fresher
So, you are just out of college and looking for that first big break. You have done academically well and even ready to prepare yourself for the interview by surfing the Internet. But what’s this? There is no word or guiding light for the fresher. You don’t have experience or any award to talk about. You have no idea how it is going to be like working in a company. So, how to deal with the very first question thrown to you?
Experienced people can just skip this section or just go through it to help someone they know who is recently starting. You can also share in the comments how you formulated your answers for that first job.
Well, some of the points remain the same. So, let’s go through them again.
Individuality: This remains the same no matter who you are. Be yourself but don’t come out as the one living in one’s own world. Yes, I know how it is going from college to company. Things run utterly differently here. Be a blend of your unique personality and the one who is willing to play by new rules.
Works of the past: So, you have no experience. But there are subjects that you’ve studied and the knowledge of which you’ll have to apply to your work. When preparing for the interview, list all the courses that you’ve gone through and will help in this job. Then shortlist them by selecting those that you liked the most and were good at. These are going to be your strong points when working. So, why not advertise them from the start.
Awards and achievements: This part becomes optional in your case. If, however there were some contests or exams that you’d taken that are going to help you, they go here. If you don’t have any such thing to list, it’s totally fine.
Qualities: Again, the most of the qualities will be same. You can highlight your command over subject, your idea of problem solving and challenge.
Again let’s take the example of an IT company. Say, there’s an opening for an Android developer, your answers, good or bad may be like:
I am a Computer Science graduate from ABC College and have a keen interest in Android Technology. I’d watched Android tutorials even before we had the subject in curriculum. The best thing that I like about programming is that you get requirements in words and you develop the requirements into programs, apps and websites. I love that transition from words to logic and ultimately to a program. I’ve also developed certain apps like The Legal Dictionary, Come Fly etc during my free time. I like completing my work in assigned time and love solving challenges. – Cool!
I am an IT graduate and I love Android. I have studied this subject and have always wanted to work in Android. I am sure I’ll be able to make great apps working for you. I am a good programmer and I will be a great employee too. I do fishing in my free time. It gives me the qualities of patience and concentration which I can make use of in this job. – Not so cool.
Let’s analyse the answers. In the first answer, the candidate is specific about the college and the apps that he has developed. The specifics help in back checking. The fact, that he has already learnt Android programming even before required, shows the interest of candidate in the field. This is a big plus point. The reason, why the person loves programming shows that the person has a deep understanding of how it is in the area of programming. The qualities stated in the last line are completely relevant and help leave a positive impression on the interviewer. The one thing that stands out the most in this answer is the apps developed. This makes the candidate stand out from the crowd. A simple reason for why the person wanted to leave previous job would have made this answer perfect.
Now, coming to the second answer. Again the vague specifics of where the person studied. Next mistake is that the candidate claims to be a good programmer and goes on bragging about himself. How good a programmer you are, that is for the employer to decide. And how on Earth do you relate the qualities of fishing to programming in Android. And trust me, these are the answers that we actually get.
The average people
You are not among the top scorers and you definitely are not the ones with great brains. Well, you are not alone. Around 85% of the world is with you. So, does that mean that you won’t get a great job or have a wonderful future? Well, I don’t think so. It has been proved time and again that hard work in most cases proves better than talent and intelligence.
If you don’t have many achievements to your name, you can always list the qualities that make you shine at work like commitment, sheer dedication and goodwill. You can point out how great you are when working in a team. Also, don’t forget to point out areas in your job where you are an expert. You may end up with a job that will pay you to do exactly that. In short, always point out, what you are extremely good at. That becomes your selling point. And also always show your willingness to learn that is new or less knowledgeable to you.
The qualities that people search for in their employees are:
Loyalty: Loyalty is one of the biggest unsaid requisite for job in any field. It shows that you are dependable and won’t risk the company’s no-tells to anyone even when you are not working with them.
Commitment and dedication: That unending thirst to complete the tasks assigned to you on time and in the best manner possible.
Good team member: Any company is always about teams. So, if you are able to work in team, then you are an asset too.
Good team leader: Leadership qualities take you to the top of any organisation.
Strategist: If you can help or point out certain issues and also the strategies to work them out, you will be a gem.
A pro in the area: Well, this is the most basic quality. If you are applying for a job, you should be familiar with the area. The more you know the better.
Modesty: Everybody loves to show off. That’s fine, as long as you know when to stop. Your vanity and even your arrogance will be tolerated only up till it overtakes your virtues. No matter how great you may be at work, if your attitude is wrong there will come a day when you won’t be wanted.
So, these are the qualities that an employer searches. Not everybody has all the qualities. Just look for who you are and advertise that point.
Rehearse but don’t memorise
So, you’ve got a wonderful reply ready. You are now all set to go for the interview. The moment the question comes to you, you’ll speak up all that you’ve prepared. And that my dear, will be the end of the interview. Nobody wants a parrot reciting what has been taught to him. Even if you’ve made the answer yourself, don’t memorise it. Read it a few times. Make a note of all the important points. And that should be it. A little bit of stammering or a umm.. here or there doesn’t hurt. In fact, it sounds more human. You know ‘to err is human’.
Also never ask questions like what exactly do you want to know about me? Or what part of my life should I tell you about? As this is pretty much common sense that the interviewer won’t be interested in your hometown or who your first date was. Such clarifications simply reflect your inability to deduce simple conclusions.
I think it’s all that I have to say. I will end this article with a few sample answers that may not be perfect but do come close to it.
I have been working with the sales team of ABC Company for past 3 years. During this period, me and my team has been able to increase the sales figure of the company by 12%. I view sales as not just selling products but an art that fulfils the requirements in a person’s life or a company and is the best solution to their needs. And this perspective of sales has brought me 2 Employee of the Year awards. I am looking for a more competitive environment and a vast area of work. I want to apply my strategies to a customer base that is yet untouched. I love to take challenge of going for an entirely new product or going to an unknown area.
I’ve always viewed world through designs and this passion to convert anything to shapes and sketches made me to go for the Designing course from ABC College. The course was a dream comes true. How I viewed a thing or product, the shape, the colour, the turns and corners, was changed entirely. I learned the science of everything. And now I am ready to put that knowledge to application. My designs have won two competitions conducted by Princeton University. And I’ve also made designs for the new furniture for our college. Designing is my passion and I forget the bounds of time and limit when given a project.
I’ve been working for ABC magazine for past one and a half year. Working with topmost designers and editors has given me ample opportunity to gain an insight of how the fashion world works and what it takes to become a successful Fashion Editor. My articles and selection of photos and apparels have been praised to top level. I have applied here as I will get more responsibilities being the sole selector of apparels and subject of discussion. I feel that I am ready to take this sole responsibility and take the magazine to an entirely new level. I don’t just pick and praise fashion but I live fashion.
I’ve been working with the NYC Public School for past four years. It has been a wonderful tenure and students like to come to me when they seek emotional guidance. I love communicating with the young minds and nurturing and moulding them. And that’s the very reason I chose teaching as my profession. I am also head of exam department for senior year and their coordinator. I am applying here to get in touch with a different set of students that I would be able to teach here. I would dedicate myself to bring the best out of those who come to us for knowledge.
So, I hope these samples give you an insight how to approach that not so deadly question. You are bound to be nervous but proper preparation and self confidence will help come out with flying colours. Just remember the key points.
- Understand the job requirements properly.
- Don’t be nervous and be yourself.
- Don’t try to be too humble or too arrogant.
- Highlight your strong points and provide information that is relevant.
- Show your passion for the work.
So, go get the world with your charming personality and smart answers. Even if you stumble somewhere or forget something, it’s OK. We all are running our race towards perfection. Happy interviewing.