How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself" in 2023 (Examples)
"Tell me about yourself" is one of the most common interview questions. To help you prepare, here's how to answer this question with specific examples!
Photo by Amy Hirschi / Unsplash
- This question is a casual icebreaker that lets an interviewer get to know you very quickly.
- The interviewer learns more about your communication skills and how well you fit into the position and company.
- As the candidate, this question gives you a chance to describe a relevant overview of your background → Describing your strengths, education, career, interests, and/or goals is key.
- Successfully answer this question by connecting the position you’re applying for with → Past experiences, current interests, and/or future goals
- When answering this question, avoid → Irrelevant details, complaining, getting too personal, and rambling on; Rehearse your answer beforehand, this question is not easy to nail on the spot!
What is this question really asking?
“Tell me about yourself” is a casual and common interview question asked by interviewers that lets the interviewer see how well you can assess yourself and your suitability for the position.
This question is also a great opportunity for you as the candidate to show your ability to communicate effectively and display confidence in your skills.
If you're interviewing for a position and you face this question, you’re at an advantage!
Chances are you were asked this question very early on in the interview. This question is asked to make the interviewee feel less nervous, start off stress-free and casual, and act as an icebreaker.
‼️ This question is highly open-ended and lets you shape the image of yourself the interviewer is going to see for the rest of the interview.
How else might you hear this question?
This question takes different forms, and you might be encountering it if you hear:
- “How would you describe yourself?”
- “Why did you apply to this position?”
- “Introduce yourself”
- “Tell me about your journey up to this point”
- “What’s something about yourself that isn’t on your resume?”
- “Tell me about your background”
- “Where do you see yourself in X years?”
While these prompts are all slight variations to the common “Tell me about yourself,” these are all asking the same thing, and can be answered the same way.
How do I answer this interview question?
Because this question is so open-ended, this question can be answered in several ways.
Try rehearsing different answers to this question with a different focus in mind every time.
⚠️ Crafting the perfect answer will be dependent on the kind of image you want to present of yourself to your interviewer.
If you’re a student applying for your first internship, and you don’t have previous work experience, try discussing your interest and future goals when answering your question. This answer focuses on your desire to learn, portrays potential, and avoids focusing on what you don’t know and your shortcomings.
3 Examples of Answers to “Tell me about yourself”:
1. Don’t have a lot of relevant experience? Describe your interests and what you’re doing right now
There might be a number of reasons why you don’t have relevant experiences related to the job you’re interviewing for, but don’t let this stop you from answering the question effectively.
You might be:
- A student looking for an internship
- A professional switching careers or industries, or
- A candidate simply trying something new
So try focusing the answer to this question on describing your current interests and what you’re currently working on ⤵️
Reflect on your:
- Education ➡️ Any relevant courses? Can you connect your degree to the position you’re applying for?
- Current job ➡️ Working on any projects with similar responsibilities or topics?
- Side projects ➡️ Any code, volunteering, or passion projects that have already exposed you to the responsibilities of this position before?
Craft an answer that includes why you’re interested in this position, why this industry interests or excites you, and what you’re working on right now to become better suited for this position.
Here’s an example of a student who has studied a major that isn’t exactly related to the internship they applied for:
“I’m currently a computer science student at UCLA interested in learning more about technical writing and how to connect the average person to the field of cybersecurity. Lately, as I’ve been exploring recent trends about the importance of cloud security and identity and access management, the more I’m learning the need for the average person to be able to understand the terms used by this complex industry. Because of my degree and personal interest in this niche, I’m highly familiar with cybersecurity’s technical language and in my spare time, I’m currently learning how to perform effective research and write digestible blog articles. I’m eager to show my strong writing skills and technical knowledge by interning for your cybersecurity firm as a Technical Writer and bridge the gap between complex and comprehensible that the position calls for.”
In this ~40-second answer, the candidate:
- Created a narrative based on their potential and interest.
- Provided credibility to their abilities despite not being a writer or cybersecurity expert.
- Portrays themselves to be an eager and motivated candidate.
2. Discuss your relevant experiences and relate them to your current job
⚡️ If you’re applying for a job that’s closer to a lateral move, or in the same industry but you want to work for a different employer, focus on explaining what’s brought you to this role or company specifically.
You already have relevant experience and interest that you can back up with evidence as to why you’re suited for this position.
The answer to this interview question in this situation can be focused on describing your breadth of knowledge and experience to establish your authority and confidence.
Here’s an example of someone who wants to apply elsewhere in their industry:
“As a seasoned freelance Marketing Coordinator, I have no shortage of experience delivering on a variety of marketing activities from branding to social media management. I’ve been working on planning and executing campaign activities as a coordinator for a few years in my current role, and after building a portfolio of different experiences, I’ve come to realize I’m most interested in marketing automation and I’m seeking a change that allows me to work on the skill I know best. I believe that with the soft skills I bring from having worked hard as a freelancer for several years and with my keen technical knowledge in marketing automation, I’ll be a good fit for your agency as a Marketing Automation Specialist.”
This example is:
- A very direct and straightforward explanation of what brought you to apply for this job.
- Addresses what you already bring to the table as a qualified candidate.
- An explanation as to why you’re making a lateral change in your career.
3. Want this job to propel you toward your dream job? Describe your future goals
If you’re looking to make a change, and want to take the leap into a new industry or new challenge, it will be important to describe your future goals, and again, what’s brought you to this position or company specifically.
Describe your cache of experience, but also your desire to stay in this position or at this company for the long run. Depending on the position, interviewers ask this question to understand your values and whether or not you’re going to stick around and see your projects through.
With this answer, whether you’re interning for Google but want to work in a full-time role one day, or applying for a full-time role and want to stay there for the future, anchor yourself to how you fit the role or company, and how you’ll be the one to thrive in it and serve the position the best.
How do you get your dream job? Usually, it’s not about what you’re already working on, but where you plan to be. Try focusing on lessons from your cache of experiences, future aspirations, and/or what you’re interested in working on in the long run.
Here’s an example of a student applying for an internship at a company they want a return offer for:
“After I graduate with my nanotechnology engineering degree, I want to work on carbon capture technology and move the marker for impact in the sustainability industry. Working on side projects and case competitions throughout my degree, I’ve always hoped to be a leader in sustainable change. As an intern for your startup, I hope to work on a team that delivers nanotechnology initiatives. I aim to carry this experience forward as the first milestone out of many to become a leader and innovator towards climate change resiliency.”
This candidate has created a huge focus on their future goals and demonstrated their interest in this company for the long term.
This answer can be geared towards positions or companies that will allow you to meet your niche goals: Once you’ve found a job that’s offering you the chance to work on exactly what you want, make sure you express just how important it is to you!
What should I avoid saying when answering this interview question?
When answering this question, avoid:
- Providing irrelevant details and rambling on ➡️ This question is open-ended, but demands a succinct and straightforward answer!
- Complaining and being negative ➡️ Maybe you’re leaving your old job because you don’t like it anymore, but portraying yourself as a positive candidate demonstrates the kind of employee you will be for them.
- Getting too personal ➡️ Don’t be afraid to mention a personal dream or passion, but be aware of mentioning something unnecessary, like personal information you wouldn’t usually reveal.
- Making something up ⛔️ This question is great because it’s so open-ended, so take this as a positive, and rehearse some answers beforehand! In the moment, the open-ended nature of the question can be overwhelming… so practice, practice, practice!