Tell me about yourself is one of the most common interview questions you’ll ever get asked. You can get asked this question at any stage of the interview since each new person you meet in the process is likely to ask some variation of this question and you’ll get asked this question at any stage of your career so you need to know how to answer the “tell me about yourself interview” question as a fresh graduate and as someone whose senior in your career.
So, what is the best way to answer this question?
In this article, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to answer this question with ease. You’ll walk away knowing the most important points to remember, so the next time you get asked the question “ Tell me a little about yourself” you’ll know exactly what the interviewer’s looking for.
How to answer the “ Tell me about yourself” interview question
1. Keep it short and sweet
One of the most common mistakes people make when answering the “Tell me about yourself” interview question is giving a long answer. Let’s face it, a lot has happened in your life, and if you’re mid-career or even more senior, then it’s understandable that you’ll have a lot to cover.
You’ll get asked this question at the start of the interview and the purpose of it is to give the interviewer an overview of who you are. The question also acts as an icebreaker.
Keep your answer short and relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
How short should your answer be?
There’s no single number for how short your answer should be. This is because the exact length of your answer will depend on a few factors. Like where you are in your career, how much relevant experience you’ve had but also the person interviewing you. Some people will expect a very short answer, as short as 30 seconds and others will be open to a longer one.
But in my experience, if you’re talking for 5 minutes or more with no interruptions then you definitely want to think about streamlining your answer.
2. Structure your answer accordingly
When it comes to structuring your answer, there are two things to consider, where you start and how far back you go. These two factors will have a significant impact on how long your answer is. And while there isn’t one way to structure your answer to the “Tell me about yourself” interview question that fits all, the number of years of experience you have will determine the best approach for you.
Where should you start and how far back should you go when answering the “Tell me about yourself” interview question?
If you’re a fresh graduate, start with your degree. Talk about why you selected the course you studied and what you’ve learned during your studies that is relevant or valuable to the role. Highlight any internships, work experience, or major achievements.
Recent graduates and experienced
If you’re a recent graduate, at the early stage of your career or your more experienced, with 1 – 6 years of experience under your belt, you can answer the “Tell me about yourself” question by starting with your first role since graduating and go from there, focusing on the most relevant roles and the most relevant experience you gained in each.
senior 7 – 20 years +
If you’ve got over 7 years of experience then either start at the first role you held that is most relevant to the position you’re interviewing for, or start in the middle of your career. Typically, giving an overview of the last 10 years of experience is enough.
Only highlight the most valuable skills you’ve developed in your roles and any major achievements that are relevant as well as any important career decisions you made that are worth noting.
A final thought on structure:
Finally, if you’re experienced, you can either start by giving an overview of your current role and achievements, then go back and explain your brief history starting with the oldest role first.
Or you can just start with the oldest role and work through to your current or most recent role. Both methods are fine, so just pick one that feels comfortable for you and practice it.
That means current role → previous roles in chronological order → future aspirations,
or vise versa.
3. Keep it relevant
I’ve already mentioned that you should keep things relevant. But when it comes to acing the “tell me about yourself” question in an interview, it’s so important it deserves to be highlighted again. Always remember, the Tell me about yourself question is really “Tell me about yourself as it relates to this job and this company.”
Keep the roles you pick and the experiences you highlight aligned with the position you’re interviewing for. What’s more, keep the answers relevant to the person whose interviewing you.
For example, if you’re being interviewed by a technical manager, they’ll be interested to know the detailed technical aspects of your experience that are most critical for the role. On the other hand, the Senior Director, VP or CEO won’t want to know the details of your activities. They’ll be more interested in what you accomplished for your pst companies and your motivations
The key message here is to look for and focus on what’s relevant The more tailored and relevant you can make your answer to the company and role, the better.
4. Keep it work-related
It’s definitely good to show interviewers that you’re a real person, but it’s best to keep things professional. Don’t spend ages talking about things that aren’t useful or relevant to the job you’re interviewing for or talking about your personal life.
This doesn’t mean you can’t show passion. Quite the opposite! If you’re super passionate about some aspect of what you do, then let them know. Sharing how passionate you are about what you do will show that you’re not just looking for a paycheck from the offset.
5. Avoid unnecessary detail
I know that keeping this answer short can be difficult, the more experience you have. That’s why it’s important not to cover every piece of information in the same way. If you’ve had a position or two that weren’t relevant, then it’s ok to briefly explain why you took on these roles and move on.
Remember, this is an overview, so there’s no need to go over every task you were responsible for in every role in detail. You’ll have plenty of time to go through those details later on if required.
Here are the top dos and don’ts when it comes to answering the “tell me about yourself” question in an interview.
- Keep it short and sweet
- keep it professional
- Highlight what’s relevant
- Know your audience
- Show passion
- Ramble or lose focus
- Get into too much detail
- Tell your whole life story
- Get too personal
- Recite your CV
Now you know the dos and don’ts of answering the “Tell me about yourself” interview question check out even more interview resources.