Tell me about yourself. Have you ever had a recruiter or hiring manager start an interview like that? In essence, it's a simple question - easier than "What's your biggest weakness?" or "What is your greatest achievement?".

Yet, you still feel nervous. This is your first impression and it means so much. You know you have to nail this question.

Potential hires consistently struggle with this open-ended prompt and the results can be devastating to their job search. You start on the wrong foot and, from there, you just try to regain your composure for the rest of the interview, stumbling over all the other questions.

In this article, we will cover why interviewers ask this question, ways to approach answering it and offer some sample responses to help you get an idea of what's expected from you.

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What's the purpose of the "Tell me about yourself" question?

In short, the hiring managers want to hear about the value you can bring to the company.

Imagine how nervous you might be for a job interview. It could be your dream job or the raise you deserve for your expertise. It can be a lot of pressure.

Now, think about the nerves of the interviewer. They don't know you. They may have glossed over your resume and cover letter for a few moments, but you are still a stranger. As much as you need time to get used to the interviewer, the interviewer needs time to adjust to you.

The question "Tell me about yourself" is sort of an icebreaker to start the conversation. It's a query you can take in any direction while still giving some critical information to the interviewer.

Depending on your response, it can lead to related follow-up questions. From now on, the interview will seem more like a casual networking conversation as opposed to a stiff and rehearsed set of answers.

This can raise your professional stock significantly while proving to the recruiter that you are not only the most qualified person for the job but also a good communicator. And, of course, it's all about getting to know who you are, so prepare yourself and shine.

Overall, the purpose of these questions is to gauge your interpersonal skills and understand how you describe yourself. It provides an opportunity to introduce yourself in a professional context and highlight relevant experiences.

Other ways to ask "Tell me about yourself"

The goal of an interview session is to find the right person fit for the job, not just to fill a role. It is finding the right cord that will spark the fire that makes stuff work in real time, and it is a two-way thing for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

Olawale Daniel

While this phrasing is the most common inquiry, there are other ways how the employer may begin the conversation. It's best to familiarize yourself with these different versions of the "Tell me about yourself" question to avoid being stressed.

Similar interview questions to "Tell me about yourself":

  • "I've looked over your resume, but what's most important about you?"
  • "Tell me something that isn't on your resume."
  • "Walk me through your resume."
  • "You have some impressive accomplishments, I'd love to hear about your career journey."
  • "Can you tell me more about your background?"
  • "What do I need to know about you?"

It might sound different, but these are all basically the same interview question with the purpose of getting a brief overview of who you are.

How do I answer "Tell me about yourself?"

As mentioned, your response here sets the tone for the interview. You'll want to prepare a short, but rich answer.

  • Structure your response by starting with a brief introduction, highlighting your professional background relevant to the job.
  • Primarily focus on professional aspects, but incorporating a subtle personal touch can make your response more engaging and memorable.
  • Briefly mention your educational background, especially if it's relevant to the position or showcases your expertise.
  • Convey your passion by discussing relevant experiences, projects, or challenges you've tackled in the industry, highlighting your enthusiasm and commitment.
  • Mention specific achievements or accomplishments that demonstrate your capabilities and highlight your value as a candidate.

Keep your response concise, ideally within 1-2 minutes, to maintain the interviewer's interest and leave time for further discussion. Remain professional by speaking clearly, maintaining eye contact, and using positive body language.

Also, it's a good idea to practice beforehand to feel more confident in delivering your response.

That's a lot to pack into a short answer. So, let's break it down into those five parts.

Begin by acknowledging the interviewer

The first words out of your mouth in any interview should be some variant of "Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today."

It seems superfluous, but it demonstrates that you value the time of who you are speaking with, as well as the opportunity to share more about yourself. An interview is a fairly one-sided conversation and this three-second address can engage the interviewer just a little bit more.

Most important sentence: revealing yourself

When you begin describing yourself, think about where you are now in your career. This is of immediate relevance to the hiring manager as it shows what you are doing right now.

You should begin with your industry, expertise, and career level. That directly establishes your experience as it relates to the position on hand, proving why you are in the room in the first place.

Revealing yourself example

But what if you don't have experience in that industry or at that level?

Let's go over a few strategies for these situations.

Recent graduate

If this is your first job out of high school or college, then you can't really share a career journey. However, you still have a journey to share.

You can connect the job description to your degree, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, or internships. What you want to underline is that you are a driven individual with a specific interest and growing skill set as it pertains to that position.

Recent graduate answer

Career change

Now, what if you're looking for something fresh? Maybe it's going into a different industry or switching careers entirely.

Then, you want to highlight transferable skills. There are both hard and soft skills that transcend industries and even professions! Communication, collaboration, and adaptability are all great attributes that contribute to the success of every professional.

Career change

Moving up the corporate ladder

At some point in your career, you will want to seek additional responsibilities to be recognized as a senior expert and leader in your field.

To substantiate why you are deserving of a promotion or higher title, emphasize your fluency in business planning, executive-level communication, analytical decision-making, and cross-functional collaboration. Of course, these are just a few of the needed skills for a leader, so always match your response to the job description.

Moving up the corporate ladder

By leveraging some of these strategies, you will come across as a confident professional who can clearly communicate their top skills, current position, and career aspirations.

What value do you bring to a company?

Although the prompt "Tell me about yourself" seems like the interviewer wants to know about you, they really want to know about you in terms of what you can do for the company. This is a theme that should always be present in the resume and cover letter as it will differentiate you from other candidates.

Not only for this question, but for everything related to a job search think: How do I add value?

This requires not only a thorough understanding of your own professional accomplishments but also of the job description and the company's position in the respective industry.

Understanding the company's needs

Finding out more about the company is required prior to every interview. In fact, you should be tailoring your resume to each job posting to raise your chances of being asked in for an interview.

Before speaking with the potential employer, familiarize yourself with the in's and out's of:

The topicThe question to answer
The job postingWhat are the preferred skills and necessary credentials listed on the position listing?
The company's mission statementWhat is the culture of the company and its primary goals?
The standing of the companyHow is the company viewed within its industry?
Your desire to join the particular organizationWhy do you want to work there?

By connecting the middle portion of your answer directly to these three topics, you are able to show that:

  • You understand and can fulfill the requirements of the position.
  • You can easily align yourself with the larger objectives of the organization.
  • You are ready to operate and communicate within a specific professional sphere.

For the following example, imagine the position requires interdisciplinary project leadership for a startup company that emphasizes customer satisfaction.

For example:

  • In my current role, I have organized and directed teams of technicians, analysts, and individual contributors to improve user engagement and adoption for an innovative and new direct-to-consumer mobile app.

Know your audience

Understanding who you are talking to goes hand-in-hand with knowing the goals of the company, but it also includes the setting in which you are being interviewed and the seniority of the speaker.

For example, suppose you are a finance director who's seeking a horizontal move to a new company. The way you speak to a hiring manager in an initial interview is very different than how you would approach speaking to the CFO in a final-round interview. The former wants the big picture that shows you understand the requirements of the role and the latter would want a more technical answer on how you can directly help that company.

With this, consider again where the company is in its history. Chances are that an interview with a tech startup is going to be much more lax than one with a Fortune 500 bank with 100 years of culture and reputation.

Highlight applicable accomplishments & skills

It's time to shine and prove you are the person for the job.

You've done your research on the company, understand its goals, and can communicate appropriately to the interviewer.

Now, connect it all back to something you have accomplished in your career. Ideally, this is an achievement from the past 5 years or your current position. Something you improved last year is much more important to potential employers than the same accomplishment 10 years ago.

Whenever you can, whether that be in interviews, your resume, or your cover letter, attach a number and a "how" to your achievement.

As an example, which sounds more impressive?

I reduced department spending.


I reduced department spending by $500,000 in 4 months by automating daily processes.

Focus on sharing one exemplary achievement for this question - you'll have more opportunities to share others later in the interview. But don't just regurgitate a bullet on your resume. Instead, add emphasis to your achievement by tying it back to your opener.

Earlier this year, I was awarded President's Club for generating over $1M in annual sales. That experience showed me that I want to contribute to building an organization from $0 in sales to that $1M mark.

Finishing strong

You've nailed the first two parts of this question. You've explained where you are in your career and what you are seeking in your next opportunity. You've shared one of your top achievements and related it directly back to the needs and culture of the company. It's time to wrap it up.

Remember, the answer to "Tell me about yourself" should be under one minute.

And, not to add pressure to this seemingly daunted initial question, you want to share what's your top priority and:

Why you want this position

There's a reason you are in that room interviewing for that opening.

Do Not:

  • Don't distill it to "I would make more money at this job" or "I need something fresh". Instead, take a deeper look at your professional journey and what your values are. Then, connect those directly to the position at hand.

Portray the opportunity as something special - a chance you had to take. You don't have to bend over backward to make the interviewer and the company feel all fuzzy, but think about how this position facilitates your future goals.

Below is an example:

I'm really seeking an opportunity that aligns with my interests in continuous improvement and technological innovation. And your company is one of the industry's top innovators. So, when I saw a software engineer opening at this company, I knew I could fully leverage my skill set while still constantly growing as a professional.

Does this sound like you?

You always want to remain authentic throughout your job interview. You can prepare and rehearse multiple answers to this question and be ready for any version of this question.

But, if it comes across as rehearsed, as if you are reading it directly from a page in front of you, the interviewer won't be as engaged.

They won't be as interested. They may not ask a direct follow-up and the entire interview can seem like a scripted middle school dance. It could just be a little awkward.

Instead, you want to tango.

Show your passion for your career. Share your desire for something more, something substantial in your professional life. Make it sound like you're talking to a colleague you've known for years.

To do this, consider writing 3-to-5-word bullet points that outline your answer rather than writing every single word as you are preparing for the interviewer. This will allow you to naturally fill in the gaps in a way that a normal person speaks. Plus, it's less for you to remember.

However, remember this is your elevator pitch, not your memoir. Pique the interest of the interview, but don't get too deep.

Be who you are, not someone you think they want you to be.

"Tell me about yourself" sample answers

Let's look at a few "Tell me about yourself" interview question answers

Example 1: Professional Focus

I'm a Graphic Designer with 5 years of experience in web design. My journey in this field began when I joined the DesignTech Club while in high school.

Throughout my career, I've cultivated expertise in cutting-edge technologies like Quantum Web Quantum Computing, Virtual Reality User Experience, and Responsive Design Robotics, propelling me to pioneer the first-ever holographic website interface.

I'm particularly passionate about pushing the boundaries of Augmented Reality integration in web design. I'm eager to bring my expertise to the forefront of innovation at Cyberspace Creations Ltd.

Example 2: Career Progression

  • I started my career as a Veterinary Assistant, where I gained valuable experience in animal handling, patient care, and surgical preparation. Since then, I've progressed to roles with increasing responsibility, such as Veterinary Technician and Senior Veterinarian.

    In my most recent position at the Animal Care Clinic, I've been instrumental in leading a team to implement advanced medical treatments for critical cases, resulting in a significant increase in successful outcomes.

    I'm now looking for new challenges where I can continue to provide compassionate care to animals. I want to make a positive impact on their well-being. That's why I'm excited about the opportunity here at Happy Tails Veterinary Hospital.

Example 3: Skills and Strengths

I'm someone who thrives on strategic planning and fostering effective team collaboration. Throughout my career, I've had the chance to leverage these strengths in various roles, from Project Coordinator to Senior Project Manager.

One example of this is when I led a cross-functional team in successfully delivering a complex software implementation project ahead of schedule and under budget. Our hard work resulted in a 20% increase in client satisfaction.

I'm passionate about driving project success and exceeding stakeholder expectations, and I'm eager to bring my unique blend of skills and experience to the team at Innovate Solutions Inc.

Example 4: Passion and Motivation

  • I've always been passionate about leveraging technology to improve accessibility in education. This passion led me to pursue a career in educational technology. There, I've had the opportunity to develop innovative learning platforms and digital resources that enhance student engagement and academic performance.

    What excites me most about this field is the potential to democratize education and empower learners of all backgrounds to succeed.

    I'm eager to continue pursuing opportunities that allow me to drive positive change in the education sector and expand access to quality learning experiences. That's why I'm thrilled about the possibility of joining EdTech Innovations Ltd. and contributing to its success.

Example 5: Personal Story

My journey in sustainable architecture began when I volunteered for a community project to design eco-friendly housing solutions for low-income families. Witnessing the tangible impact of sustainable design on people's lives sparked my passion for environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Since then, I've been dedicated to advancing sustainable practices in architecture through my work as a LEED-accredited architect and project manager on various green building projects.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been leading a team to achieve LEED Platinum certification for a net-zero energy commercial building, showcasing the potential for sustainable design to mitigate climate change. Now, I'm excited about the opportunity to join GreenBuild Solutions and collaborate on innovative projects that prioritize environmental responsibility and community well-being.

I believe my background in sustainable architecture has prepared me well to contribute positively to GreenBuild Solutions' mission of creating sustainable built environments for future generations.


Can I mention non-professional facts in my answer to "tell me about yourself"?
You can include hobbies and interests if they are relevant to the job or provide additional insights into your character, but keep it brief and professional.
Is it important to tailor my response to match the job description?
Yes, tailor your response to highlight experiences, skills, and achievements that align with the job description to demonstrate your suitability for the role.
How can I make my answer to "Tell me about yourself" memorable?
Make your answer memorable by crafting a narrative that showcases your unique strengths, experiences, and passion for the role. Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when answering this question?
Avoid rambling or providing irrelevant information. Stay focused on key points and maintain a professional tone throughout your response.
How can I persuade the company to hire me while answering this question?
Demonstrate your value by highlighting specific achievements, skills, and experiences that directly relate to the company's needs and goals.
Should I rehearse my response to "Tell me about yourself"?
Yes, rehearsing will help ensure that your answer is well-structured, and concise, and effectively communicates your key points.
Is it appropriate to include personal anecdotes in my answer?
Sometimes including relevant personal anecdotes can add depth to your response and make you more relatable, but ensure they are professional and brief.
How can I ensure that my response aligns with the company's culture and values?
Research the company's mission beforehand and incorporate language and examples that align with what's important to the company in your response.
Can I mention any challenges I've overcome in my career journey?
Yes, mentioning obstacles you've experienced demonstrates resilience, problem-solving skills, and your ability to adapt to different situations.


In summary, how you respond to the "Tell me about yourself" question can greatly impact your interview. Focus on sharing your important work accomplishments, skills, and genuine interest in the job.

By telling a clear and engaging story about yourself, you can impress the interviewer and show that you're a good fit for the role. This will increase your chances of starting the conversation on the right foot and may even be a deciding factor in getting you hired.