how to answer "tell me about yourself"

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While “tell me about yourself” appears to be annoyingly open-ended, I’m here to provide you with a reality check as well as some structure for answering this common opening interview question: No, your interviewer doesn’t want to know your ENTIRE life story. And no, your interviewer doesn’t want to hear your resume repeated word-for-word.

When I coach students and clients on crafting their “tell me about yourself” response, I strongly encourage them to: a) reflect on their past and present experiences AND the job opportunity they’re currently interviewing for to see if any consistent themes, areas of expertise, or skills pop up, and b) use the formula I'll share below to break down their response into 3 main points.

Your response should cover the following:

  1. What you’re currently doing

  2. What you’ve done in the past

  3. What you’re hoping to do next (and why you’re in the room today)

First, share a bit about your current role(s) -- remember to only include what’s relevant to this specific job opportunity. Next, provide a brief synopsis of relevant past experiences, highlighting any skills or accomplishments that will help to strengthen your candidacy. Finally, close with your interest, enthusiasm, and excitement about this job opportunity, and how it aligns with your overall career goals. That’s it!

You can spice up your response a bit by adding additional information about you -- some examples include: your undergraduate and/or graduate institutions, relevant self-taught skills, or a spark that led you to embark upon a career transition; however, please remember to weave these in strategically. Don’t ramble, or launch into your autobiography. Aim to keep your “tell me about yourself” response at 2 mins in length max.

As you answer this question, always keep in mind that you should be telling your interviewer a well-crafted story/narrative tailored to the particular industry/company/role that you’re interviewing for. You want to help your interviewer learn more about what’s led you to be in the room with them today. Help them see the clear (or not so clear) connections between your career goals and interests, your past and present experiences, and this job opportunity. Help them get to know YOU.