Hands of two business people in a meeting. One takes notes in a resume while the other hands his business card

How to Answer ‘Tell Me
About Yourself?’

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 01, 2020

Almost anyone who has ever been in a job interview has heard some form of it:

“So, tell me a little about yourself?”

It’s the ubiquitous, open-ended query that should be easy to answer, but somehow feels like a trick question. Do you tell them your whole life story from birth to the present day? Do you talk about your personal pursuits and interest? Do you keep it strictly professional?

This question comes up at the start of most interviews, so you should probably expect it at some point in the interview process. To help you give the answer that employers want to hear, we spoke to some experts. Here’s what they told us.

  • Featured in:

Know What They Want to Hear

When interviewers pose this question, they are really saying, “tell me why you are the right fit for this job.” They want to know why you are a good candidate for the position they are trying to fill, aside from what your resume already tells them. It is your personal qualities they want to learn more about. What makes you tick, and will you be a good fit for the company?

“There are tons of qualified people out there, but not all of them will fit in with the company culture because much like each person is different, each company is different,” shares Paul Trowe, the CEO of Replay Games. “There’s no hidden agenda when we ask that during the interview process.”

Hidden agenda or not, it can be a tough question to answer. So, before you head to the interview, study the job listing closely to determine what the employer is looking for in an employee. They may be up-front about that they want or you may have to infer for yourself what qualities would be needed to succeed in the role. Commit these to memory, because these are what you are going to want to highlight in your answer.

Keep it interesting

Whatever you do, do not just respond to the question by listing off your best qualities, or worse, reciting your resume. Instead, “bring your resume to life through explaining your thought process as to why you are on the path you are currently on,” suggests Natalie Rehberger, a recruiter at Laowei Career. Explain why you chose to pursue your career, how you got where you are, and what your goals are. Talk about your successes along the way and challenges you have overcome.

“People connect to others through stories,’ Rehberger adds. Rather than just going through your career in chronological order, tell one or two anecdotes that provide quality insight into you as a person and an employee. A good story will be memorable and help you stand out from the crowd.

Mix it up

Experts suggest you primarily focus your answer on professional matters, but If there are things outside of work that you are passionate about, share them! Use it as an opportunity to highlight your qualities. Talking about training for a marathon shows dedication; a position on a charity board shows leadership; a passion for travelling demonstrates open-mindedness. In most cases, employers want happy, balanced employees and will be happy to hear about your outside pursuits. Just be sure to bring the conversation back to how you would make a good employee.

Don’t Ramble

Even though it’s such a wide open question, avoid the temptation to tell everything about yourself.

“Don’t dwell on any part – you’ve got to move on quickly,” reminds Zaki Usman, CEO of InterQ Mobile App, “Remember, the interview is just starting. Give the interviewer a few tidbits to ask about later.” Keep your response to just a minute or two, and then wait to see if they ask for more.

Ask what they want

If you’ve given your brief answer to “tell me about yourself,” and the interviewer does not seem totally satisfied, ask them “is there anything in particular that you’d like to know about me?” They may have been looking for something specific but phrased their question poorly. “This gives your interviewer the chance to get you to tell them exactly what information he or she is looking for,” comments James Rice, a career adviser at WikiJob. Then you can tailor your answer to get to the heart of the matter.

As the first question you’re likely to face in an interview, you’re going to want to get off on the right foot and give a good impression with your answer. Be prepared to tell a brief story or two about what makes you a great employee and the best fit for the job. That way, you’ll be more than ready when the interviewer kicks things off by asking, “tell me a little about yourself?”

Whether you're new to the workforce or an experienced professional, JobHero is here to help you make the most of your career. Come to us for thousands of resume samples, job-specific cover letter samples and many more helpful career resources.