HomeJob HuntingJob interview guide question: “Tell me about yourself “

Job interview guide question: “Tell me about yourself “

This guide provides practical tools and examples of how to answer ʼ tell me about yourself ʼ job interview question and build your narrative confidently and clearly.

Ah, the good-old interview classic that sends shivers down every professional spine – ‘Tell me about yourself.’ It’s the question we all know is coming, ready to pounce with the force of a thousand awkward silences.

You’re dressed to impress, rehearsed every possible question under the sun (including the strengths and weaknesses of your favorite superheroes), and yet, this seemingly simple inquiry can unravel even the most prepared candidates. Why, you ask? Because summing up your entire existence, professional achievements, and life aspirations before someone’s coffee gets cold is no small feat! So buckle up as we decode how to answer this question without sounding like a walking, talking resume!

What are common interview types?

  • Phone Interview:
    • It is often an initial screening step.
    • Focus on clarity and conciseness in your answers.
    • Review the job description to customize your skills and experience with what is relevant to the role.
  • Panel Interview:
    • Involves multiple interviewers, usually from different departments.
    • Tailor your responses to show how your background matches the diverse needs of the team.
    • Practice structuring your answers to address multiple perspectives.
  • Behavioral Interview:
    • Questions based on past relevant experience to predict future behavior.
    • Use specific examples from your previous roles to demonstrate your qualifications.
    • Structure answers using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
  • Video Interview:
    • Increasingly common in the initial or subsequent rounds.
    • Ensure a professional setting and test your equipment beforehand.
    • Maintain eye contact and be mindful of body language.
  • In-Person Interview:
    • Direct interaction with the hiring manager or team.
    • Dress appropriately and plan to arrive early.
    • Use your work experience and professional background to provide detailed yet clear answers.

Common behavioral job interview questions 

Navigating the maze of behavioral interview questions can be akin to decoding an ancient script for many job seekers. These inquiries, designed to unearth how your past experience and actions line up with the potential future role, are a staple in the big interview. Here’s a list of common behavioral questions that probe beyond the surface of your resume:

  1. “Tell me about a challenge you faced in your current job and how you overcame it.” – Seek to relate your answer to the job you’re interviewing for, showcasing relevant skills.
  2. “Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a difficult team member in your current role.” – Employers are looking for example answers that highlight your interpersonal skills.
  3. “Can you share an example of a goal you set in your current position and how you achieved it?” – This question assesses your initiative and follow-through.
  4. “Recall a time when you had to make a tough decision in your previous role. What was the outcome?” – Tailor your answer to demonstrate your decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  5. “Provide an example of how you handled receiving constructive criticism in your job.” – Your response should reflect your ability to grow and adapt.
  6. “Tell me about a successful project you led. What was your strategy, and how did it contribute to the company’s objectives?” – This reveals your leadership and strategic planning abilities.
  7. “Describe a time you failed in a task or project. What did you learn from that experience?” – A question aimed at gauging your resilience and capacity for learning from mistakes.
  8. “How have you handled meeting tight deadlines in your past experience?” – Illustrates time management and prioritization skills.
  9. “Can you give an example of how you improved a process or made a task more efficient in your current job?” – Shows innovation and efficiency.
  10. “Describe how you have handled a significant change in your workplace.” – Tests adaptability and change management skills.

Remember, the key to answering these open-ended questions is to structure your answer in a manner relevant to the position you’re applying for while keeping your anecdotes aligned with the specific job and company culture.

Why do interviewers ask this Interview question?

Interviewers ask this question as an icebreaker, to set the tone for the rest of the interview, and to gain a quick snapshot of who you are in relation to the job you are applying for. Answering the question effectively requires you to keep your answer short, focusing on previous experience relevant to the job search at hand.  Practice your answer to ensure you provide a clear, coherent narrative that sets a positive stage and points toward why you should be considered for the next job.

Interviewers are not asking for your life story 

When faced with the prompt ʼtell me about yourself in an interview, it’s tempting for many professionals to dive deep into their life story, beginning from childhood. However, this approach can stray far from what recruiters and hiring managers are seeking. The key to a successful interview is tailoring your response to with respect to the job requirements and the overall needs of the company. Specifically, your answer should be a clear narrative, ideally lasting less than two minutes, that highlights how your experience and skills make you the best candidate for the particular job.

Structure the response 

When preparing your answer for this question, think of it as verbalizing your resume summary tailored specifically for the job description requirements. Here’s how to structure your response:

  • Job Title and Experience: Start by aligning your introduction with the job title you’re applying for. If the role is “Sales Team Leader” requiring extensive experience, you might begin with, “I am a seasoned Sales Director with over 10 years leading successful teams…”
  • Industry and Work Setting Insight: Incorporate details about your adaptability to the industry and work environment of the role. For a “Sales Manager” position in a tech startup, you could add, “…particularly in dynamic startup environments where I’ve thrived by driving fast-paced sales initiatives.”
  • Educational Background and Certifications: Highlight your educational qualifications and any specific certifications if they’re relevant to the job. For a “Program Manager” role requiring certain credentials, mention, “…complemented by my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.”
  • Expertise and Specialization: Showcase your specialized skills that make you a perfect fit for the role. If applying for a “Fullstack Engineer” in e-commerce, you might say, “…with a deep focus on developing scalable e-commerce platforms, ensuring seamless online transactions.”
  • Key Skills and Achievements: Conclude by summarizing your top skills and notable achievements that directly relate to the job’s requirements. An example could be, “…demonstrated by leading projects that enhanced online sales by 35%, leveraging my expertise in JavaScript, Node.js, and React.”

This structured approach ensures your answer is concise, relevant, and directly aligned with the specific job and company, setting a positive tone for the rest of the interview.

Sample answers 

Let’s look at a few tips and examples of how to tell your professional story answering this question.

Example 1: Sales Team Leader Role

“I’m currently a Sales Director with a solid track record of over 10 years in leading dynamic sales teams, particularly in high-growth tech startups. My approach blends innovative sales strategies with a keen understanding of tech industry demands, cultivated through hands-on experience and a strategic mindset. My academic background includes an MBA with a focus on strategic management, which has been instrumental in developing comprehensive sales campaigns that align with company objectives. I’ve specialized in crafting and executing sales plans that resulted in a 40% increase in quarterly sales for my current company. My expertise in team leadership and my ability to drive sales growth are complemented by my certifications in Sales Management and Negotiation Mastery.”

Example 2: Program Manager in Tech

“As a Program Manager with over 8 years of experience in the tech sector, I’ve successfully managed numerous software development projects from inception to completion. My role has always been at the intersection of technology and business, ensuring that project deliverables meet the strategic goals of the organization. With a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and a PMP certification, I’ve honed my ability to oversee complex projects, particularly in agile work environments. My tenure at a leading SaaS company involved leading cross-functional teams to deliver a flagship product that boosted the company’s market share by 25%. My technical background, combined with project management expertise, positions me well to contribute significantly to your team.”

Example 3: Fullstack Engineer in E-commerce

“I am a Fullstack Engineer with a decade of experience in the e-commerce domain, where I’ve been instrumental in building and optimizing online shopping platforms. My journey began after completing my degree in Computer Science, with a minor in Digital Media, which equipped me with a unique blend of technical skills and creative problem-solving abilities. I’ve applied these skills in various startups, where I’ve been pivotal in developing user-centric e-commerce solutions that enhance customer experience and operational efficiency. One of my key projects involved redesigning a payment integration system, which improved transaction success rates by 30%. My technical expertise, coupled with a passion for creating impactful e-commerce experiences, makes me excited about this opportunity to contribute to your team.”

Example 4: Customer Success Manager Role

“As a dedicated Customer Success Manager with over 3 years of experience in the software industry, I’ve excelled in fostering strong relationships with key clients, ensuring their journey from onboarding to renewal is seamless and satisfactory. My background in Psychology, complemented by a professional certification in Customer Relationship Management, has empowered me to understand and anticipate customer needs effectively, aligning service strategies with individual client objectives. In my current role at a leading CRM software company, I’ve implemented customer success initiatives that increased customer retention rates by 20% year-over-year. I believe my experience in working closely with cross-functional teams to resolve issues proactively and enhance product value for customers can greatly contribute to your team.”

Job interview tips

To conclude, as part of your preparation for the interview process, be sure to craft your answer when asked ʼtell me about yourselfʼ. Use the above guidelines and examples to help you with set your self apart from other candidates, aswering this question as it will probably be one of the first interview questions youʼll get asked. 

  1. Match Your Experience with the Job: Reference specific skills from your background related to the job.
  2. Connect with the overall mission of the company: Mention how your career goals resonate with the company’s overarching objectives.
  3. Use Relevant Examples: Provide concise examples from your past that directly relate to the role you’re interviewing for.
  4. Prepare Your Pitch: Practice a brief summary of your career that touches on major milestones relevant to the position and aligns with your personal narrative .
  5. Personalize Your Response: Tie in how the role fits into your career path, making your answer unique and memorable and making a good first impression.