One of the most commonly asked questions in a job interview is, 'Tell me about yourself.' Interviewers usually ask this to start the conversation and reduce the awkwardness in the room. Some other ways interviewers may ask this question include 'How would you describe yourself?' and 'Tell me about your background.' Although this seems like a simple question, it can be challenging to decide what to highlight about yourself, so it's best to prepare an answer beforehand.
In this article, we discuss why hiring managers ask this question and how to properly structure your response to it and provide sample answers.
Why do employers ask 'Tell me about yourself'
When interviewers ask you this question, they want you to give them some insight as to why you think you are a good fit for the role. They want to learn about your priorities, which will give them a better sense of who you really are. Interviewers also ask this question to determine how confident and articulate you are, which in turn provides them with a view of how you might present yourself to clients, customers and coworkers if they get hired for the job.
As a job applicant, your response to this question will give you a great opportunity to highlight the experience and skills that make you the ideal candidate for the position. Because this is the question most interviewers lead with, it can also help you make a strong first impression.
Planning your answer
There's no conventional approach to answering the 'Tell me about yourself' question, but if you see it as an opportunity to articulate your value proposition to an interviewer, you can make a great first impression. Try asking yourself relevant questions to figure out what your answer should focus on. The ideal value proposition answers the following questions:
- What motivates you to come into the office and perform your duties and responsibilities every day?
- What specific challenges excite you?
- What can you contribute to the company?
- Why do you want to join the company?
- Why do you want to work for the company right now?
- Why are you a great fit for this role?
How to answer 'Tell me about yourself'
You can use these steps to make sure you answer the question 'Tell me about yourself' well in a job interview:
- Describe what motivates you
- Discuss what specific challenges excite you
- Emphasize your most relevant skills
- Explain why you want to work for the company
- Explain why you want to join the company right now
1. Describe what motivates you
One of the most important traits employers usually look for in candidates is their intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual enjoys an activity or sees it as an opportunity to discover, learn and actualise their potential. Research suggests that intrinsically motivated workers produce a higher quality of work compared to extrinsically motivated workers. Thus, if you can narrate a personal anecdote that proves you are a craft-driven professional, you may capture the interviewer's attention. To do so, you could start your value proposition like this:
'Working as a content marketer for five years has taught me a lot about myself. I realised that I feel the most fulfilled when I can create exciting articles that actually help and inspire people.'
2. Discuss what specific challenges excite you
Interviewers prefer to hire candidates who can help the company achieve more success by meeting work challenges. To show that you can be a valuable asset, discuss the challenges about your industry that excite you. For example:
'Today, we both work in an industry where many companies or brands compete for consumers' attention, saturating the industry with low-quality content. It's very difficult to grab the customers' attention, but this doesn't discourage or intimidate me. It actually excites me, as it forces me to keep innovating to connect with an audience.'
3. Emphasize your most relevant skills
Discuss how you can use your skills to face challenges and excel at your job. Here's an example:
'There is a tough competition for customers' attention in the content marketing space today, and it has encouraged me to improve my analytical and writing skills. In our industry, data influences decisions and I know that if I want to help the company to achieve success, I need to be both strategic and creative. Fortunately, my ability to adapt has enabled me to use the necessary skills to obtain insights from data and put them together to create an engaging story.'
4. Explain why you want to work for the company
Discuss how your skills and passion align with the company's goals and interests. For example:
'This is why I think I would be a high-value employee here. This company cares a lot about doing two things right: making data-driven, objective decisions and creating great stories. I believe I can help the company get better at both of these things.'
5. Explain why you want to join the company right now
Lastly, illustrate why you want to work for the company. This shows that you took the initiative to learn about them. The interviewer may also take note of your pro-activeness. Here's an example:
'This is also the perfect time to work at Lo'Hao Electronics, Inc.—I was at one of your marketing events in December and was impressed with all your new product launches. I think the company is focusing on innovation, and I would be thrilled to be part of that. A**s a skilled content strategist at my current company, I have doubled the page views and increased our email subscribers by about 50% within just six months. I believe I could help the company develop an effective content strategy, create compelling stories and increase loyal audience.'
Example answers to 'Tell me about yourself'
Here are some example answers to the 'Tell me about yourself' interview question that you can use to help inspire you to create your own:
- Example 1: Account manager
- Example 2: Writer
- Example 3: Project manager
- Example 4: Administrative assistant
- Example 5: Healthcare administrator
Example 1: Account manager
'I'm currently an account manager at Chu Company, LLC, where I handle our high-profile clients. Prior to that, I worked at a company where I was on three different big national healthcare brands. And though I really enjoyed my job there, I would love the opportunity to learn more about this field with one specific healthcare company. That is why I am so excited to work for Hougang Medical Center.'
Example 2: Writer
'Writing and public speaking have always been my passion. That is why I always pursue writing-related jobs. For example, in college I was the editor-in-chief of our school newspaper. In addition to writing, I learned how to manage not only a team of writers but also the writing process**. After graduating from college, I worked as a social media manager at DSD Technologies, writing articles and social content for the company's website, but I volunteered to work on the company's communications plan for a product launch, which is where I discovered my interest in marketing products. After working as a product marketer and successfully launching two new products last year, I decided to take on a new role. I have realised that I work best on products that I love and use. And because I am a big fan and user of the products of this company, I took the opportunity to apply when I saw the job advertisement.'
Example 3: Project manager
'I have been in the field of marketing for more than 10 years, primarily working in project and account management roles. Most recently, I worked as a senior project manager for a big tech company supervising other project managers and managing large marketing campaigns. Now I want to increase my experience in many different industries, especially in the field of financial technology. That is why I'm very excited to join a company like yours.'
Example 4: Administrative assistant
'I have been working as an administrative assistant for five years. At my current job in the operations management department of a small company, I handle the meeting, scheduling and travel planning for two executives and 10 staff members. I also prepare reports, presentations and correspondence. I am known for being a team player, well-organised and detail-oriented. I'm a good communicator, and I never miss deadlines. I can also work on multiple tasks at once. In my performance reviews, my manager always notes that she appreciates my enthusiasm and professionalism for the job. Because of this experience, I would like to take the next step in my career. I am hoping to do so in a company like yours that works to improve the environment.'
Example 5: Healthcare administrator
'I started my career in retail management. However, a few years ago, I became interested in the healthcare industry. I have always been good at bringing people together to achieve a common goal. My experience successfully managing stores and leading teams encouraged me to pursue an administration role, and I have been building a career as a passionate health administrator for the last five years.'