‘Tell me about yourself’ is one of the most common job interview questions. And while it might initially seem like one of the easiest to answer (who doesn’t love talking about themselves?), it often leaves job applicants in a bind.
After all, what exactly should you tell the employer about yourself?
In this article, we’ll take a look at several different ways to answer ‘tell me about yourself’, depending on your level of experience and career situation. Additionally, we’ll walk you through some tips and strategies for crafting a compelling response that emphasises your relevant skills and experiences.
‘Tell me about yourself’
One of the most common job interview questions, ‘tell me about yourself’ helps let the interviewer get to know you. There are several ways they might phrase this question:
Common variations of 'tell me about yourself'
- Why don’t you start by introducing yourself.
- How would you describe yourself?
- Describe yourself in 5 words.
- What do you want me to know about you?
- Tell me something interesting about yourself.
- I’d love to hear more about your professional journey.
- Tell me a little bit about your background.
- How would you describe yourself and your background?
6 ‘tell me about yourself’ sample answers that employers would love
Here are 6 sample answers for ‘tell me about yourself’ if you’re:
- a student seeking a part-time job
- a recent graduate
- an experienced job seeker
- navigating a career change
- applying for an internship
- applying for work at a startup
1. Sample answer for a student seeking a part-time job
Sure! I’m an undergraduate Marketing student at the University of East London with plenty of experience working on the shop floor. I’m passionate about streetwear, particularly skater shoes and clothing as I’ve been an avid skateboarder since middle school. I worked as a sales assistant at Next back in Bedford while I was in sixth-form college — which was a great experience and taught me a lot about providing good customer service. Now I’m in London, I’m looking to work for a streetwear brand so I can become more involved in the area of fashion that I’m most excited about. I think my enthusiasm for fashion and my positive attitude would make me an asset to any team.
2. Sample answer for a recent graduate
Of course! I’m a recent graduate from Nottingham Trent University with a bachelor’s in Wildlife Conservation and a passion for preserving British ecosystems. I grew up near Dartmoor and, spending much of my childhood hiking, horse riding, and exploring the outdoors, I became acutely aware of how vulnerable British ecosystems are. Through my fieldwork in Pembrokeshire and work placement with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, I became particularly interested in birds, which despite being an integral part of British wildlife, are experiencing widespread population declines. Now that I’ve completed my degree, I’m looking for a position that will allow me to apply my unique background, interests, and education to protect British species, which is what led me to apply for this position at the British Trust for Ornithology.
3. Sample answer for an experienced job seeker
I’m an account manager with over 7 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and a background in advertising. I started out working for Raspberry, one of the UK’s leading healthcare-focused agencies. The creative and relationship-building skills that I developed there have been instrumental in helping identify business opportunities for my subsequent employers. One of my biggest recent achievements was securing a major NHS contract for a key client, which increased revenue by 25% over the course of a year. I like to consider myself as someone with solid people skills, and I’m a big rugby fan and a Saracens season ticket holder.
4. Sample answer for a career change
No problem. I’m a UX Designer with proven research, ideation, and storytelling skills. My background is actually in data journalism — I have a Computer Science and Media & Communication degree from Liverpool Hope and five years of experience as a data journalist for The Telegraph. However, I’ve discovered that a visually-oriented career is more of my calling. As you can see from my CV, I’m proficient in Adobe Creative Suite, Excel, and Tableau and have plenty of practical data visualisation experience that would be of interest to your team. For example, ahead of last year’s local elections I created a colour-coded interactive map that broke down the results when users clicked on different constituencies. Working in journalism has also taught me to be thorough, fast, and adaptable, which I believe would be great assets for a team member at a creative agency like yours.
5. Sample answer for an internship
I’m a second-year Accounting & Business Finance student at York, where I’m also a member of the Actuarial Society. I’ve always had a strong head for numbers, and growing up, I was always curious about how to use them to solve real-world problems. I have strong statistical and risk management skills, having recently come top of my class in several relevant modules, including Probability, Financial Mathematics, and Statistical Methods. Furthermore, I have a foundational understanding of software tools like R and Excel and am eager to develop these skills during my internship.
6. Sample answer for a startup
I’m a Maths graduate, self-taught coder, and (in all honesty) a bit of a geek, with a degree from Manchester Metropolitan and an interest in puzzles and strategy games. I’m self taught in Java and Golang, and I completed my first project – a brick breaker game – in my first year of university. I’m also interested in Fintech, so I got involved with Smart Cheshire as a Student Consultant. Now, I’m seeking to merge these interests by applying my software skills in a fintech setting, which is what motivated me to apply at your startup.
How to answer ‘tell me about yourself’ interview questions (7 Tips)
If you’ve thought your answer through, ‘tell me about yourself’ can be a great opportunity to emphasise your most marketable qualities.
Here are seven steps you can take to introduce yourself effectively and convince the employer that you’re right for the position.
1. Understand what the employer is looking for
Knowing who your interviewer is and what they’re looking for is essential to answering ‘tell me about yourself’ effectively.
Before planning your response, look over the job description and company website and ask the following questions:
- How big is the company? (Is it a startup? Medium-sized business? Multinational corporation?)
- How would you describe the company culture? (E.g., traditional, laidback, professional, fun-loving)
- What industry and sector does the company operate in?
- How does the job ad describe the job you’re applying for? Is it focused on important technical skills, personal traits, teamwork, etc?
Developing a profile of your potential employer will help you determine what traits they’re looking for when they’re getting to know you.
For example, if you’re applying to a cybersecurity firm, ‘tell me about yourself’ will be an invitation for you to outline your key technical skills and qualifications.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for a customer-facing role like sales associate, then employers will also be interested in your personal traits, because they’ll want staff who can positively represent their brand.
2. Align your response with the role
Giving a great answer to ‘tell me about yourself’ isn’t just about being concise and sounding confident. Employers will get a much better first impression of you if you emphasise traits and skills that fit the job requirements and the company culture.
You already have a good understanding of what kind of employer you’re talking to (because you did your research). So next, think over your work experience, skills, and personal attributes, and consider which are most marketable.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which of your skills and experiences will be most interesting to the employer?
- What aspects of your personality will help you fit in with the company culture?
- What’s an unusual quality of yours that a similarly qualified candidate might not have?
- What’s something about you that the interviewer won’t easily forget?
Let’s say you’re interviewing for an entry-level job as a business analyst and you mention that you interned at Deloitte and did a year abroad in China. These might not be your most recent (or even your proudest) achievements but they will make you stand out to the employer because one is relevant and the other is highly memorable.
3. Create a well-defined career arc
Show how the job you’re applying for is the logical next step in your career and you’ll significantly increase your chances of getting the job.
Presenting a logical career path tells the employer that you’re serious, motivated, and eager to grow with their company.
To clearly mark out your career path and interests, use the Present/Past/Future Formula, which starts with your current situation, then outlines your past experiences, and finally outlines your future goals.
This applicant outlines their relevant previous experience, highlighting unique skills and personal traits that’ll be of interest to the employer. Then, they align their future career goals with the job description, showing how working for the employer would benefit both them and their new team.
5. Show your personality
Remember: the question is ‘tell me about yourself’, not ‘walk me through your CV.’
In other words, the employer wants to know more about you than your professional experience. Outline your soft skills (core personality traits) and your hobbies and interests to tell the employer more about yourself.
6. Don’t share too much — or too little
While you’re giving an overview of your professional background, skills, interests, and goals, you don’t want your answer to be rambling or difficult to remember. Keep your answer to between 30 seconds and a minute.
7. Do allow yourself to go off script
You should prepare your answer to ‘tell me about yourself’, but you shouldn’t plan it word for word. Even when delivered confidently, scripted answers are awkward and unoriginal, and they don’t help the employer get to know you as a person.
Plan out a rough idea of what you want to say in your answer before going to the interview, and be ready to adapt your answer if you need to. You can always have a friend ask you similar (but different) interview questions beforehand to see how you can answer differently on the spot.