If you’ve ever attended a job interview, it’s likely you’ve been asked the Tell Me About Yourself interview question! It seems like a simple enough question, but it regularly trips candidates up. Here’s how to answer it to make a great first impression.
Ugh, I think EVERYONE dreads being asked the inevitable Tell Me About Yourself interview question!
Out of all the interview questions asked by recruiters, this one in particular seems to get candidates going off on tangents and rambling pretty quickly if they’re unprepared.
It’s often asked at the start of an interview when candidates are feeling the most nervous and haven’t got into the rhythm of the interview yet.
Asking a candidate to ‘Tell me about yourself’ can go awry because it’s an ambiguous, open-ended question.
There are very good reasons why interviewers ask the Tell Me About Yourself interview question. It:
- serves as a good icebreaker
- allows the interviewer to get to know the candidate
- allows the interviewer to gauge the candidate’s skills, knowledge and experience and whether they’re a good fit for the organisation
The candidate’s response gives the interviewer their first impression, so it’s really important to get this one right (no pressure, okay!).
Rather than dreading this question, use it as an opportunity to start sharing your skills, knowledge, experience, career goals, knowledge of the vacant role and so on. The interviewer wants to hear this information from you, the candidate, in the context of their organisation or the position you’re applying for.
This post is about how to answer the Tell Me About Yourself interview question
Tell me about yourself interview question – what not to say
Don’t talk about your personal or family life
It can be very tempting to launch into details about your personal background, family history, interests, hobbies and the like.
Ensure you keep all details in your response strictly related to your professional life. Don’t reveal any information regarding your age, marital status, children, political or religious associations, or anything else which made lead to bias decisions, assumptions or discrimination.
If you’re short of work examples or the organisation is community minded, it’s acceptable to provide some examples of achievements from your volunteer work or interests. Keep in mind these examples should demonstrate a skill that’s needed for the role.
Don’t repeat examples
Usually you’ll be asked an introductory question like ‘Tell me about yourself’ at the start of the interview. If you’ve planned to use certain examples to demonstrate your skills, experience and knowledge that this point, ensure you have different ones ready to address subsequent interview questions.
It’s also important not to repeat too much content from your other job documentation like selection criteria. Try to use other examples to build a stronger picture of your suitability for the interviewers.
Don’t go off topic
You only have a short amount of time (about 2-5 minutes) to answer the Tell Me About Yourself interview question. This means your response needs to be concise and on point.
Providing you prepare and rehearse your response, you should confidently achieve this 😊
The key is to ensure all information you provide is directly linked to demonstrating you can confidently and successfully meet the inherent aspects of the role, through communicating your previous achievements.
If you find your nerves are getting the better of you and are heading off topic, you can always ask at the end of the interview for the opportunity to provide some additional information that wasn’t covered in the rest of the interview.
How to answer tell me about yourself interview questions
What to include in your response
When answering the Tell Me About Yourself interview question, always refer to your professional work history, including the organisation you worked for, your job title, the number of years you were employed there and your major responsibilities. Keep this brief.
Secondly, go into a little more detail about your specialisation (if any) and your major achievement/s. This part is especially important as it supports your claims as to why you are a good fit for the role!
The major achievements you refer to might include instances where you’ve improved:
- productivity or performance,
- organisational operations and processes,
- client experience,
- staff experience,
or saved the organisation money.
Always remember to keep your response in the context of how it relates to the skills, experience and knowledge required to succeed in the role you’re applying for.
Prepare your answer
Planning and rehearsing interview questions is a MUST and the Tell Me About Yourself interview question is no exception! After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Start by doing a brain dump of everything you might like to cover in 2-5 minutes. Then arrange your content into a reverse chronological story.
As you’re reviewing the content, remove the parts that might not be adding much value to your story. You only have a few minutes to respond, so you need to be really concise.
Important: While refining your content, always remember the aim of this question is to demonstrate how and why you are a good fit for this position. This should be front of mind throughout your entire interview!
It may be the interviewer doesn’t ask you ‘Tell me about yourself’, but there’ll be at least one question that’s similar.
You might be asked a question like:
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you the best person for this job?
- Why did you apply for this job?
- What do you think it takes to be successful in this role?
These questions can all be answered in a very similar way! Repurpose the preparation you’ve done already – just be sure to change the examples if you’re asked multiple questions.
Tell me about yourself sample answer
Below is a fictional example of a candidate responding to the Tell Me About Yourself interview question. The candidate is applying for a promotion to a senior accountant role.
You will notice the focus of the response is the work example not the work history.
I started my accounting career by obtaining a place on the graduate program at Awesome Accountants Inc. After completing the program, I was placed in an auditing role where my main responsibilities were to complete tax returns, business activity statements, taxation law research, invoicing and liaising with clients. I developed an interest in international taxation law and completed a certificate to further my knowledge and skills on this topic. After 18 months of working on international company returns, I was promoted to an immediate accountant role in the International Affairs team.
During these 18 months, I worked on complex company tax returns, including one multiple national organisation with offices in Dublin and Washington. Due to the unusual structure of the organisation, including its associated trusts and companies, it was difficult to determine if the organisation was required to lodge an Australian tax return.
I conducted extensive research of Australian taxation and case law to develop a detailed application to the Australian Taxation Office for a private ruling. I outlined the facts of the situation, references to the specific provisions of the law we required the ruling on, the results of my research and my opinion on how the law applied to this circumstance.
The private ruling was issued and agreed with the opinion I had expressed in the application.
This successful application for a private ruling meant I could confidently complete the company’s tax return within the prescribed time frames.
I also used this case to train junior members of my team on how to complete successful applications for private rulings.
I note in the job advertisement for this role, you are looking for a candidate with strong law interpretation, research and leadership skills. I believe I would be a good fit for this role given the specialist skills and interests I’ve outlined in this example.
Note this only one work example which is quite detailed and written in the STAR method. You may not have as long to respond to the question, so ensure you tailor your response to your own circumstance!
Nailing the all-important Tell Me About Yourself interview question is so important to making a good first impression at your next job interview.
Answering this question well will show the interviewer you are the best person for the job by demonstrating your valuable skills, knowledge and experience.
The key is to prepare and rehearse your answer, which should be concise and in the context of the role you’re applying for. Remain confident and articulate, and you’re sure to impress!
This post was about how to answer the tell me about yourself interview question
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Hi there, I'm Danielle Ward
Your go-to career development and human resource practitioner, guiding your career towards true north.
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