How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself" in a Job Interview

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May 31, 2023
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min read

When the interviewer leans in and says those four words, "Tell me about yourself," it's your chance to shine.

And in the world of a job candidate, few questions hold as much weight as "Tell me about yourself." It's somehow simple and complicated.

But where do you start?

Well, you can start by forgetting the mundane routine of reciting your life story. Time is precious. And in today's market, hiring managers and recruiters are busy. It's time to learn how to captivate them with a concise, informative, and impactful answer—one that showcases your professional journey and leaves a lasting impression.

So let's get started!

3 key takeaways

  • “Tell me about yourself” is a common interview question that’s usually asked at the beginning of a conversation
  • Why recruiters ask this question 
  • The best way to nail "tell me about yourself" with some preparation

Understanding the question and why interviewers ask it

During your job interview, the interviewer is not trying to make you nervous by asking about you. Rather, “Tell me about yourself” allows you to introduce yourself thoroughly. Since this question is commonly asked at the beginning of the interview process, your answer may set the tone and direction for the rest of the conversation.

Your response to “Tell me about yourself” helps show the interviewer who you are beyond your resume. It allows them to hear where you want to go in your career, future goals, and what experience you have.

It's also a question you don't want to answer off the cuff, so spend some time perfecting your answer. Hiring managers expect you to be prepared to speak about yourself during the conversation. It can be a red flag if you don't have a strong answer. 

Variations of “Tell me about yourself” 

There are several variations of the “tell me about yourself” interview question that you may encounter during your job search, including but not limited to: 

  • Walk me through your resume.” 
  • “Tell me about your background.” 
  • “I’d love to hear about your journey.” 
  • “Describe yourself.” 
  • “Tell me about something that’s not on your resume.” 
  • “I have your resume in front of me, but tell me about your journey.” 

Preparing to craft your answer

“Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common interview questions asked of job seekers across industries and professional levels. So before your interview, it’s important to prepare your answer ahead of time. Knowing what you want to say (or a variation of it) will help you tell your story in the most effective way possible. 

@teal_hq One of the worst interview questions is always “tell me about yourself.” How are you even supposed to answer that? The best way to respond is not with personal stories, but with talking about the VALUE you can bring to the company and displaying what makes you the best person for that role. #jobinterview #jobinterviewtips #jobinterviewquestions #tellmeaboutyourself #interviewtips #jobsearch #jobsearchtips #careertok ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依

1. Review the job description

First and foremost, your answer to “tell me about yourself” should call back to each particular job description that you interview for. Remember, a recruiter or hiring manager asks job candidates this question to start to get a sense of whether they’d be qualified for the role and company culture. 

Go over the description thoroughly before you start thinking about or drafting your response. Find the keywords—which are the most critical skills that the job is calling for. (This also means that you should do this exercise for every single role you apply to and craft tailored answers since each one will have slightly different keywords.)

If you’re not sure how to identify the keywords in a job description, Teal can do it for you in just a few seconds using the steps below.

  1. Start by saving the job you’re interviewing for to your Teal Job Application Tracker.
  2. Then, click the "Job Application Tracker" icon in the left panel.
  3. Finally, click on the job you want to pull keywords for, and the Job Application Tracker will show you the keywords. That's it!
Teal’s Free Job Application Tracker automatically extracts and highlights keywords from a job description.
Teal’s Free Job Application Tracker automatically extracts and highlights keywords from a job description.

2. Formulate your must-mentions

Depending on what stage of your career you’re in, you might have several previous positions on your resume. It can be tempting to mention everything, but keep in mind that you should only take about a minute to answer “Tell me about yourself.”

To avoid telling your entire life story or going on about not-so-relevant items, parse out the most important and relevant achievements on your resume. When you speak about your past experiences, you should mention some of your achievements as they relate to the role you’re interviewing for. 

3. Decide on whether or not you’d like to include personal details 

Including details about your personal life is usually optional—unless your interviewer asks you about your personal interests in resume or outside of work directly. Still, adding a few fun facts about yourself into your response can help humanize you—we're ultimately so much more than our jobs. 

If you decide to include any personal interests, just make sure they’re appropriate to share in a professional setting. Stray away from sharing things that are not-safe-for-work or potentially polarizing.

For example, if you’re applying for a backend engineer position, talking about your hobby of building Legos is appropriate. But discussing your love of watching wrestling may not be entirely relevant. Similarly, talking about your passion for political organizing may be perfect if you’re applying to work on a campaign trail, but not necessarily if you’re applying for a job outside of politics. 

4.Choose how you’d like to order your response

Before you develop your final answer, consider the order you’d like to talk about your experiences. The most common orders are: 

  • Past, present, future
  • Present, past, future

Choosing one order over the other isn’t going to make or break your answer. It’s purely your personal preference. But depending on the role or your experience, it may make more sense to choose a certain order. For example, if you’re applying for a similar role to the one you have now, it would make more sense to go with present, past, then future. 

5.Start drafting your response

Once you know which areas you need to focus on when answering the question, you can start to create a draft of your response.

Writing a script beforehand helps you get all of your ideas out and plan the flow of what you’re going to say so that you can sound prepared during your interview.

Pro-Tip: Keep in mind that during an interview, you don’t want to sound like you’re reading right from a sheet of paper—instead, you should aim to sound both as natural and as confident as possible. Practice your response, but remember you don't need to memorize it word for word.

How to answer “Tell me about yourself” in a job interview 

You’ve done the research, you’ve done the prep—so when it comes time to answer the question live, you should make sure that your answer conveys: 

  • Your work history and how you’re looking to level up or change your career
  • That you understand the company and the role and how it relates to your specific career goals
  • Why you’re the best candidate for the job and how you’ve used both hard and soft skills in the past to deliver results
  • That you’re a strong communicator and are able to present and conduct yourself in a professional manner 

At the end of your spiel, tie your response back to why you’re taking the interview and why you’re interested in the role—the interviewer should be able to understand why you’ve applied, what you can potentially bring to the role, and why this particular role makes sense for your overall career trajectory. 

Examples of effective interview answers to "Tell me about yourself"

If you’re not sure how to explain your career background concisely and effectively, below are a few examples that you can draw from. 

Sample answer for an entry-level social media manager:

"I'd be happy to walk you through my resume. I recently graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and have been working as a social media intern for the past year. During my internship, I helped manage the company's social media accounts, creating content, analyzing metrics, and responding to comments and direct messages. I also worked on a social media campaign that resulted in a 20% increase in engagement.

Prior to that, I worked as a marketing assistant for a startup where I helped develop and execute marketing strategies across various channels, including social media, email, and paid advertising. I also gained experience in copywriting, graphic design, and event planning.

In college, I was involved in a student-run marketing agency where I served as a social media manager for a local nonprofit organization. I was responsible for creating a content calendar, designing graphics, and analyzing metrics to optimize the campaign's performance.

My experiences have equipped me with the skills and knowledge needed to be an effective social media manager, and I am excited to continue this career path. In my private life, I love to train for triathlons and spend time with my dog.”

Sample answer for an entry-level front-end software developer: 

“I am a recent graduate from Northeastern University, and I graduated with an honors degree in computer science. As part of my degree program, I worked as a software developer at a healthcare company for a year. During that time, I was responsible for developing and maintaining web applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I worked with various JavaScript frameworks such as React, Angular, and Vue.js to build responsive and interactive web pages.

Prior to that, I worked as a software development intern at a tech startup, where I gained experience in developing user interfaces for mobile applications using React Native. During my time there, I worked closely with senior developers to develop clean, maintainable code and gained experience in version control using Git.

In college, I took a wide variety of comp sci courses and worked on a few coding projects. For example, I built a website for a local nonprofit organization using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I also developed a simple game using Python.” 

Sample answer for a mid-level SEO manager: 

“I've been working as an SEO manager for the past seven years and have gained extensive experience in the field.

In my current role, I lead a team of SEO specialists and oversee the development and execution of SEO strategies for various clients. I'm responsible for conducting keyword research, analyzing website traffic, and implementing on-page and off-page optimization tactics to improve search engine rankings. I've also been successful in creating and implementing content marketing campaigns that drive traffic and increase conversions.

Prior to my last job, I worked as an SEO specialist for a digital marketing agency where I was responsible for conducting technical SEO audits, creating content strategies, and optimizing website content for search engines.

Throughout my previous experience, I've also had the opportunity to master in paid search advertising, social media marketing, and web analytics. I'm proficient in tools such as Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Ahrefs, and I'm skilled in using data to drive decision-making.

In order to succeed in any role, I'm always looking to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques in the field.” 

Sample answer for a senior marketing executive:

“​​I've been working in marketing for over 15 years and have held various leadership positions throughout my career.

In my current role as a senior marketing executive, I lead a team of marketing professionals and am responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies that drive revenue growth. I oversee all aspects of marketing, including branding, content marketing, demand generation, and digital marketing.

Prior to my current role, I worked as a marketing director for a global software company, where I was responsible for driving demand for the company's products through targeted campaigns and lead-generation efforts. I also worked for several years in the financial services industry, where I led marketing efforts for various products and services.

Throughout my career, I've gained experience in brand management, product marketing, and customer segmentation. I'm skilled in using data and analytics to inform marketing strategies and have a deep understanding of the customer journey and how to create compelling customer experiences.”

How to answer “Tell me about yourself” on a job application

You may be asked to explain your background as part of a written application instead of during a job interview. This can give you either more flexibility or more constraints, depending on other parameters that may be in place, like character or time limits. 

Regardless of any limitations, your answer to “Tell me about yourself” should be structured similarly to your verbal answer. Spend a few sentences explaining your most relevant past and present experiences and tie them back to the key points in the job description.

End your written response with an explanation of what you’re looking to accomplish next in your career and how you believe the role you’re applying to will help you do so. You can also include one sentence about what you like to do outside of work (unless there's a separate question that calls for that—then there’s no need to be repetitive). 

We know writing out answers to each application can be time-consuming. That’s why we built an autofill application feature within our platform. Teal’s autofill feature uses AI to craft answers to any question on your job applications—saving you hours which you can then spend rehearsing verbal answers instead. 

Examples of effective answers to "Tell me about yourself" on a job application

Example answer for a 200-word limit

"Throughout my 10-year career in marketing, I've consistently fueled the growth of tech companies through strategic content initiatives. In my previous role as Marketing Manager at Bome, I spearheaded comprehensive content strategies that resulted in a 50% increase in website traffic and a 30% boost in lead generation. My expertise lies in crafting compelling narratives that resonate with target audiences and drive brand engagement.

Currently, I'm seeking a new challenge as a Senior Content Manager at Google, where I can leverage my problem-solving skills to elevate content marketing efforts to new heights. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of SEO principles, I've successfully optimized content to achieve high organic rankings and maximize visibility. Additionally, I possess a strong track record of managing cross-functional teams, collaborating with designers, writers, and developers to deliver impactful content experiences.

Looking ahead, I'm excited to embrace the rapidly evolving landscape of tech. I'm passionate about driving audience engagement, delivering exceptional user experiences, and achieving measurable results through data-driven content marketing.

With my comprehensive experience, strategic mindset, and relentless drive for excellence, I am confident I can make a significant impact as the Senior Content Manager at Google."

Example answer for a 100-word limit:

"In my 7 years as a back-end engineer at TigerTech, I've consistently driven reliable and scalable solutions for complex systems, contributing to a 50% reduction in server response time. Now, I'm excited to elevate my expertise to a senior-level backend role at Yerga Solutions.

As a proven leader in developing robust architectures and optimizing database performance, I aim to lead high-impact projects, mentor junior engineers, and guide architectural decisions. With a record of success at TigerTech, I'm ready to bring my technical prowess to Yerga Solutions—driving innovation in backend development. Together, let's build exceptional digital experiences for users worldwide."

Common mistakes to avoid 

There are many things you shouldn’t say in an interview. When crafting your answer to “tell me about yourself,” be sure to avoid these common pitfalls. 

Being unprofessional 

Job seekers can often make the mistake of sharing too much personal information when asked the question, “Tell me about yourself.” You don't want to divulge your life story to the interviewer. Use your interview as a way to bring a personality to your resume.

Just focus on your qualifications and accomplishments without sounding too robotic. The hiring manager wants to hire someone with enthusiasm and personal qualities that would mesh well with the rest of the team.

Being negative

Companies don’t want to hire someone who is overly negative. When talking about your past experience, keep it positive. Don't speak poorly of past employers or companies. You never know who in the industry has a relationship with who, so it's always best to be neutral.

Not practicing beforehand 

The most important tip we can give you is to be prepared to answer the interview question; "What can you tell me about yourself?" If this question is asked face to face, demonstrate your enthusiasm with nonverbal cues like eye contact, hand gestures, and a smile. Share your previous work experiences with passion and excitement. And project your best skills, such as leadership, project management, or other relevant traits that align with the job description in a concise, well-thought-out manner that demonstrates you came prepared.

Your experience makes you a great candidate to land your next career. Make sure you practice common interview questions, and that job will be yours! 

Practice and prepare

The best way to get comfortable answering interview questions is to practice. You can practice answering questions with a friend, family member, career coach, or mentor (or even by recording yourself on video). 

Once you reach the interview stage for a job, Teal’s Job Application Tracker will give you a list of actionable interview tips to go through before the big day. That way, no matter how you decide to prepare or who you decide to practice with, you’ll have a clear checklist of what to go over before you set foot in an interview setting. 

Use the Practice Interviewing tips within Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you present your best self in an interview.
Use the Practice Interviewing tips within Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you present your best self in an interview.

You can also use AI to give you interview questions, follow-up questions, and sample answers to draw from if you input each job description. 

@teal_hq ChatGPT is an awesome tool that can help in a number of ways for your job search. Here are 5 of those ways that can help you prepare for an interview. From getting questions to prepare answers for to getting questions YOU can ask in the interview. Let’s dive in. #jobinterview #jobinterviewtips #jobinterviewquestions #jobinterviewprep #interviewtips #jobsearch #jobsearchtips #jobsearching ♬ Chillest in the Room - L.Dre

Combining AI with Teal’s Job Application Tracker interview checklist will have you ready to take on the most common interview questions with confidence. 

Bonus: Make sure to follow up after the interview

After you’ve finished interviewing, be sure to send a follow-up email no more than 48 hours after the interview ends (within 24 hours is ideal). Following up after an interview further confirms that you’re gracious, enthusiastic, and interested in the role. 

With Teal’s Job Application Tracker, you can choose from over 40 templates to send out after each interview. Pick and choose the best follow-up template for how your interview went and set reminders to send them out so you never miss an opportunity.

Within the Job Application Tracker, the communication templates help you stand out during each stage of the interview process.
Within the Job Application Tracker, the communication templates help you stand out during each stage of the interview process.

Prep like a pro for every interview with Teal

No matter where you are in the job application process, being prepared and staying organized will serve you well. Stay on top of everything in your job search with Teal’s Job Application Tracker

Check out Teal to save each job you’re interested in, track every step of the interview process, and get actionable tips along the way—for free. With Teal’s complete suite of job-seeking tools, you’ll maximize the chances of moving forward in each process. 

You’ve got this! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tailor my "Tell Me About Yourself" answer for a position with extensive experience requirements?

When crafting your response for a role that demands significant experience, focus on highlighting your career progression and key accomplishments that align with the job's requirements. Mention specific projects or roles that demonstrate your expertise and how they've prepared you for the challenges of the position you're interviewing for. Keep your answer concise, but ensure it showcases a narrative of growth, relevance to the role, and your readiness to contribute meaningfully from day one.

What is the best way to incorporate my personal interests into my "Tell Me About Yourself" interview answer?

While the primary focus of your answer should be your professional background, briefly mentioning personal interests can add depth to your character and help you stand out. Choose one or two interests that may resonate with the company's culture or relate to the job in some way. For instance, if you're applying to a tech company and you enjoy building computers in your spare time, sharing this can underscore your passion for technology. Keep this part of your answer short and relevant to maintain the interviewer's interest in your professional qualifications.

How do I avoid giving a too lengthy or unfocused answer to "Tell Me About Yourself" during an interview?

To keep your answer concise and on point, prepare a structured response in advance using the present-past-future formula: start with your current position and responsibilities, segue into your past experiences and the skills you've developed, and conclude with your future aspirations and how they align with the role you're applying for. Practice your answer to ensure it lasts no longer than 1-2 minutes, staying focused on the aspects that are most relevant to the job and the employer. Remember, this is your elevator pitch, so clarity and brevity are key.

Emily Polner

Emily Polner is a freelance writer based in New York City, passionate about career development and helping people find new roles.

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