How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” – [Powerful Example Answer]

By Jeff Gillis

Talking about yourself should be the easiest thing to do.

After all, who knows you better than…

You? 🙂

But for some strange reason, nearly every interviewer can agree that giving a good answer to the question “Tell Me About Yourself” during a job interview can be one of the toughest and most stressful things to do.

But what is it about this seemingly simple question that is such a thorn in your side?

Well, it can come down to a few things.

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Why are they asking this?

What are they looking for in my answer?

What is the best strategy for giving them what they want?

As these questions start to mount inside your brain, it’s likely that your level of stress is growing along with them, and that doesn’t make for the most comfortable of job interviews.

And if you aren’t comfortable, chances are the hiring manager can sense it and we all know what that means…

Bye bye job offer! (gulp)

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. In fact, this article will show you that answering this question can actually be an easy (and even pleasant!) experience.

Because what this unique question really is, is an opportunity for you to take control of the interview and position yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.

Before we go any further grab the cheat sheet below:

FREE BONUS PDF "CHEAT SHEET" Get our "Tell me about yourself" cheat sheet that gives you  4 more word-for-word example answers to the "tell me about yourself" interview question and more. 

Click Here To Get Your Cheat Sheet

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask The Tell Me About Yourself Interview Question Anyway?

So why do hiring managers ask this question?

Do they really want to get to know you better?

Are their lives really so boring and wrapped up in work that they’re forced to ask these questions in order to live vicariously through their prospective employees?

Unless you’re a former race car driver who jet sets all across the globe and only dates blindingly attractive people and spends your weekends curing cancer and saving babies, I’m going to have to say no…

…they’re probably not vicariously living your life through your answer.

In fact, there are two much more practical reasons why hiring managers ask this question:

  1. They want to see how you react to a question asked casually and without structure
  2. They want to get a feel for what you deem to be “important”

How To Answer An “Unstructured” Interview Question

Here’s the deal.

A good interview candidate always prepares before she (or he) goes in for an interview.  She does her research. She works on her resume and cover letter.

She runs through hundreds if not thousands of practice interview questions and refines her answers until they’re tailored, precise, and perfect…and interviewers know this.

They’re not stupid…that’s why they’re the ones doing the interviews!

Their job is to find the perfect candidate and weed out the less than ideal matches…and it’s a tough job, especially when faced with hundreds of candidates who have all worked equally hard.

So a “casual” or unstructured question is one that’s meant to throw you off your game and break you free from the memorized answers.

Rather than simply parroting back something you’ve studied for hours, you’re being called on to speak freely and off the cuff.

But why would they want to throw you off your game?

Well, chances are the position they are hiring for is going to require the candidate to make some decisions and think on his/her feet.

Anyone can prepare for a situation that they know is coming, much like anyone can prepare for an interview question that they know is coming.

By asking an unstructured question like this the hiring manager is able to get a good idea of your ability to think and adapt on the fly.

What Do You Think Is Important?

So we’ve established that thinking on the fly is important.

But even more importantly, by asking this question the hiring manager also wants to see which information you think is important to offer up relative to the position you are interviewing for.

Tricky, right?

In leaving the question somewhat opened and unstructured, the hiring manager is trying to get a sense of whether or not you truly understand which experiences, skills and abilities are relevant for the position you are interviewing for. (This is key!)

If you focus on things that the company puts a lot of value in, BINGO!

You pass the test.

But if you just regurgitate the stuff you’ve already mentioned in your cover letter and resume, chances are the interview will be over before it has even started.

How you answer this question can reveal more about who you really are than you can ever possibly imagine…which means it’s a potential land mine…or a potential springboard to success.

So how does one answer this question?  The best way to understand this is to first talk about the common mistakes made by most job seekers.

facepalmCommon Mistakes

Okay, so as you might have guessed, this is one of the job interview questions that most people get wrong.  So in order to ensure you don’t end up as one of these people, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that people make:

1) Regurgitate Your Cover Letter and Resume

I touched on this in the section above.  This is not an invitation for you to simply list off your past accomplishments.

Yes, it’s important for you to highlight moments in your past when you were successful, but the real power lies in highlighting the accomplishments that are most relevant to this specific position (more on this in a minute).

2) Telling Your Life Story

This is probably the most common mistake that people make.  Why?  Because it’s the easiest way to answer this question.

“Well, I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas.  I was born in 1983 and spent most of my childhood hunched over a piano, striving to become a concert pianist (which I now am).  I love the outdoors – I’m and avid skier and mountain biker.  I really love working with my hands and spent a lot of my time in the woodwork shop.”

Look.  It’s great to share your personality with others.  But save it for after you get hired.

3) “Well, What Do You Want To Know?”

Congratulations. You just lost the job.

Why?

Because an answer like this tells an interviewer that you’re unprepared (yes, unprepared for an unstructured question. It’s not fair…but then again, neither is life…).

4) The 10-Minute Monologue

Speaking of unfair…don’t go off on a ten minute monologue all about you.

Keep it short.  A minute.  90 seconds at most.

There are going to be a lot more questions coming down the pipe that will allow you to elaborate on your various experiences, skills and accomplishments.  Don’t feel like you have to answer all of them at once.

How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” The RIGHT Way

Okay, so now that you have an idea of what you shouldn’t do, let’s dig a little deeper into exactly how you should answer this tough job interview question.

So what is the most important thing to remember?

Well, according to research conducted by Marc Cenedella over at the Ladders, the consensus of career coaches that he asked about how best to respond this question begins with one specific point:

“Focus on