“Currently, I work at XYZ Restaurant as a hostess. I’ve been there for just over two years. My responsibilities include greeting and seating customers, assessing wait times, fulfilling to-go orders and answering the phones. I love the lively and busy environment of XYZ Restaurant—we often have Friday and Saturday wait times of one hour or more.
How To Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” in an Interview
Related video: Tell Me About Yourself: Top 6 Example Answers for a Job Interview
This video was designed to show you how to answer this tough interview question by showcasing great responses across a variety of job industries.
to get the conversation started. Other examples include “walk me through your resume,” “tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume” and “describe yourself.”
These questions are likely to pop up at every stage of the interview process—from phone screen to final rounds. It’s natural to be thrown by their ambiguity and it can be hard to identify what the interviewer really wants to know. But there is an opportunity for you here in that your interviewer is allowing you to choose how to respond.
In this article, we offer tips on what to avoid in your answer to the “tell me about yourself” interview prompt, how to structure your response and how you can get started as well as detailed “tell me about yourself” sample answers.
“Tell Me About Yourself” Example Answers:
Example Answer for Experienced Candidates:
“I graduated with a Business degree in 2010, and was offered an account management position from a telecommunications company I had interned with. I loved working with customers and managing and growing my accounts, but the industry we were in just wasn’t very appealing to me. After that, I stayed a full year and learned a ton about how to build and manage accounts successfully and I ended up becoming a top performer in my group before leaving. I left at the 1-year-mark to pursue a very similar position within an industry I’m much more excited about- healthcare. I’ve been at this healthcare startup space for 2 years with this company and I feel ready to take my career to the next level so that’s why I’m currently looking for a new opportunity.”
Example Answer With No Experience:
“I graduated with a degree in Engineering two months ago. I chose that field of study because I’ve always been interested in math and physics, and a couple of family members told me it leads to great career options. One of my key accomplishments during my academic career was speaking at a conference on the topic of energy-efficient window design, based on research I had done for one of my senior-level classes. This led to an internship that I just wrapped up, so I’m actively looking for a full-time position now.”
How To Answer, “Tell Me About Yourself” (A Formula)
There are a few different approaches you can take when answering that dreaded job interview question, but we prefer one simple formula that helps job seekers make a strong first impression in almost any situation.
Step 1: Tell them how you got to where you are today
But be careful not to dive too deep into your entire life story. Listing some personal interests and stories is fine but try to be concise in your answer.
What first made you interested in your professional field? How did you get started in your industry? How have you worked your way up from a recent position to your current position?
It’s important to start your answer by talking about your previous experience because it shows how you’ve developed your skills and how they can help the company.
“I’ve always been interested in how technology can help people communicate better, so I started working for a small company while still in school and eventually worked my way up to this role.
Step 2: Talk about your current job and responsibilities
“Currently, I’m leading my team in designing our next generation of products. We want to make sure that we create technology which will allow people all over the world to communicate better so it’s important for us to stay up-to-date on how it’s evolving.”
Step 3: Explain what your future goals are
The last step is to talk briefly about where you hope to go in the future. This could include how you want your career path to progress or how much longer you plan on staying in your respective industry.
Explain how your past and current job experience has given you the tools and skills necessary to succeed in this new role and how you can continue to grow as a professional.
Remember that this is just one example formula you can use for answering “tell me about yourself.” Feel free to adjust your answer based on how the hiring managers word their questions.
How Not to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”
Before we jump into the Big Interview Formula for crafting the perfect answer, let’s cover some of the most common mistakes you might make when answering “Tell me about yourself”. (If anybody is giving you the following answers as advice — run the other way!)
1. The Resume Rehash
Many candidates respond by launching into a recitation of their resume from the very beginning. That can turn into a very long monologue that starts with one’s oldest — and probably least relevant and impressive — experience. By the time you get to the good stuff, your interviewer has zoned out and is thinking about lunch.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to prepare a brief summary of the high points of each of your past positions. It is likely that you will be asked about your accomplishments and day-to-day responsibilities in previous roles. Ideally, this should come out in an engaging conversation, though, not a long monologue at the beginning of the interview. You’ll only confuse your interviewer with information overload.
Even if the interviewer specifically asks you to “walk him through your resume,” don’t take the suggestion too literally. You can still lead with your elevator pitch and then segue into an overview of your most recent position, leaving plenty of opportunities for the interviewer to jump in and engage with you.
2. Mr./Ms. Modesty
Many of my interview coaching clients make the mistake of being too modest. They reply with a humble or vague introduction that fails to clearly communicate their strongest qualifications for the gig.
Some of these clients are just humble people who aren’t comfortable with “selling” themselves. Others have never really had to worry about a strong pitch — they were always courted for new opportunities when the job market was stronger.
If you take time to prepare, you can find a way to present yourself to full advantage while staying true to your personality. For modest types, I recommend focusing on factual statements.
“Tell Me About Yourself” Sample Answers
- Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.
- Sure! So I’ve always enjoyed writing and public speaking, even going back to high school. This led me to pursue writing-related passions, for example in college, where I was an editor for our school newspaper. In addition to writing, I got to learn how to manage a team and the writing process. After college, I took a job at Acme as a social media manager, writing copy and social content for the company blog, but I raised my hand to work on the communications plan for a product launch which is where I discovered my interest in product marketing. After switching to a product marketing role and managing the two most successful new product launches last year, I realized I’m excited to take on a new role. I’ve learned I work best on products that I love and use, and given that I’m a big user of your company’s products I jumped at the chance to apply when I saw the open posting.
- I’ve been in the marketing industry for over five years, primarily working in account and project management roles. I most recently worked as a senior PM for a large tech company managing large marketing campaigns and overseeing other project managers. And now I’m looking to expand my experience across different industries, particularly fintech, which is why I’m so interested in joining an agency like yours.
Stav is the deputy editor at The Muse, where she covers careers and work with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Before joining The Muse, Stav was a staff writer at Newsweek, and her work has also appeared in publications including The Atlantic, The Forward, and Newsday. Stav earned a B.A. in history with a minor in dance at Stanford University and holds an M.S. from Columbia Journalism School. She won the Newswomen’s Club of New York’s Martha Coman Front Page Award for Best New Journalist in 2016. She prefers sunshine and tolerates winters grudgingly. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and can visit her website here.