How to Answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question in an Interview

FT Contributor  | 

Open-ended questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” are common questions asked in job interviews. These questions allow you to answer off the cuff and begin a candid conversation with the interviewer. Many hiring managers ask open-ended questions like this so they can get more in-depth information on your background and begin to see your personality more clearly.

As an interviewee, these types of questions can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s hard to know exactly what type of answer the interviewer is looking for. While you want to provide adequate and relevant information, you also don’t want your answer to drag on too long.

When answering these open-ended questions, relate your answer back to the position you’re applying for. While you should be talking about yourself, focus on how your qualities relate to the position. Prepare for your job interview and open-ended questions such as “tell me about yourself” by implementing these strategies to develop thoughtful answers.

Highlight Personality Traits

Your personality traits are an important part of your job candidacy and should be touched on in any job interview. Consider the position you’re applying for and the personality traits you have that will be useful in the role. Common personality traits that may impress potential employers include the following:

  • Team-player.
  • Communication.
  • Leadership.
  • Optimistic.
  • Enthusiastic.
  • Disciplined.

Your positive personality traits are strengths that will help show why you’re a good fit for the position. Tailor the traits you list in your job interview to the traits you think a person who’s successful in the job needs to possess.

Provide Examples of Strengths

When an interviewer asks the open-ended question, “Tell me about yourself,” you can use the opportunity to highlight your strengths. Potential employers want to know what you’re good at and how your past experiences have shaped you into a capable and successful worker. Identifying your greatest strengths before you go to the interview ensures you don’t forget to mention what makes you a good fit for the position.

Consider your hard skills, or the skills you learned from education and training. In addition to touching on these skills, you can also mention some of the soft skills you possess, which are the skills you’ve learned through to master through your past experiences. Emphasize your interpersonal skills or other abilities you have that you think are important in the role you’re interviewing for.

Mention Proven Successes

You can go a step further and show how your strengths, skills, and personality traits are put to use by providing success stories. Potential employers want to see how you use your skills to perform tasks and excel at your assigned duties.

When reviewing job interview tips, you may notice how important it is to talk about past experiences you’ve had that can prove your rate of success and dedication to your job. Consider a time you went above and beyond for your job or you hit a major goal in a past position.

Rehearse a few of these stories before attending your job interview so you feel confident providing details to the interviewer. Be sure the stories you tell portray you in a positive light, don’t include conflict, and demonstrate your valuable work ethic.

Keep It Brief

When an interviewer asks you an open-ended question, it’s tempting to provide a long-winded answer. You want to be sure you’re highlighting all your positive qualities and skills while providing enough information for the interviewer to get a sense of your personality.

However, your answer should be brief yet powerful. When you begin to ramble on about your past experiences or irrelevant skills, you can overwhelm the interviewer or make them question your interpersonal and social skills. Practice your answer to “tell me about yourself” and ensure it includes only a few key components about yourself that relate to the position.

Avoid Sensitive Topics

While it’s important to ensure the interviewer gets a sense of who you are during the interview process, there are a few topics that are off-limits. Stay on topics that relate to the position, such as your professional experience or education.

However, avoid talking about controversial or sensitive topics, such as politics and religion. These are subjects that should also be avoided in the workplace. If you bring them up in a job interview, it may be a red flag for the interviewer that you may cause conflict among co-workers in the workplace.

Giving too much information relating to your personal opinions on these sensitive topics may also cause controversy in your interview. If the interviewer has opposing opinions, you may not be seen as a viable candidate in their eyes. It’s best to stay focused on your positive qualities and personality traits that make you a good fit for the position.

Practice Your Answers

It’s easy to allow your nerves to get the best of you in a job interview. One of the best ways to ensure you remain calm and provide thorough and thoughtful answers is to practice the interview beforehand. Conducting mock job interviews with friends and family members allows you to make mistakes and learn what you need to improve on.

After conducting your first mock interview, ask your friend or family member how you can improve. Conduct several more practice interviews until you feel your responses to all questions are strong and thorough yet concise. Ensure the responses you’re planning to provide relate to the specific job you’re interviewing for and display the qualities and skills you possess that will be helpful in the role.

When attending a job interview, open-ended questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” can rock your confidence and throw you for a loop. If you have a concise and powerful answer prepared that highlights your qualifications and skills, you’re likely to impress your interviewer and move on in the hiring process.


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