How to answer the tricky 'Tell me about yourself' question in an interview

Job interviews can be tricky, especially when asked to speak about yourself. Have a clear idea on what you need to speak before heading for the interview. Don't look for answers when you are sitting across the interview table. Here is a guide on how to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question?

Most interviewees get flustered when the panel of interviewers sitting across the table pop the 'tell us something about yourself' question. Interviewees wonder what is there to tell, since all that was worth talking about is already mentioned in the resume.

You definitely don't want to tell the members on the interview panel about your personal life – where you were born, how many siblings you have and blah blah! That is not going to interest them. They want to know you the person better, and hence the question. So, how do you answer this tricky question?

Elaborate what's on your resume

Your resume is likely to include your qualification, achievements, interests and work experience in brief. You need to be prepared to talk about these in detail.

For example; against your qualification you have mentioned B.Tech in Metallurgy and Materials. An interviewer may ask you why you chose to do graduate in this subject while most people choose Computer Science, ECE, Mechanical engineering etc. Have a brief yet convincing response up your sleeve.

If you have work experience you might be asked to tell the panel about how the company you worked for gained from your service. Talk about any projects you headed/handled, about any new clients you got the company, about targets that you completed, about designing something new. Your aim will have to be to project your positives to the panel of interviewers.

Points to remember

So, what are the things that you will need to keep in mind when answering the 'tell me about yourself' question?

  • Keep in mind that you are at an interview, and maintain poise and decorum accordingly. Talk of things relevant to the job profile. No unnecessary jabber.

  • You can begin with mentioning your name and where you come from, but don't mention all the places you've lived in.

  • Keep all the details short and snappy, or else your interviewers will become disinterested in you.

  • Speak of your education, you can talk of the school you went to and where you graduated from. Talk of the stream you selected and why, you chose it.

  • You can continue to speak of your work experience if you have any. Chances are that you got picked for the interview because of your work credentials. You don't have to speak of all the jobs you did, instead speak of challenges that interested you in the jobs you did. For instance, you can speak of completing projects within limited time, and how it taught you to work more efficiently within a short time. You can mention working with limited staff and how it helped you hone your managerial skills – you learned to delegate work and get the most out of your subordinates. Keep it all very positive.

  • Mention any pay hike, commendations or promotions you received because of your quality of work. This shows you were a valuable employee.

  • If the interviewers are still interested and listening, you can speak of your philosophy in life; such as you're a go getter, you treat all men as equal, you can work under pressure, you're a team man etc. This will go to show your prospective employee your mindset and whether you are suitable candidate for the company.

  • Significance of the 'tell me about yourself question in an interview

    Interviewers ask candidates to speak about themselves so they can gauge their confidence level. They can assess the candidate to see whether he will be capable of serving in their company.

    Professional knowledge and is something that perhaps every candidate coming in for the interview will possess. Take the right approach to the 'tell me about yourself question' and turn it to your advantage. Highlight your plus points, because how you describe yourself will probably decide whether or not you land the job.

    Answer confidently and do not fumble or look for things to say about yourself. Speak as if you have qualities that will be an asset to the company. If you do not have much to share about yourself, it would not just be a show of lack of confidence, but will also project you as an under achiever.

    Also, practice what you will speak before you head for the interview. This will ensure that you don't appear to be looking for answers.

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    Author: Deepika Athi09 Jan 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 0

    useful article, thank you!

    Author: Anauj21 Jul 2015 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 0

    Thank you for reading the article. Yes, the 'tell me about yourself' can be a very tricky question to answer in a job interview. Candidates usually do not know where to begin or what to talk about. A guide on how to answer this tricky question can help aspiring job applicants answer the question with confidence and tact and improve their chance of getting selected for the job.

    Author: Swati Sarnobat27 Mar 2016 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

    Provide three type of details about you, personal, educational and career. You can explain the significant achievements of your life. Answer in short and do not mention your likes or dislikes. The interviewer should know about your family background, origin, educational background and your previous career.

    Author: Kailash Kumar27 Mar 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

    One should always be prepared to answer the 'tell about yourself' question. Perhaps a customized answer should be prepared prior to actually going for interview. It may require a little research about the company and the job requirement. One has to project that he/she totally fits the bill. The job requirements are to be matched with the educational background and work experience including the projects handled. Sprinkling of latest developments in the technical area as updated from the preparatory research may add value to the overall experience. Leadership qualities as evidenced by the available testimonials and mentioned in the resume may also be mentioned. It is possible for a smart interviewee to navigate the interview to his/her advantage by leaving trails which may prompt the interviewers to ask raise the next query accordingly.

    Author: Anauj16 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

    Swati -

    I do not suggest educational details should be spoken of when answering 'tell me about yourself' question. It is important to cover reasons behind the selection of the course and what was learned from it. Qualification details are present in the CV and the interviewer(s) would already have gone through the same. Personal details about family background should never be shared at an interview unless specifically asked.

    The question needs to cover facets that are not mentioned in the resume/CV. Things like traits and skills and abilities and drive. The answer should give the interviewer(s) an insight into the kind of strengths the interviewee would bring to the company.

    Author: Partha K.17 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

    Three questions, viz., 'Tell us/me about yourself', 'Do your own SWOT analysis' and 'Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years' are the three most common questions faced by the candidates during the interview. Nowadays most of the candidates prepare the reply to these questions beforehand. In this article, the author has discussed the proper answer to the first question. My suggestions in this regard are:-

    (a) Candidates generally prepare a 45 seconds answer and 2 minutes answer to this question. The length of the answer depends upon the overall duration of the interview.
    (b) This question is generally asked at the beginning of the interview. So the candidates may utilize this opportunity to create a positive impression in the minds of Interview Board members.
    (c) The answer must give details of personal background, education, present job (if any). The candidate must also include his/her educational and career achievements and his/her future goals and aspirations. All these three issues must be mentioned in brief.
    (d) The answer must be prepared beforehand, but the candidates must speak slowly and clearly before the Board. The style of answering should not create an impression that the candidate has learned the answer by heart and repeating it before the Board. The style of answering must reflect the candidate's confidence level.

    I thank the author for this article, which, without any doubt, would help many job-seekers.

    Author: Vandana23 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

    I smiled when I came across this article. It brought to mind the first question which Editor Jagdish asked me in my interview, namely "Could you describe yourself".

    As the title of this article indicates, it is indeed a tricky question to convey what you are all about. Tricky, because on the one hand you don't want to give a lengthy answer to the question which incorporates aspects of yourself which will bore the interviewer; on the other hand, how exactly do you compress yourself into a few crisp lines?! There is so much to yourself, your character traits & personality, which goes beyond your qualifications and work, that it is difficult really to verbally get across your "self" in a concise manner - it is something akin to precis work in writing skills!

    Author: Anauj29 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3


    In an interview scenario, the answer must always be related to skill sets that can work for the organisation. This is the time to exhibit expertise in different areas, not necessarily related to academics, so as to convince the interviewer of one's abilities. It is important to prepare oneself for the interview, so one knows exactly what to say. The question gets 'tricky' when it is unexpected.

    Of course, different situations require different answers. Your response would have required you, to be honest, to paint a vivid picture of who you are.

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