How to answer "Tell me about yourself"

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"Tell me about yourself" – It's the classic icebreaker in job interviews, and acing it can be your ticket to a winning impression and a successful job offer. If you've got an upcoming interview, being prepared for this question can help you make a great first impression and significantly up your chances of landing the role that's right for you. Let's dive in and understand what interviewers really want to know when they ask this and how you can knock it out of the park.

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Picture this: both you and your potential future boss are trying to navigate the initial awkwardness of a job interview. Turns out, interviewers feel the pressure too! It's like breaking the ice at a social event. They want to get to know you, and they also want a positive interaction – not a scary one! – so they start with the simplest, most open-ended question that you can answer confidently.

This isn't just about making small talk. Interviewers are testing your communication skills – something that's gold in almost any job. Clear, confident communication is like a secret weapon that can set you apart. If you can chat easily and build a connection, they'll think you're already on the team.

It's also a nifty transition tool. Think of it as the bridge to deeper questions. Your answer can trigger follow-up questions, which can lead to meaningful conversations. See? It's all part of their master plan.

An example of a follow-up interview question that often comes from the 'tell me about yourself question is:

"I used to know someone by the name of ABC who also worked at YXZ around the time you worked there. Did you by any chance know them?"

Listen for these other ways interviewers might ask the same question: 

  • Tell me a little bit about your background.

  • Can you walk me through your work history?

  • Can you tell me more about your experience?

  • Tell me about your career path up to this point.

  • Give me a brief overview of your work history and experience.

  • How did you get to where you are today in your career?

A simple formula to answer the "tell me about yourself" question

You don't need to overthink to find the perfect answer to this question; here's a simple formula to guide you. We'll call it the past-present-future formula. 

You don't need to become a communications wizard to ace this question. Let's break it down into a simple, three-step formula. We call it the "Past-Present-Future" formula.

Start with the past

Give a quick snapshot of your previous job experiences – the ones that matter to this role. Think of it like a teaser trailer for a movie that's all about you. If you're eyeing a receptionist job, mentioning your time in customer service is golden.

Move to the present

Next, shed light on your current career pitstop. Mention your current job status and any major victories. This is your chance to show off a little. Winning an "Employee of the Month" award? That's the kind of sparkle you want to share.

Transition to the future

Wrap it up with your career goals. Explain why you're stoked about this role and why you're a match made in job heaven. Employers love seeing your enthusiasm for the gig. It's like showing up to a party with a killer dance move – they can't help but notice.

10 Tips on how to answer the question

But wait, there's more! Let's go beyond the formula and hit some expert tips for your answer.

Be real

Honesty is your best friend. No need to pad your resume with extra stuff. The truth works like a charm.

Keep it brief

Think of this question as a "Hello, nice to meet you!" handshake. Keep it light and relevant. No need to share your life story or hobbies – unless they're spot-on for the job.

Spotlight your skills

Got skills that fit the job like a glove? Show 'em off! Think of your top three skills that match the role. It's like wearing your best outfit to a party.

Highlight your personality

Think about your character traits that come into play on the job. For best results, focus on the kind of personality relevant to the job. For example, people who work in customer service should be friendly - that's a personality worth mentioning.

Stay professional

Casual chats are great, but don't steer off the professional road. Keep the conversation grounded in your career and skills. Save the Netflix binge stories for later.

Show your passion

Employers dig candidates who love the kind of work they do. Let your passion for the role shine – just keep it authentic.

Be time-savvy

One minute – that's your sweet spot for this answer. Some interviewers might even ask for a 30-second version. Keep it snappy but solid.

Skip the script

Remember, this isn't a memorization test. Let the conversation flow. Authenticity is your ticket to acing this question.

Know the job description

Read the job posting like a detective. It'll give you clues on what to highlight. If they want a team player, hint at your great collaboration skills.

Embrace positivity

No negativity here. Keep it upbeat and optimistic. Even if your last boss was more villain than hero, focus on the silver lining.

Example answers to the 'tell me about yourself' question

Now, let's see this formula in action. Check out these killer answers:

"I've been working as a sales associate for three years at Company XYZ. Managing registers, solving customer problems, and nailing the customer experience – that's my game. I work with a team of 10 fellow associates. My cherry on top? I scored the Employee of the Month honors – boom!”

"I’m a detail-crazed dynamo who's been acing the cashier gig for two years at Company XYZ. At shift end, I cash out my drawer with fewer errors than anyone. Plus I've got a knack for smoothing out any customer wrinkles. "

"Currently, I'm the top server at Restaurant XYZ. Got four years under my belt, and I've been a star player on a 10-person squad. Just recently, I snagged the Employee of the Month crown. Now, I'm geared up for my next adventure and I've got my sights set on growing with a winning company like yours. Your track record for nurturing go-getters like me is spot on, especially with that college sponsorship program!"

Here's why they work:

The pro examples hit all the high notes. They paint a clear picture of the past (your experience), the present (your current role), and the future (how you're a match made in heaven). Plus, they're just the right amount of punchy and professional.

No-go zones: what NOT to say

Don’t let one of these mistakes distract from your answer. Steer clear of these missteps:

  • Keep it professional. No oversharing on personal stuff.

  • Don't recite your resume. They've seen it.

  • Avoid bashing bash past bosses. Positivity is your ally.

  • Leave out unrelated experience. Focus on work that’s related to what you’re applying for.

The bottom line

You're prepped, polished, and ready to shine. Remember to practice, research, and most importantly, be yourself. Don't stress, keep your shoulders squared, and unleash that confident grin. Questions can't rattle a champ like you.