Posted on: January 22, 2024 Posted by: Comments: 0

Have you ever wondered how to answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question? Readers had a great threadjack a while ago, so we thought we’d round it up and add some of our own.

As part of our general interview advice, we’ve rounded up 5 things to always bring to interviews and how to deal with post-interview anxiety. Depending on where you are in your career, you may want to check out our best general interview tips, best on-campus interview tips, the best job application tips for mid-levels, or readers’ tips for women interviewing at high-level jobs.

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

If the “tell me about yourself” question is asked at the beginning of the interview, most readers agreed that this is the time to

talk about professional accomplishments in broad strokes

help explain anything unusual on the resume

{related: do you still apply even when you don’t meet the job requirements?}

Tell Them How Your Career History Means You’re a Great Fit for This Job

One commenter used Ask a Manager’s common “teapot analogy” to write a suggested script:

Over the past decade I’ve been gradually advancing in teapot manufacturing, and currently supervising a team of 20. However, as part of that role, I’ve started to become familiar with the tea flavor development field and want to move into that part of the industry. I know I’ll have some “learning the ropes” to do and so that’s why I’m interested in this individual contributor position now.

Another reader agreed, chiming in with her own script:

I’m a seasoned widget executive with 20 years of experience in senior leadership roles. I’ve successfully built new widget making strategic plans and scaled widget startups at X, Y, and Z companies, growing revenue to $X (or whatever metrics you can easily summarize), which is why I’m excited about this role to launch your new widget factory. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that I really excel when building and mentoring a team, a skill that translates to this role. I was happy to hear from you and look forward to further exploring how my skills and experience could be beneficial in this role, so thank you for reaching out.(assuming they reached out via LinkedIn) I was particularly impressed with your company’s focus/value/success on X (insert something interesting from their website) and would like to hear more!

{related: here’s how long your resume should be}

But: Keep Your Answer Focused On The Most Important Things!

For example, some readers noted that starting chronologically in your resume isn’t a good use of time because it isn’t memorable or even that informative.

Use the “WAT Method” to Answer the Question

One reader mentioned Instagrammer apowermood, who has some great advice involving what she calls the “WAT method” — W = what you do, A = accomplishments, T = tie-in to the interview. You can see her full suggested answer to the question here!

Use the Past/Present/Future Method

Another reader suggested giving one sentence about the past, one about the present, and one about the future.

Use the Question to Explain a Labyrinthine Career Path

I actually have a whole theory about how many, many great women have a kind of twisted career path with lots of different starts… and that’s OK! But if you’re feeling self conscious about it on your resume, one reader had great tips about how to use the “Tell Me About Yourself” question to explain that career path and the emotional/intellectual reasons behind the career changes and moves.

Here’s what she said:

I basically go through each step, starting from college, and mention a quick thing that I did in each place plus the reason why I made a change, and customize it to the person.

I was working at a consulting firm but wanted to do something more quantitative / work in a Specific Field so I went to grad school. If I know the interviewer or company has some connection to my college or grad school touch on that.

Mention almost emotional reasons – I wanted to do a different type of work, I wanted a less intense environment in the same field (everyone understands, this is fine and relatable to say), I wanted to finish out a project that I started. I try and tie things to the current job, or just what interests me in the job. I like problem solving, I like working on a big team and NewCompany also has these teams like JobILoved had, I like working in the field and the differences that brings.

Great advice!

Heavily Customize This Answer To Your Interviewer, the Job Opening, or the Company!

As the scripts above shows, there are a TON of ways to customize this answer for each and every job interview. This does involve a lot of research and preparation, but you should be doing this much preparation for every job interview anyway.

{related: 6 new rules for resumes you may not know}

What to Say If The Interviewer Wants to “Know Something That Isn’t On the Resume” at the End of the Interview

This is a related question, in some ways — the question may not be “tell me about yourself,” but it may be “is there anything about you that I should know that isn’t on your resume” or something like that… in that case, you can hopefully do a bit of prep work before the interview to decide which personality traits you want to highlight — and then, come up with stories (personal or professional!) that illustrate those traits.

As I’ve noted in previous posts with interview advice (aww, back in the first few months of the blog!),

Think about which of your personality traits to highlight. Try to recognize what it is about you that makes you a great catch for an employer. Are you creative, an outside-the-box thinker? A great manager? Someone who pulls teams together? These are the sorts of things that won’t appear on your resume and might not even come up through your references.

Now, once you’ve identified those traits, sift through your experiences to find examples of those traits in action, because showing is always better than telling when it comes to these things. Armed with two or three stories, you’ll be all set to casually drop them in when you interview. It’s a great way to prepare for those questions you can’t prepare for — (“What does your resume not tell me?”) — and it’s a great way to sound intelligent and charming but not rehearsed.

Readers, what’s your best advice on how to answer the “tell me about yourself” interview question? Do you have any thoughts we haven’t covered?

Stock photo via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio.

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