Death and taxes are not the only certainties in life. The interview command, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ is just as much of a foregone conclusion. And perhaps as predictable are a range of head-scratching, almost humorous answers to this directive. Here, I would like to provide ‘Tell me about yourself examples’– from the good, bad, and the downright ugly.
Let’s first explore several taboo ways to frame a response. Candidate A is rather aloof and reticent, almost guarded. He responds, I’m not big on feelings. I’m a guy who is soft-spoken and minds his own business. What else do you want to know”
This candidate has put himself at an immediate disadvantage, even if the position is to serve as an accountant. The interpretation of the interviewer’s inquiry centered on personality. When you’re talking about yourself to the interviewer, you can provide a glimpse into your mindset/heart/soul … only a glimpse … but it’s best to focus on your work experience, and even your education, if applicable.
Candidate B also does not handle this opportunity for self-reflection / expression well. She begins with a soliloquy about all her accomplishments, from the time she was in elementary school to life after college. She does not come up for air and she asphyxiates any chance of landing a job by her runaway-train style of communication. She is giving way too much information, and much of it is not relevant to the position. The interviewer smiles hearing the response, out of courtesy and the knowledge that she has just narrowed down the candidate pool by one.
Candidate C’s response will make it more unlikely for him to get to the point of signing any employment papers: ‘I don’t know what to say,’ he offers, after hemming and hawing for what seems like an eternity. While I really empathize with this candidate, the purpose of my article, ‘Tell Me About Yourself Examples,’ is to provide a framework in which to structure a meaningful, intelligent response.
Think of talking about yourself in four components:
Opening statement – Bob Firestone, author of The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Answers, calls this the ‘elevator pitch.’ You’re just providing one or two particulars about yourself. For example, “Since the time I was young, I always had a passion for helping others. My volunteer experiences were always so enriching, especially my tenure at the Lighthouse, the school for the blind. It made me feel great to make a difference.’
You can alternatively mention some personality traits. ‘I tend to be very self-reflective and curious. I always want to learn new things, and possess a stick-to-itiveness when I have to come up with solutions.’
Regardless of your exact answer, you’re engaging, friendly, and professional.
– Transition – Now, don’t go off on tangents. Bring your response back to career aptitudes, interest, and experience. ‘In terms of career, my approach is to provide nurturing and creative experiences for the children. I want them to retain their innate inquisitiveness, and feel perfectly at ease, asking any questions. I’ve always been able to bond with my students, and I like to think that my teaching methodologies helped them excel.’
– Elaborate – You’re providing some details in the part of your answer, not just giving nebulous generalities. ‘On average, the students in my class last year scored 20% higher on their state tests than the year before.’
Show enthusiasm for the current offering! ‘Now I’m ready for a new challenge. I believe this position suits my abilities and talents, and I believe that I can become a difference maker here. I’m especially qualified to implement the Charlotte Danielson framework as I know this school follows the Danielson rubric.’
(Demonstrating knowledge about an aspect of the employer will provide some much-needed brownie points.)
– Wrap it up – You can say: ‘This is just a small glimpse into who I am and only a quick overview of my past experience. At the end of this meeting, you’ll know a lot more about me than just what’s on my resume (smiling).’
You need not detail all your strongest points in this ‘Tell me about yourself’ directive. Your answer should not be too short (one sentence) or too long (2-3 minutes is ideal). Your response is built around what you perceive as the general employee qualifications for the job and/or the job’s demands. Show a little personality, but the brunt of your answer centers on the attributes and skills you bring to the job.
Now with all this in mind, Candidate D, applying for a customer service position offers a good tell me about yourself response, but not a great one:
‘I’ve always had a keen interest in customer service. It’s very gratifying to help others, especially when they’re looking for resolution to their problems. I’ve worked in customer service positions all my life, and through dedication and hard work, I’ve managed to assume managerial status. I’m ready to assume an executive role within your organization.’
Upon first analysis, the response is fine but could be sharpened. This applicant offers no detail about past work experience, or insight into the employer. He is commended, however, for not digressing and framing a response around the prerequisites to do the job.
Now Candidate E has prepared for her interview, and has even read the Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Answers. This is an example of tell me about yourself gone right:
(Opening) ‘From my earliest memory, I’ve been fascinated by numbers. My mom once told me that I learned the numbers 1-100 before any letters of the alphabet. Numbers always made sense to me, and appealed to my logic and reasoning.
(Transition and Elaboration) This has served me well in my bookkeeping career. I’ve worked over 15 years at Bookkeepers Anonymous, in charge of clients’ financial records. I was responsible for the finances of our largest client – a company that had over 1,000 employees. I did their entire books – everything from accounts payable to accounts receivable, from tax report preparation to employee payroll management.
I’m now prepared for a new challenge, using accounting software to process journal entries, online transfers and payments. I’m especially adept at Excel which is what your company seems to favor.
(Wrap up) All in all, I’m grateful for this opportunity and feel that my skills and qualifications match up well with the listed job qualifications. I’m excited about the prospect of working for Bookish Bookkeepers as I’m truly interested in using my expertise in spreadsheet creation and analysis.’
Hopefully, the above tell me about yourself example will reveal some best interviewee communication practices. You should, of course, be able to tailor your answer to fit your specific experience, and the job/employment you wish to secure.
The next time an interviewer gives you the old ‘tell me about yourself’ prompt, you’ll know what not to say and what to include.
Please don’t be fooled if your interviewer frames the inquiry differently, such as ‘Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.” You’re still going to provide a structured answer, following the above parameters.
You’re now on your way to properly talking about yourself and talking the prospective employer into hiring you!