How to Answer 'Tell Me Something About Yourself' in an Interview

Respond to this question confidently and fluidly.

Respond to this question confidently and fluidly.

Whether talking about yourself is easy or you freak out at the prospect, doing it in a job interview is different than in virtually any other context. This question is often used to see how you respond to open-ended questions. It's not your invitation to rattle on about how much you like cats or your bad luck with cars. In fact, it's really not about you at all. Without sounding conceited, use your response to persuade the interviewer that hiring you, with your particular skills, experience or character traits, is a smart move that will help the company solve problems or achieve its goals.

Prepare your answer to this question before you go to any job interviews. Focus on combining specific elements of your experience with the key things the company is seeking, based on what you've learned from your research. Leave out the details of your childhood or your party life at college -- this is not the kind of information a prospective employer wants.

Practice responding to this question by role-playing with a friend or co-worker. Do it in front of a mirror or make a video of yourself answering this question so you can identify any uncomfortable pauses or expressions. You might want to develop a few variations on the basic answer, tailored to the type of jobs you're seeking and what each prospective employer wants.

Answer the question calmly and directly during the interview. Don't stumble or hesitate, or respond with another question. "What do you want to know?" or "Gosh, I don't know where to start" might seem cute when you're talking to that new hunk at the gym, but it's likely to leave a prospective employer thinking you're both ill-prepared and unprofessional.

Tell the interviewer what he wants to know -- in other words, answer the unasked part of this question. What about you, and what you bring to the table, will help him or the overall organization meet its goals and be successful? Include specific examples of your background or character that fit in with the company's culture or future plans, such as "Organizing community-wide charity events for the Kids' Club is a passion of mine because I love the challenge of working with a variety of groups and successfully coordinating all the different elements involved. That's why the prospect of establishing your new worldwide widget project is so intriguing to me."

Warning

  • Don't just rehash what's on your resume. The interviewer already has that information. Use that as a foundation to sell him on why you're the best candidate for the job.
 

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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