loading...

How To Answer The Dreaded "Tell Me About Yourself" Interview Question

karaluton profile image Kara Luton ・3 min read

So, you’ve landed an interview with a company you’ve been dreaming about working at. You sit down and after some small chat the interviewer says “tell me a little bit about yourself.”

This common question results in the first impression at your interview, but is often the most overlooked. In my experience from being on both sides of the interview, I believe that by crafting a unique and memorable answer to this one question, you can land the job. Here’s how.

Don’t recount your resume

A big mistake I see people make is using this question to go over their résumé.

Don’t do this! Your interviewer has already looked over your résumé and probably has it sitting in front of them during the interview. They don’t need you to go over it again.

Practice and prepare answers to any obvious questions your interviewer may have

You wouldn’t show up for a talk you’re giving at a conference without practicing over and over again, right? Make sure you don’t show up for an interview without doing the same.

Sit down a few days before and think of what questions an interviewer may have for you after looking at your résumé. Use this time to go ahead and answer those questions.

For example, I’m a coding bootcamp graduate who used to work in music publicity. A potential employer looking at my résumé may wonder why I wanted to transition from publicity to tech and they’d probably ask about the process I went through.

And so, that’s one of the main things I address in my answer, because I know that will be the biggest question and could cause the most hesitation when it comes to a potential employer choosing me.

Take a look at your own résumé as if you’ve never looked at it before. Figure out what those questions would be for you and be sure those are your main points in your answer.

Find your quirk

For the next portion of your answer, find something that will make you stand out. You want your interview to be memorable and this is a great way to accomplish that.

Have you started your own meetup group? Do you volunteer consistently at a charity? Are you super passionate about a certain sport? Find your quirk. Make sure to mention it and tie it in to why you’d be a great choice for the position.

I personally have mentioned that while I was at The Iron Yard’s front-end bootcamp, I co-founded the Nashville Tech Ladies chapter where I organize quarterly professional development meetups for women in all areas of tech. Sometimes I’ll even mention how I grew up doing ballet. I’ll describe how ballet has taught me many things, like how to pay attention to the little details, that I am now able to translate into my career.

Pick something that is uniquely you, and it will make a lasting impression.

Explain why you applied for the position

Lastly, round out the question with why you want the position and why you are excited about it. You applied to the position for a reason — so tell the interviewer why you did it. They saw something in you and this is a great moment to let them know why you think it’s a good fit.


What are your tips for answering this common interview question? Comment below! Be sure to follow me on Twitter for lots of tweets about tech, and if I'm being honest, lots of tweets about dogs too.

Posted on by:

karaluton profile

Kara Luton

@karaluton

From tutus to tech. Ballerina ➡️ music publicist ➡️ software engineer. Nashville Women Programmers organizer.

Discussion

markdown guide
 

I actually like this question because it allows me to speak about whatever I want and try to connect that to how I can be valuable for the company.

I love the "find your quirk" advice. I think that's my tactic, too, because when answering this question I usually talk about my background to mention my diverse coding experience and emphasize my adaptability and willingness to learn new stuff.

You could also use that question as an opportunity to speak about your values. People are usually impressed by that!

 

I agree! This question is so open ended and allows you to get ahead of any questions the interviewer may have.

 

When an interviewer asks this question, it tells me immediately that they were lazy in preparing questions and are just using generics.

My reply to this question is, "I don't have time to tell you my whole life story, do you have something specific you want to know?"

 

I don’t think this is a lazy question to ask at all. It’s a great way to start the conversation on a lighter note and learn a little more about the candidate besides what is on their resume.

 

I have asked that question before, but it is mostly heard from someone in HR that doesn't necessarily know anything about the technical aspects that dev roles require , and for the most part you get some pre thought out answer that the candidate thinks you want to hear.

The goal when interviewing is to get an insight into the candidate's thought process, and thus a focused and properly directed question can teach you much more about the individual than a rhyme they memorised.

So, if you want to know about their values, their hobbies, their interests, ask them directly.

But, if it works for you, then by all means :D

 

I'm ok with this questions, while I hate the "tell me about your greatest weakness" that usually follows.

 

The stock answer is to take a strength and put it as a weekness, like "Sometimes I have a hard time stopping until the problem is completely solved". If you want to play the game, you should use this. If you just don't care or have confidence otherwise, admit some true weakness (anyone ever does that)?

 

Yeah, that's a face palm moment. The sheer arrogance that this exhibits it's really bewildering. It's almost an insult.

 

I agree! That’s the one question I definitely don’t like since it doesn’t really tell you anything about a candidate.

 

It definitely depends on the intentions of the interviewer, but I find that it's a really good question to judge someone's humility. Everyone sucks at something, and being able to admit it without shame is really important in the workplace sometimes. There's a lot of times I will let pride take over and go into overdrive to finish a project when I could have avoided hours of stress, frustration and anxiety by just admitting to my manager that I totally lost track of time this week or getting someone to help review my code.

 

That's a very annoying question that always puts me off. It's not even a question, it's an invitation to tell them your life story.

I think the best answer would be something to what George Costanza did: youtube.com/watch?v=s8WbxUZbOPQ.

But seriously, I just reply now with "Ok, what would you like to know?".

 

This is exactly my point in this article though. You shouldn’t be telling your life story. You should be crafting an answer that will set the interview out on the right foot and leave a memorable impression.

 

Just tell them about you would be my answer. Not sure what the best strategy is but I think being relaxed and honest during an interview is key for its outcome.

It is one of those questions where there is no wrong answer to me. Of course you kinda have to put your answer within your professional/experience spectrum and not start talking about how you met your other half most probably but still I find it is a good opening question to "break the ice", start the interview in a relaxed fashion and try to connect with the interviewer.

 

Interviewer: Tell me about yourself.
You: Sure thing. There's a lot we could talk about. What do you want to hear about first?

 

Good tips! I've always struggled with this one.