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Making a great first impression during an interview is critical. While it's tempting to just list off your work background, this question is a great opportunity to stand out.
"Tell me about yourself" is a common icebreaker question asked in job interviews. It's usually the first question you'll be asked so it's critical you can answer it effectively to make a great first impression.
While it might sound like an easy question — after all, you know yourself better than anyone — it's not necessarily easy to answer. When you meet someone at a social event, it's perfectly normal to dive right into your personal life story. In a job interview context, however, things are a little more complicated because you need to respond to this question in a way that highlights why you're a good fit for this particular job.
You might be thinking: Do I just tell my entire life story? How much do I focus on past experiences? Do they want to hear about my personal interests and hobbies?
With a little preparation, your answer can help you stand out from the sea of job seekers, get the hiring manager invested in you, and land a job offer. In this article, we'll cover what the interviewer wants to know, how to prepare an answer to "tell me about yourself", and share a simple formula + sample answers to get you started.
When "tell me about yourself" is likely to come up
"Tell me about yourself," and common interview questions like it, are screening questions asked at every stage of the interview and usually asked first in the interview process. Whether you're having an initial screening chat, interviewing with your potential manager, or even a final video conferencing call with the CEO, this question is often asked because it eases both you and the interviewer into the interview conversationally.
Because it's an open-ended question, it provides an opportunity for the interviewer to hear a concise summary of your previous experience, career path, and current situation in your own words. A good answer will take this a step further and highlight how your previous experience, technical skills, soft skills, and personal traits make you a good fit for this particular role.
You may be asked this question in another form but the interview is usually looking for the same kind of answer. Here are a few common variations:
- What's your career path so far?
- What's your background?
- Tell me a little more about your journey
- I've read your resume and it sounds like a great fit, can you tell me more?
What the interviewer wants to know
Just like most remote interview questions, it's important to understand why interviewers are asking it in the first place. As with any interview question, the key to crafting an impressive and memorable answer is understanding why people are asking in the first place. Getting this right will help you stand out against a sea of other job seekers.
Opening an interview with "tell me about yourself" is a great conversation starter because it's open-ended and can be interpreted in many ways. As such, unprepared job candidates have a tendency to get flustered and spend too much time on irrelevant details. Just remember that at the crux of this question, interviewers have some pretty simple goals for the interview process: they want to get to know you to determine if you're a good fit for the job and company culture.
Organizations are built on trust and hiring someone is a big commitment for both parties. Bad hires are not only expensive but can have a negative impact on culture and bring down the performance and morale of current employees. Organizations need to be able to rely on remote employees to work autonomously and do their best work, and employees rely on their team members so that collaborative work can happen.
Interviewers are looking not only for signals that job candidates are technically qualified to do the job, but that they'll get along with the team and positively contribute to the company culture.
Remember that hiring managers have the same motivation as you do: they want to find job candidates that are the right fit for the job and company as soon as possible. They're actively invested in your success as much as you are, so all you need to do is tell them what they want to hear and you'll land a job offer.
How to answer “tell me about yourself”
Don't fall into the trap of just listing off your past experiences and technical skills; the interviewer wants to know you at a more personal level and is looking for soft skills such as communication, self-motivation, reliability, and social EQ.
If you're looking for a remote job, you should prepare to be asked "tell me about yourself" just as you would for any other interview question. A well-rounded answer is a great opportunity to demonstrate how skilled you are at communicating and thinking on your feet and is easy with a little bit of preparation.
If you follow the steps and example answers below, you'll dramatically increase your chances of making a great first impression and getting a job offer, especially when the majority of job candidates try to improvise an answer to this question on the spot.
1. Get clear on why you're applying for the job:
Being clear on why you're applying for the role is an important first step to answering this question, but it's also an important question to answer for yourself. After all, if you get a job offer, you want to make sure it's the job that you actually want (and can explain why it's the right step in your career).
For the interview process, developing a clear understanding and rationale for why you're applying for the job weaves into every answer you give, especially when answering "tell me about yourself". Remember, interviewers want to be comfortable that you're not only qualified for the job, but that you're a good fit for the role and have actually made the effort to consider this carefully before applying.
Start by reading the job description in full (you'd be surprised how many people don't do this). Look for indicators and clues as to what the hiring manager wants to hear, and how your past experience, technical skills, soft skills, and past experiences and challenges align with the new job's responsibilities. Doing this well helps reinforce why you're a perfect fit for the role.
2. Research the company and leadership:
Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the company if you haven't. Weaving this knowledge into your answer to "tell me about yourself" is a great way to demonstrate that you're committed to this role. Start with the company website, about us page, mission, and blog. It's also a great idea to listen to any public interviews with the leadership team, particularly if they're going to be your direct reports.
A good place to start is with our remote company database. If the company has a public employee handbook, you've struck gold. Not only will this knowledge help you shape your reply, but it'll help you prepare some insightful questions of your own.
Similarly to researching the job description, look for indicators that can help you strengthen your answer.
3. Evaluate your previous experiences, find alignment and focus on value you can add
Once you've researched the job and company, you'll have a deeper understanding of what's involved, how the team works remotely, and what the hiring manager is looking for.
Having a clear understanding of the company's mission, culture, leadership goals, and roadmap allows you to align your answer to "tell me about yourself" with your own career trajectory. To a hiring manager, this is a win-win relationship because it'll demonstrate that you're already sharing the same goals as the company and can grow with the team.
Consider the role requirements and the company's goals and trajectory. Now compare it to your previous experience and write down some ideas on how this particular role and this company align with your interests, career goals, and skillset. This might seem a little repetitive, but it's important to remember that these two need to align in every job interview answer you give. When you answer "tell me about yourself," the interviewer is actively looking for the alignment between your experience and skillset and what the company and role need specifically. Simply listing off your past experiences without any thought for this makes their job harder.
4. Practice your answer!
Even though "tell me about yourself" is an open-ended question and usually a conversation, you still need to practice answering it. Even if it feels a little silly rehearse them out loud until you're comfortable answering this question — you're not going to get it right the first time, so don't let that first time be in front of the interviewer. Reading from notes is good, but rehearsing out loud is better (both for your memory and confidence in delivering the answer).
Jot down some draft responses where you talk about your journey so far. Weave in how you can bring value to this story based on what you've learned about the job, company, and what the interviewer is looking for. Don't be afraid to embellish a little here — be proud of your past successes and share them. To an interviewer, this demonstrates confidence and trust in your own abilities.
Useful tip: You'll quickly learn how hard it is to remember your answer from a script. So don't put too much pressure on yourself to answer it word-for-word! Even just dot points will suffice and with some practice, it'll come naturally. Try recording your answers to "tell me about yourself" and other common interview questions you're expecting and play it back to yourself leading up to the interview. This will help you internalize it, relax, and gain confidence through preparedness.
How to structure your answer to "tell me about yourself"
If the above seems overwhelming, we've got a simple formula you can use to prepare a great response. This "present-past-future" structure is a way to share your work experience, relevant skills, and then finish by tying them all together with your goals for the future that align with the company.
- Present (where you are now): Start with your current role and current situation. Keep it brief, but make sure you share any relevant responsibilities, skills, successes, or promotions. Bonus points here if you can include metrics that show how you've added value. This is also a great time to reference any hobbies, passions, or personal details/projects you're invested in, especially if they relate to the job or industry you're applying for.
- Past (how you got here): There's no need to share every tiny detail of your career path, but pick out any relevant past experiences or jobs that are relevant and share how these have shaped your skills and career path. If you can, try to frame these as valuable "stepping stones" in your career that have taught you a lot and have led you to the role you're applying for.
- Future (what you're looking to achieve): This is where you tie it all together. Focus on what you're looking for next, what your goals are, what excites you about the role/company you're applying for, and how you can bring value. Finish on a positive note here.
Of course, your response doesn't need to match this structure exactly — think of this as a guide. You can also go with a past-present-future structure if it feels more natural. "Tell me about yourself" is an open-ended question and your answer depends on your own experience and the job you're applying for.
Remember, if you're interviewing for the role, the hiring manager has likely already reviewed your experience and decided you might be a good fit from an experience or technical skills standpoint. The goal isn't to just share your story, but to share it in a way that signals to the hiring manager that you're not only technically qualified for the job, but have the right soft skills and goals that align with the team and culture, and that you have thoroughly researched the job and company.
Example answers to "tell me about yourself"
As we've covered, how you answer the interview question "tell me about yourself" will depend on your motivation for applying for the role and what the interviewer is looking for. What matters is that you've spent some time researching both and can clearly articulate that you're a good fit in your answer.
Use these sample answers to "tell me about yourself" as a base and adapt them to suit your specific situation.
"Of course! I'm based in Melbourne and currently a Customer Success Manager at Zeller, where I lead a team of 6 helping to onboard new small businesses onto the platform. It's been a great role so far and I love helping customers, especially when they're just starting out. Giving them the tools to grow their business is a great feeling because it's hard enough to get started.
I started in early 2020 and have helped lead our CX team from 3 to 20 people and our NPS score is the highest in the industry which I'm super proud of! Outside of work, I'm super into cycling, I donate some time each week to a women's shelter, and I write a small blog on customer experience and UX that is starting to get some traction.
Prior to Zeller, I worked at Airtable and Deel in similar B2B customer support roles. These were both great jobs — they were fast-paced and I learned how larger growth companies scale their customer success functions efficiently. I also learned how to be a wizard at Salesforce, Looker, and SQL.
While I really enjoy the work that I do at Zeller, I'm finding that my career has stagnated a bit now that the team is running smoothly. I've been following Square's amazing growth for years and have always looked at your CX team for best practices — it's truly amazing what your team has done to level the playing field for small businesses. I'd love the opportunity to help Square scale efficiently here in Australia to support more customers and the chance to onboard larger, enterprise-scale customers."
Why it works: This isn't a general answer. It shows the interviewer that you've read the job description, researched the company, are passionate about helping customers and understand how you could contribute to the company's mission (in this case, helping businesses worldwide). It also shows that you understand Square's tech stack and how your skills and prior experience could help.
"I've been a frontend developer for about 6 years now and have worked mainly in agencies. I'm currently contracting for an agency called rtCamp and a little bit of freelance work. It's been great and pretty flexible — I'm mainly working on a bunch of different eCommerce projects, mostly built with WordPress. They're a remote team so I can go from my office to the surf which is pretty great! We moved from the city to the coast in 2020 to start a family.
The past few years, I've been investing more and more of my time into the no-code space and teaching myself to be better at UI design. It's incredible how far frontend web builders have come and I've started convincing a few clients at rtCamp to go with Webflow for projects. Long story short, I'm sold.
Why it works: You've clearly researched the company, in fact, you've done one better by being an active user of the company's product and recommend Webflow to your own clients. You've also outlined to the interviewer how your previous experience and technical skills could apply to the role. Even better, you're clearly passionate about the company's values (something hiring managers always look for) and highlight how your personal values align perfectly with Webflow's mission to empower everyone to create for the web.
"I’ve been passionate about web design since I was in high school. I remember using Photoshop on my school computers for the first time and was hooked. Since then, I've always wanted to pursue web design as my career and studied UX and Digital Media Design at Sisyphus College.
Since graduation, I've worked at several agencies across graphic design, web design, and more recently, UI design where I've been building out design systems in Figma and working on large-scale projects for clients like Nike, Afterpay, and Salesforce.
Working at agencies has been incredible for upskilling and working on different projects. It's rewarding seeing them live, but usually, they're one-off and I move onto something else once we wrap it up. I've decided it's time I want to focus my skills on UX design and dedicate myself to a single project I'm passionate about.
I've been a Mailchimp customer for years running a small design newsletter in my spare time. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of the product, but I'm also in awe of your design team — it's pretty hard to find such a memorable brand in this space and everything I read about Mailchimp speaks to the craftsmanship of your design team. While this role is a big step up from my current job, I'm excited to take on new challenges and really dedicate myself to a single mission. I believe my experience working across so many different design disciplines and passion for branding and UX will be a great asset to your design team."
Why it works: You've clearly articulated why you've decided to leave your current job, what transferable skills you have from working in agencies, and why you're excited about Mailchimp. You're clearly passionate about the product! While the role isn't perfectly aligned with what you're currently doing and a "big step up", you've humbly acknowledged this and expressed how motivated and excited you are to level up and put the work in. It's an added bonus that you've been a Mailchimp customer for years and love the brand — this indicates that you're already familiar with the product, but also that you're a self-starter and motivated enough to run your own newsletter.
Tips for answering "tell me about yourself"
As we've covered, your answer to this interview question will vary depending on the company, role, and your experience. Don't be afraid to get creative with your response and deviate from the sample answers above if it helps tell a story! Interviewers love outside-the-box answers from job candidates, so the more colorful you can make it the better. Here are some extra tips you need to know to make the best impression:
- Don’t recite your resume or take too long (2 mins or less): Remember that the interviewer already has your resume and isn't looking for every detail of your career path or life story. Part of this question is assessing how well you communicate. Try to be as succinct as possible — it's easy to ramble for 10 minutes with such an open-ended question and this can get boring. There's no right answer for how long your response should be, but the above examples are a good benchmark. Just make sure you're reading the room and try to wrap up faster if the interviewer is looking distracted or bored.
- Remember this is your first impression: More often than not, "tell me about yourself" is the opening interview question you'll be asked. Most hiring decisions and first impressions are made up within the first minute, so make sure you're prepared to put your best foot forward. This includes non-verbal body language such as eye contact, posture, and handshake (if face-to-face). For video conferencing interviews, check out our post on Zoom interview tips.
- Don't be afraid to share hobbies or projects: In general, as long as your projects, passions, and hobbies don't interfere with your job, employers are happy for you to pursue them. Having interests outside of work is a great signal to hiring managers, especially if they're related to the job because they show that you're motivated and a self-starter. Always drop them in — they could be the differentiating factor between you and another job applicant.
- You don't need to share personal information unnecessarily: There's no need to discuss private or personal matters in your answer unless you think they're relevant. This includes details about your family members or children. It's also a good idea to avoid potentially contentious subjects such as religion or political affiliations. While they may be important to you, they're usually not relevant to the job and the interviewer may even be biased one way or the other.
- Keep it positive and professional: As with all job interviews, always try to conduct yourself in a positive and professional manner. While it can be tempting to speak poorly of a previous job or manager, try to focus on the positives and what you learned from your past experiences. Badmouthing or blaming past employers is a massive red flag for potential employers.
Possible follow-up questions
- Do you have any questions for me? Read our guide on the best questions to ask in an interview.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What can you contribute to this company? This question is similar to "Why do you want to work here?" And will only be asked as a follow-up if you weren't able to articulate your value in your answer.
- Any number of behavioral interview questions. Be sure to use the STAR method when answering.
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