"Tell Me About Yourself" Interview Question

Q: Is the "tell me about yourself" interview opener a make-or-break question, or more of a 5 minute warm-up where I can share where I was born, my story, and what I am interested in?

Well, first off, you should never spend 5 minutes answering any question. You should practice answering questions in short, concise statements that last no longer than 1 to 2 minutes.

With regard to the "tell me about yourself" question, many interviewers like to start out with a general question like this to allow you to steer the conversation in a direction that you want. You should take advantage of this, and highlight some key points from your background that accentuate your strengths and invite your interviewer to ask follow-up questions. However, make sure you answer the question as it is asked. If your interviewer asks you to summarize your resume in a couple of minutes, make sure you answer the general question as you move from strength to strength.

It is not a "make-or-break" question. It is a "break the ice" question, and an opportunity for you to get comfortable with the interview process. Learn to use it to your advantage. By the way, I am assuming you are kidding about going back to when you were born, but just to be clear, you should focus on relevant experiences that will show your interviewer that you will perform well in the job at hand. A little bit of local color is fine, but don't expand the question to too much detail, or you will lose the interviewer's attention and turn an advantage into a disadvantage.

Comments (11)

Apr 3, 2014


Like the life you are living, and live the life you like

Apr 3, 2014

You should have an answer to this question ready in nearly any interview.

"Tell me about yourself" is really a signal that the interviewer is being lazy. It is your opportunity to make a sales pitch. What do you bring to the table that the company doesn't already have? How do you add an extra device to his swiss army knife of a team?

This question is your opportunity to sell.

Apr 3, 2014

I say mine exactly the same. Same pitch, tone, etc. The only difference is that in person they see my body language and winning smile.

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Apr 3, 2014

Ehh...I wouldn't try this. I'd much rather have some control of the interview, so you can steer the conversation towards your strengths and highlight what makes you a competitive candidate.

If you ask what they'd like to know, they could ask about anything, and there's a chance you may have little or no proficiency in thye area of interest, leaving you in a less than great spot at the start of the interview.

Plus, this is a pretty standard question, if anything I can see interviewers being annoyed with people trying to get creative with it.

Apr 3, 2014

I think you can definitely make it more concise on the phone. It's easier to lose them because they can start looking through their email or reading another document on the phone whereas in person they have to at least pretend to be interested to you.

Apr 3, 2014

tell me about yourself is the best question to get in an interview. You can totally steer the discussion, you can make your pitch exactly as you prepared it (which should already be totally prepared), and you can burn a lot of time, which will decrease the available time to hit you with technical or brain teasers.

It's a gift

Apr 3, 2014

Interviewer: "Tell me a little about yourself"
You: "What would you like to know"
Interviewer: "What I just asked you for"

This is your chance to, as the other posters said, steer the discussion while making a personal sales pitch.

Apr 3, 2014