What is the best way to answer the “Tell Me About Yourself?” Question

Written by Jennifer Evans, Executive Legal Recruiter

Recently, I commented on a post about how to answer the question – “Tell me about yourself?” – the most frequently asked interviewing question. Based on the response, I thought I would expand on my thoughts.

When I ask the question,  “Tell me about yourself?” it is an icebreaker:  it is a way for me to get the interview started and to get a quick sense of someone’s personality.  There is no hidden agenda, and it is not to meant to be an overly challenging question; however, many struggle with the response.

In my 25+ years of interviewing, I have received a variety of answers; some definitely better than others.

 The Majority Fall into One of the Following Categories:

  •  The Talker – A complete life/professional summary of their experience that goes on, and on, and on. A 10-minute response is too long!  (Personally, I think 5-minutes is too long).
  •  The Deflector – Responding with a question first; “Can I ask you some questions first?”, and then he/she starts asking me a bunch of questions.  (This is often referred to as the SPIN approach. This can work but only with the savviest of professionals.)  Or, I will get “What do you want to know?”  This is a fairly strong response and can also work, but finesse is important otherwise it comes off defensive or overly aggressive.
  • Choked – The super nervous who just don’t know what to say, so they stumble & rambling offering random information.
  • Nailed It – Those that are comfortable & who give a quick friendly response setting the tone for the interview.

So, How Do You Answer the Question Well? I recommend focusing on the following Four Cs: 

  • Conversational – Since, this is truly an icebreaker question, it is important to express warmth and have good eye contact & voice control.  Be engaged and show the interviewer you are excited to be there.
  •  Connect – Your response should include something that connects you specifically with the job you are interviewing for.
  •  Creative – It should be interesting enough to be your personal story so it draws me in – Not a canned summary of your résumé.
  •  Concise – A good response should be 1-2 minutes tops.  This takes practice! Don’t feel like you have to offer a lot more.

Here is an Example of What I Might Say: 

“Sure, I’d be happy to. (Conversational – this sets a tone of friendliness & engagement.)

I have been in legal recruitment for over 25 years spanning from career coaching to selling a search practice. (Connects me to position – Assuming I am applying for a leadership position in legal recruitment/talent acquisition.)

After, working for 19 years, I returned to get a degree in Business Leadership & confirmed that talent acquisition really matches up well with my strengths & personality.  I am looking forward to hearing how I can offer value to this position.  (Creative & Concise – I am offering some personal info, but keeping it open, so I can lead them into wanting to get to know more about me.)

If you are still “winging it” in interviews, I would encourage you to take the time to really think about how to respond to this question.  A good response takes preparation and practice.