10 Better Ways to Answer the Tell Me About Yourself Question

You know it’s coming.

It’s the most feared question during any job interview: Do you think I would look good in a cowboy hat?

Just kidding. The real question is: Can you tell me about yourself?

Blecch. What a boring, vague, open-ended question. Who likes answering that?

I know. I’m with you. But unfortunately, hiring managers and executive recruiters ask the question. Even if you’re not interviewing and you’re out networking in the community — you need to be ready to hear it and answer it. At all times.

Now, before I share a list of 10 memorable answers, consider the two essential elements behind the answers:

The medium is the message. The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm and passion with which you answer it.

The speed of the response is the response. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem.

Next time you’re faced with the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself…” question, try these:

  1. “I can summarize who I am in three words.” Grabs their attention immediately. Demonstrates your ability to be concise, creative and compelling.
  2. “The quotation I live my life by is…” Proves that personal development is an essential part of your growth plan. Also shows your ability to motivate yourself.
  3. “My personal philosophy is…” Companies hire athletes – not shortstops. This line indicates your position as a thinker, not just an employee.
  4. “People who know me best say that I’m…” This response offers insight into your own level of self-awareness.
  5. “Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” Tech-savvy, fun, cool people would say this. Unexpected and memorable.
  6. “My passion is…” People don’t care what you do – people care who you are. And what you’re passionate about is who you are. Plus, passion unearths enthusiasm.
  7. “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…” An answer like this shows that you’ve been preparing for this job your whole life, not just the night before.
  8. “If Hollywood made a move about my life, it would be called…” Engaging, interesting and entertaining.
  9. “Can I show you, instead of tell you?” Then, pull something out of your pocket that represents who you are. Who could resist this answer? Who could forget this answer?
  10. “The compliment people give me most frequently is…” Almost like a testimonial, this response also indicates self-awareness and openness to feedback.

Keep in mind that these examples are just the opener. The secret is thinking how you will follow up each answer with relevant, interesting and concise explanations that make the already bored interviewer look up from his stale coffee and think, “Wow! That’s the best answer I’ve heard all day!”

Ultimately it’s about answering quickly, it’s about speaking creatively and it’s about breaking people’s patterns.

I understand your fear with such answers. Responses like these are risky, unexpected and unorthodox. And that’s exactly why they work.

Otherwise you become (yet another) non-entity in the gray mass of blah, blah, blah.

You’re hireable because of your answers. When people ask you to tell them about yourself, make them glad they asked.

Let me ask you this: How much time did you dedicate this week to becoming more interesting? Let me suggest this: For the list called, “61 Stupid Things to Stop Doing Before It’s Too Late,” send an e-mail to me (scott@hellomynameisscott.com.) , and you win it for free!

Scott Ginsberg is an Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist and Mentor. This post was originally was published in TheLadders.com

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Have some tips on how to answer the inevitable, So Tell Me About Yourself Question?  Spill below.

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  • http://www.balancedworklife.com/blog Bryce Christiansen


    This is great. I especially like the Google one, because the way Google ranks sites is by an endorsement system of other sites linking to you.

    So if Google says you are an awesome social media specialist, that means several others are probably saying that about you.

    Great idea.


  • http://www.diresta.com Diane DiResta


    I loved your article. It’s a creative approach to the dreaded tell me about yourself question.
    Good job. (No pun intended).


  • http://worrylessenjoymore.com damir


    Good stuff. My favorite part is “I can summarize who I am in three words.”

    It says a lot in few seconds.


    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Damir, I would love to know your three words…. I can see from your picture that you are creative. Not everyone would do the dramatic thing and go for a black background.

      As for myself, I always use my three words: indefatigable creative energy!

      • http://worrylessenjoymore.com damir

        Hey Diane,

        So you like the black? Me too, it was different so I liked it a lot.

        I use a lot “Believe in yourself”

        • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

          Indeed! Believing in yourself is where it begins. Sheryl Sandberg harps on that message too, in her TED talk, which can be seen here: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html.

          On a different note, I took the liberty of going to your site, and you are rocking with your time management tips. I especially liked your embedded video–nice sound track–so I signed up… at http://www.worrylessenjoymore.com/ since I sometimes find myself down the rabbit hole, and the biggest constraint on any small business is TIME!

          • http://worrylessenjoymore.com damir

            Time is my second core value, for me everything revolves around that. I will be doing some videos in short future about time management. For formula is – manage your life and you will manage your time on autopilot.

            I like the video too and music has that ‘happy’ mode that I quite like

  • http://www.SeniorCommunityGuide.com Ann Alka WorkingBoomer

    Excellent writing and information. This one always makes a person hesitate. You explained it very well. Thank you and I will be back to read more.

  • http://www.amiraclemolecule.com/mindy Mindy Anderson

    Very concise. I gained a tremendous amount of information in such a short article. Thank you.

  • Dariusz

    Excellent article – succinct with great content value. Since I was taught how not to oversimplify complex matters, I too dreaded this question. I like all of these answer openers; they are memorable indeed. And because they are interconnected, they are just different ways to say the same. I will unite them in my revamped “power answer”. Thank you a lot.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      You are most welcome, Dariusz. And good luck!

  • Cindi Kiner

    Great article! As a human resources consultant, this even gives me a new perspective on the question!

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      So glad you found it useful, Cindi! In fact, it is one of the most popular posts on the blog… and recruiters like yourself are actually bookmarking it and sending to clients!

  • http://americas.nttdata.com/ kevin

    These are great ice breakers. I would lead into asking the interviewer how you can help the organization/company and/or what they are looking for in a candidate. The 3 words or a quote may not help them answer the question “how is this person going to help us?” Example: “The compliment I frequently receive is that I am a tireless leader. I see here in your description you are looking for such a person and I was wondering how I can help you in your efforts?”

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Kevin, you think like a consultant, and that is right on the money!

  • http://todayinhr.wordpress.com Jonathan

    Great advice. As a HR professional, I now avoid asking this question during interviews simply because so many people don’t know how to respond to it. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t realize that this question means “tell me about your JOB RELATED qualifications”.

    It’s a good idea to have an elevator pitch planned out in advance, and for you to be comfortable enough using it so that it doesn’t sound scripted.

    I agree with Kevin that the focus of this dialogue should be on how you can add value to the organization and most importantly how you meet the specific need the recruiter/hiring manager is trying to fill.

    • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Jonathan, well put! I advice all folks to keep returning to the script of why they are uniquely qualified… a listener cannot hear that enough!

  • Tephanie

    Thanks for this very helpful article. I have a job interview today and I was thinking to use the opener, “I stalked myself on Facebook today and…”. Do you think it will work? Kinda risky.

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Tephanie, that sounds like a unique way to open! I would just be careful that when you say the word stalking, you are smiling and feminine in tone, so it’s taken as a joke, and not as an spooky thing. k?

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