A Step-By-Step Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

A Step-By-Step Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

Can you define yourself in 15 seconds or less? The ability to clearly state who you are and the value you bring to the workplace is an important and challenging part of job search.  You will use it when networking, interviewing, during chance encounters and at events.

The most classic use of your self-definition is when someone asks you, “So, tell me about you . . .”  This question is a good starting place for creating a strong self-definition.

  • Begin with a blank sheet of paper and list out what you do. For example “I am a project manager” or “I am a network administrator” or “I manage facilities.”
  • Take that definition to a higher level by writing what it is you enable through you work. “I enable communication between marketing and engineering” or “I keep technical infrastructure running at 99.99% up time” or “I make sure people have what they need to succeed”
  • List out how you do this. “I create clear plans with unanimous buy-in and commitment” or “I am resourceful to meet strict requirements with minimum expenses” or “I am careful with every detail.”

Now it’s time to weave these items into a sentence.

  • “I enable communication between teams and create plans that get buy-in,  as a project manager.”
  • “I keep technical infrastructure running and meet strict requirements as a network administration.”
  • “As a facilities manager, I make sure everyone has what they need to succeed through attention to detail and commitment to high quality.”

In a job interview, you would follow that statement with an example of your achievements, such as:  “Last year I brought in a 6 million dollar project on time and on budget”, “I installed a complete network for a company of 50 employees in one weekend” or “I operated with zero downtime for more than six months”.

In an informational interview, you could follow that statement by asking your contact what he or she does if appropriate, how he or she sees your skills fitting in.

In a casual encounter with a friend, you may follow your self-definition by saying “I’m looking for new ways to put my skills to work and bring value to an employer”.

At a networking event you may follow by asking the person about him or herself or, if appropriate, asking for ideas about where your skills might be valuable.

Networking involves a lot of asking questions, listening to what the other person is saying and customizing your response. But there are also times when you share who you are. When those times come, make sure you have a clear and concise definition of who you are and what you offer.

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4 thoughts on “A Step-By-Step Guide to Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

  1. So in the example, you state achievements such as, ” Last year I brought in aa 6 million dollar project…”

    How do you answer an achivement question when you work for an org. that doesn’t allow you to “do” anything beyond your basic assignments? It’s frustrating enough that I can’t advance because of all the blasted bureaucracy in place, but it’s even more aggravating to go into interviews with no real answer for this question.

  2. Kelli,

    I can understand your frustration. The good news is it’s never too late to start.

    If you’re still at the same organization, understand the constraints or concerns upper management might have next time you propose an initiative. See if there is a way to move your proposals forward while addressing their concerns.

    If you’re now independent, create your own projects or volunteer at an organization where your expertise can be applied to generate results. This way you will have achievements to share.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  3. Joseph, for a new grad try using the same format but making it forward facing. For example, you may say “I plan to . . . ” or “My education positions me to . . .” If possible, relate this promise of future value to internships where you created success or to extra curricular and volunteer work where you were successful. Here is how one recent grad answers “Tell me about yourself”: “I’m prepared to facilitate partnerships and synergies between companies. My degree in business development positions me to recognize opportunities and close deals. I mastered these skills at my internship where I assisted in finalizing three deals worth more than $10,000 each.”

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