How to Answer the Most Common Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself

Published: Aug 30, 2023


One of the most common interview questions you will encounter during your job search is “tell me about yourself.” While it seems like a simple question on the surface, trying to summarize your life into a short answer can be challenging. In this video, we will provide you with all the tips you need to answer this question with ease. A transcript of the video can be found below.



Hi! My name is Emily, and I’m an editorial coordinator for Vault. Here at Vault we’re dedicated to providing professionals with sound career advice, so today, let’s talk about interview questions.

You just landed an interview with a new company, so now it’s time to start preparing for your interview. It’s hard to know exactly what questions you’re going to be asked, but there’s one you can probably count on being asked. And that is, “Tell me about yourself.”

On the surface, this seems like a simple question. But there's a right way and a wrong way to answer this question. And I’m going to show you both.

Let's start with what not to do.


Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us today. To get us started, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Emily: I grew up in Chicago with my older sister and younger brother. My parents both work at a major financial company in the city, and I have always looked up to how successful they are. Even though I don’t want to go into finance, I still want to follow in their footsteps.

I graduated high school in 2019 and from there I went to Southern Iowa University. In college I joined a running club, waitressed, and last summer I did an internship. I just graduated with my degree in English this spring, and now, I am looking to advance my career and become an editor. I have excellent grammar skills that will help me excel in this role.

That answer might not seem wrong, because you did tell your interviewer about yourself. But, you didn’t give them the information they’re really looking for. Instead, you gave them an overview of your resume, and too much information about your upbringing. This question offers you a chance to talk about things that aren’t on your resume but are still important in making you the professional you are.

Here’s a better way to answer this question.


Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us today. To get us started, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Emily: I’m a recent college graduate with a degree in English from University of Southern Iowa. I’ve been passionate about writing ever since elementary school – which is also when the Harry Potter series turned me into an avid reader. I believe the editorial skills that I’ve gained at college and various internships will enable me to be successful in this position.

At Southern Iowa, two of my short stories were published in the school’s literary magazine, which was probably one of my biggest accomplishments. This led to my first internship with an online magazine called Third Coast Review, where I worked as an editorial intern. My main role there was to read through the slush pile of submissions, decide which pieces would be published, and help format the final magazine to make sure everything was cohesive. Last summer, I took on more of a traditional internship with Windy City Writing, a publishing house in Chicago, where I worked as an editorial assistant. In this role, I edited portions of a few different authors' manuscripts, which helped me learn a lot about copyediting, the publishing process, and working in a professional environment.

As much as I love writing, I also enjoy spending time being active. I like to start out my morning with a run to help me wake up and have a better start to my day.


Of course, you can still point out the basic similarities between these two answers. Both mention college, studying English, internships, and wanting to become an editor. But, the second answer gives you more insight on who I actually am, with concrete details.

I am someone who is used to wearing different hats and having to balance them.
I have tangible accomplishments that also point to a portfolio.
I explain why I believe I’m a good fit for the new role.
I have hobbies outside of work.
And most importantly of all, I was clear, concise, and left a good first impression that will set the tone for the rest of the conversation.


There isn’t a set script that tells you how to perfectly explain the past 20 something years of your life in a short answer. But, if you structure your answer well, give your interviewer more than what they can find on paper, and let them into who you really are as a person, you’ll be on the road to success.