How to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview question


Interviewer: So Ritu, tell me about yourself.
Ritu: I am studying computer science. I want to become like Mark Zuckerberg. I was born in Delhi. My father owns a shoe factory. I want to work with your company because it’s a huge brand.
Interviewer: Thanks, Ritu. We’ll get back to you soon (or never, really!).

Sounds familiar? Still no idea where you went wrong? Well, the purpose of an interview is not to tell the employer who you are in and out but to convince her that you’re the perfect fit for the position, and that’s exactly what you have to remember while answering ‘Tell me about yourself’.

Why does an interviewer ask the interviewee the ‘Tell me about yourself” question?
You might think that this question is just an ice-breaker and aims to put you at ease; however, it’s a lot more. Through this question, the interviewer hopes to understand who you really are and get an insight about your capability to do the job. The response also gives the interviewer an idea about how articulate and confident you are.
As a candidate, you need to ensure that your ‘tell me about yourself’ answer gives the employer a glimpse of your skill set and experience which makes you a perfect cut out for the internship. After all, it’s your chance to pull an ‘Imperio’ spell on the interviewer!

Most students leave a bad impression right after they’ve answered ‘Tell me about yourself’ because they are unable to put forth an effective response. Since it is an open-ended question, students tend to get confused as to what an employer could be possibly looking for and end up giving a messed-up answer. Well, don’t worry! The fault in your answers is coming to an end now! But before we see how to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’, let’s understand how NOT to answer it.

How NOT to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’?
1. Don’t read out your resume – The recruiter has your resume with her and most probably, she has read it. Being the very first question in most interviews, it gives you an opportunity to create a lasting impression on the interviewers, so instead of reading aloud your resume, narrate a summary of your academic background and achievements.
2. It’s not your first date – The interviewer doesn’t need to know that you love dogs and want to go to Greece someday. Don’t give away too many personal details about your family, relationship status, likes, and dislikes since they are of no use to the interviewer. If later during the interview, she wants these details, she’ll ask for them.
3. Don’t ramble – Don’t ask counter questions like ‘What exactly do you want to know?’ or ‘Should I tell you about my educational qualifications?’. It’s an open-ended question and you can respond however you want. Asking too many questions would only mean that you’re confused or overwhelmed.
4. Do not brag – Present yourself in a humble manner without being too modest and not sharing the details that make you stand out. However, make sure that you do not portray yourself as someone who is ‘too’ good for the job. It is important to understand the difference between ‘I’m the best writer in my college’ and ‘I was the editor for the college magazine for 3 consecutive years’.

So, let’s move on to how to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview question.

How to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’? 
The simplest rule for answering ‘Tell me about yourself’ is to follow present, past, and future.
1. Present – This section will include a brief of who you are and what you’re currently pursuing. It would include details about your college education, any projects that you are working on, and the clubs and societies that you’re a part of. You can also talk about your hobbies that demonstrate intellectual development and inquisitiveness such as reading, writing, learning new skills, etc.
For instance – ‘Hi, I am Smriti. I am studying computer science at Hindu College. I am the president of the debate society at my college, and I’m actively involved in dramatics as well’. Short and simple, this answer describes that you have good communication and leadership skills being the president of a club and you are confident enough to present yourself in front of an audience being active in dramatics.

2. Past – It will include what you have done. This is where you display your knowledge and capabilities to the interviewer. Talking about your previous experiences and accomplishments helps the recruiter get a glimpse of the skills you have and your attitude towards a job. Even if your previous internship was unrelated to the profile you’ve applied for, it is worth mentioning since it tells the recruiter that you know the etiquette of working in a professional setting.
A good answer would be – ‘Last summer, I worked as a content writing intern at Hindustan Times where I brought out articles for HTCampus. With that stint, I enhanced my writing and research skills’. 

The biggest challenge that students may face while talking about their experience is their inexperience. You might be applying for your first internship, but the recruiter expects you to have years of experience! You can tackle this problem by talking about any relevant experience that you have gained outside the classroom. You can talk about the events or competitions that you’ve participated in or any clubs or societies you’ve been a part of. If you are applying for a writing internship, you can talk about the articles that you have written for your college magazine. If you’re applying for a social work internship, you can talk about any volunteering work that you’ve done.
You can try something like – ‘I recently participated in a hackathon organised by HackerEarth. I, along with 4 of my classmates, prepared a plan to curb the problems of solid waste management in Pune’. This will give an employer an idea that you have problem-solving skills and an analytical rigor.

3. Future – End your answer by telling them what you plan to do. The recruiter is always interested in knowing why you’re interested in that particular role and what your plans for future are.
You can use – ‘I have been quite passionate about writing and when I came across this opportunity, it really excited me. I’m sure I’ll be able to enhance my writing skills here’.
A bad example would be – ‘I want to work in a challenging environment and since your company is a huge brand, I would want to be associated with it. I’m sure it’ll help me when I sit for placements’. This answer is wrong on multiple levels. It is highly likely that you don’t even know what a challenging environment means because probably you just copied the answer from the internet. Next, it doesn’t sound good when you say that you want to work with a company only because it’s a huge brand. A similarly poor answer would be – ‘Since the summer break is approaching and I have to do an internship, I decided to interview for this role’. This shows that you’re interested in doing any internship and not specifically the internship that you’re applying for.

‘Tell me about yourself’ sample answer for freshers:

I am pursuing B.Tech in computer science from MAIT. I am a detail-oriented person and can juggle between tasks. I love to read graphic novels in my spare time. I am also a part of the college dance crew named Addiction. I did a marketing internship at Uber last summer, and I realised that the field quite excites me. I have always wanted to work with a startup owing to the learning opportunities it offers, and I believe I can bring my skills on the table for this position.   

Now that you know how to structure your ‘Tell me about yourself’ answer, let’s quickly take a look at some tips and tricks to nail this question.
1. Make it precise – A ‘Tell me about yourself’ answer should talk about your skills and abilities along with your passion and interest in the profile and/or the company.
2. Keep it short – A short and concise answer will ensure that the interviewer doesn’t lose interest in what you have to say and understands how you’re a good fit for the role.
3. Use body language – An effective body language will ensure that you’re able to communicate your answer in a persuasive manner. So don’t slouch in the chair, sit up straight, and use hand gestures while answering.
4. Practice your answer – Once you have the answer ready, read it aloud to a friend or in front of the mirror so that you know how to articulate it and don’t get nervous in the interview.

If you have an interview lined up, you now know how to craft a unique answer to ‘Tell me about yourself’ and if you still haven’t got an interview, just register on Internshala here and apply to some super awesome internships that come with a cool stipend!

Image credits: Shutterstock

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