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What is the best way to answer "Tell me something about yourself"?

Last Updated - Fri, Jan 04 2019

Detailed Question:

I have been asked this question so many times - "Tell me about yourself?", but I'm not sure what is the best answer that I can give. At times when I'm caught off-guard or unprepared, I find myself speechless about what to answer to this very simple question. 

Ironically, being not able to answer this question makes me feel embarrassed and even more speechless as I keep thinking about how can I not tell about myself. I feel panicky and start sweating, I'm sure people would make fun of me in their minds.

Even when I speak up, I would just fumble and give a horrible answer which I know is nowhere close to tell me about yourself. 

Not just in interviews, but when introduced to older relatives, people etc. I often feel the embarrassment. I hate the fact that I react this way to a simple question.

Tell me about yourself, hmmm, should I start from my childhood story (then it becomes too much) or should I just talk about my recent times (then it becomes too less)

Ohhh God! How simple things can be really become difficult at times...

Please give me a good way to answer "Tell me about yourself" and I'll just get over it.

Thanks in advance

Category: General Physician

Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine
Angeles University

Hey, thanks for writing your query.

It sure appears to be a simple sounding question, but trust me - you are not the only one who faces this problem. Everyone of us has been asked to tell about ourselves at some point of time. I can tell you some ways by which you can make it easier to answer. But it will require some practice.

1. It should be short - Anywhere between 90 to 150 seconds is a decent answer. 

2. You can talk about your academics - You should however be very brief about it - just explain your background so that the other person gets some context. In case of a job interview in research domain, you may want to elaborate while talking about academics.

3. Imagine if you somebody is writing a book on you or making a movie - what would you want to include in that. How would you want to hear your own story? It can be anything from your hobbies, passion, some incident/moment that changed you or defined who you are as a person. That story becomes the central theme in the answer to "Tell me about yourself?"

Let's take a scenario of job interview. Now, how do you start your introduction? There can be multiple ways to initiate, for instance:-

Interviewer: "So, tell me something about yourself?"

Good Example: "I'm an innovative PR manager with 7 years of experience in leading the PR efforts for over 30 MNCs & startups, from conceptualization to distribution all over the globe."

Bad Example
: "Well, I grew up in Indore, MP. As a student in college, I originally started with electrical engineering, but then later I became interested in Finance. I worked with an investment bank for 2 years. I was part of debate club at my college. I always liked playing sports since my childhood. I won best athlete award at my school in 12th standard."

This introduction is not concise and most importantly not at all well-structured. It starts with place of birth & academics and then incoherently jumps to work experience. Then it talks about college experience and sports played at school. Some of the information described here might not even be directly relevant to the context.

I think you can very well see the difference between the good and bad introductions. The introductions may however vary from case to case (as this was an interview) but there can be some standard templates to answer these questions

4. If it is an job/career interview, definitely talk about your work highlights. Share your experiences, challenges and something unique that you learned.

5. Overall approach - Your answer to "Tell me about yourself" should be 5-6 headings with short description of each heading. This gives the other person some cues to ask a follow-up question and break the ice. You'll also feel comfortable when that happens. In fact you can keep 2 templates ready beforehand. One for a professional introduction - interviews, business meetings etc. and second for more casual scenarios like first date, talking to friends etc.

6. Don't sound clueless - A lot of people try to flub the question in a smart way to buy more time to think. It may not go well as it sends a signal of cluelessness. Take below example for starters.

Person: So, tell me something about yourself
You: “Do you mean my job experience or schooling or anything specific that you are looking for?” 
Person: "Anything, whatever you'd want to tell" (losing interest in conversation all of a sudden)

So in return, not only did you not get the desired answer or trigger to start your answer, but also you somehow made the other person lose interest in listening.

7. Provoke leading questions - You can leave certain statements open-ended. This usually works well in case of interviews. This will give the interviewer to ask you leading questions like

'So which team did you play against in olympics?'
'What was you job at NASA?'
'How did you manage to do so much work in 2 month internship?'

8. Just relax -  As you mentioned, most of the times we start overthinking about the answer so much that we start to panic, so you need to relax a little. Remember this - it is not as bad as it sounds in your head. :)

Just practice by keeping these points in mind. You can also try to practice this with someone (both of you can tell about yourself to each other) In a day or two, you'll have a decent answer to this question.

You'll get better and better by saying it more often in real scenarios. Your introduction will adjust with time, but by then you will become comfortable and adjust it impromptu.

Hope I'm able to give you a satisfactory answer. If you want a personalized coaching, you may want to get online counselling session.

Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine
Angeles University

Dr. Aditi Gupta has worked in the emergency department for Hospitals like Fortis Hospital (Bengaluru)and St.Philomena's Hospital(Bengaluru). She has also participated in numerous health studies in Philippines.

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The above medicine data is written by Dr. Aditi Gupta. It is edited, updated and maintained by JustDoc Quality Team. If you have any queries regarding the data, please email us at doctors@justdoc.com. Read about our Medical Team here.

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Dr. Aditi Gupta

MD - Internal Medicine

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