Tell Me About Yourself?

Why this is a trickier interview question than you might first think

Dianne Sullivan
4 min readAug 26, 2020


I’ve hired many people over the years. I have fine-tuned my interviewing technique. I want to make sure that I get the very best out of each candidate.

I use the “Tell me about yourself?” question as an icebreaker. But I use it for so much more than that. Underestimate this question at your peril. First impressions are lasting impressions.

My current company requires me to conduct a standardised competency interview. I get to that formal part after the warmup.

“Tell me about yourself”

On the surface, this might seem like a simple question to answer.

That’s the point.

It is a simple question.

But I’ve found most people aren’t able to able to answer it well.

I can predict how the rest of the interview is likely to go based purely on how the candidate answers this first simple question.

What makes a good answer?

What exactly are interviewers like me looking for in the answer to this question?

I want to listen to your own verbal account of your CV (or resume if you prefer). I want to hear the story of you. As you chose to present it.

Answer carefully. This should be the one question that you are most comfortable with answering. But don’t get too comfortable. Limit your answer to 2 minutes maximum.

I will have read your CV in detail before the interview. That’s why you have been invited for an interview in the first place.

Get the basics right. Make sure that your high-level account of yourself exactly aligns with the chronology and details in your CV. This is not the time to throw in something that you haven’t mentioned in writing.

Less is more

What interviewers are really looking with the casual sounding ‘tell me about yourself’ is your ability to summarise yourself in as few words as possible. Ultimately, in today’s workplace, we are all salespeople.



Dianne Sullivan

Obsessed with personal growth, personal finance & running. Figuring out my path to financial independence.