How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

“Tell me about yourself” — no matter what stage of the interview process you are in, it’s the question every good interviewer will ask. From recruiters to hiring managers to tech teams and CEOs, each will have their own versions of how they like to ask that same question. It’s a way to ease into the conversation and allows the interviewer to get to know you.

This is an opportunity for you to show you can communicate clearly and effectively. Interviewers want to know what your current role is and the scope of it — or if you are looking for your first dev role, what project you are currently working on. You should mention previous experience that is relevant to the position and company you are applying for — not all of your past experience. Interviewers also want to know what you are looking for in your next role and how you are going to add value to their team.

How to Craft Your “Tell Me About Yourself”

This is your chance to make a positive first impression. Sometimes, when asked by interviewers to share a little bit about your background or to walk them through your experiences, you get nervous and your mind typically goes in one of two directions — you draw a blank and forget everything or you overshare and tell them everything.

The key is to prepare your “Tell Me About Yourself” response and keep practicing it. You want to keep your response to around 90 seconds. There are four topics you want to cover:

  • who you are

Although you want to have this response prepared ahead of time, you don’t want to have it memorized because you want to allow for some flexibility so it can be tailored to the specific company and position you are applying for.

Who You Are and Why You Chose Software Engineering

This is your brief introductory statement that covers what type of engineering work you like to do (i.e. mobile, front-end, etc.), and why you like to do it. What is your intrinsic motivation? What is it about engineering work you love? If you are changing careers, what made you want to become a software engineer?

Some people have known they wanted to build apps since they were kids or in high school. Others have seen problems in previous careers they want to solve by using software engineering as a tool to come up with a solution they believe in. Whatever your reason, this brief intro is the place to share it.

For example, I’m an iOS engineer that likes to work on user focused applications. I chose iOS engineering because it allows me to build something that makes life easier for someone, or that connects people. My first passion project was an iOS app that helped me keep track of my job search when I was looking for my first dev job.

Aim to keep this portion between 20–30 seconds.

What You’re Doing Now

Start dropping hints about how you can add value. If you’re currently in a role and are looking for your next job, talk about your most recent project. Describe the project. What steps have you taken to complete it? What choices have you made or challenges have you overcome? What is a positive outcome and what quantifiable results came out of it?

If you are currently looking for your first dev job, then talk about your favorite or current project. Are you contributing to open-source? Volunteering? Or is it a personal project? Either way, describe it and why you chose to solve that particular problem. What steps have you taken to complete it? What challenges have you run into and overcome? Have you had a positive result? It could be that you’ve solved someone’s problem or simply that you’ve learned something new.

This portion should be around 30 seconds.

What Value You’re Bringing to the Company

Here we want to showcase what our values are and how they align with the company and team. We’ve already showcased our qualifications, now we want to help them understand why we do what we do.

Take some time to identify what your values are. They can be values like community, efficiency, fitness, making a difference, being quality-oriented, speed, teamwork, etc. Take a look at the job description for the role you are interviewing for and connect your values to the ones they’ve listed. This is how you are going to tailor your response to the specific company and position you are applying for.

This final piece should be kept to ~30 seconds as well.

Conclusion

You want to keep your response short and to the point. This is your opportunity talk about something that’s not already in your resume. Keep it positive and professional, and if you feel comfortable make it personal — show some passion. Practice it, but don’t memorize it.

Remember, “Tell me about yourself,” is a question that can be asked at any stage of the interview process, so know your audience. If you’re doing an initial phone screen with a recruiter, this probably isn’t the best place to throw in technical jargon — unless they ask for it. This is were you want to show off more of your personality. On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with one or some of the engineers on the team, then take the opportunity to include a bit more about your exact technical skills. A helpful tip to remember is to follow the interviewer’s lead if they’ve introduced themselves first.

Preparing this answer helps you go into the interview more confident and also shows that confidence to the interviewer. Remember, this is your first impression. Take a deep breath, slow it down, keep making eye contact, and throw in some smiles — let your personality show.

Want more tips on how to prepare for interviews? Follow me on Instagram and Twitter and share what interview struggles you’re having.

Originally published at https://risingdevhabits.com on May 3, 2021.

Founder + community builder in tech