How to Answer the "Tell Me About Yourself" Interview Question

Updated: June 17, 2023

After reading this article, you’ll:

  • Be prepared to answer the popular interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Understand why employers ask candidates this question.
  • Know how to connect your experience to the job at hand, even if you’re in college or changing careers.

“So, tell me a little about yourself.”

This common interview prompt inspires dread for many internship and first-time job seekers. It’s such a simple phrase, but you have no idea what the interviewer wants to hear. To make matters worse, every job opening today gets an average of 250 applications, and out of that group, only 4–6 people get in front of an interviewer. So if you do manage to score an interview, you’re up against some pretty impressive candidates—at least on paper.

Is this mission impossible? Absolutely not. You just have to be prepared and practice.

Today, we’ll show you how to stand out from the pack by coming up with a great response to that much-feared question: “Tell me about yourself.”

Here’s what we’ll be covering:


All about you: the basics of a great response

A top-notch answer for “Tell me about yourself”:

  • Conveys your skills, experience, and strengths relevant to the position and company, with a focus on past successes.
  • Clearly states how your current responsibilities and qualifications will add measurable value for the company.
  • Demonstrates that you did your research on the company and the interviewer(s).
  • Shows your passion for and interest in the specific position.
  • Builds on your resume and cover letter, rather than repeating them.
  • Is concise.
  • Is memorable and unique. No one likes a stock answer!
  • Ends on a positive note, with a summary of your current situation and what you’re looking for now.

How to Answer “Tell me about yourself” in Internship Interviews: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Start with an Engaging Introduction

Introduce yourself by stating your name, your current academic status, and your major. Share a key personality trait or passion that aligns with the internship. For instance, you could mention your interest in technology if you’re applying for a tech-related internship.


“I’m Jane Doe, a junior Computer Science major at XYZ University, and I am very interested in artificial intelligence and how it will impact work going forward.”

Step 2: Highlight Relevant Coursework or Academic Achievements

After introducing yourself, bring attention to the relevant academic experiences that make you a strong fit for the internship. This might include specific courses, projects, or achievements that align with the job role.


“I recently completed a course on Machine Learning and even led a group project to develop an AI-based tool. The course solidified my interest in AI.”

Step 3: Discuss Extracurricular Involvement and Skills

Next, delve into your extracurricular activities. Especially focus on roles that have allowed you to build skills relevant to the internship. This includes club leadership roles, volunteering, part-time jobs, or even hobby projects.


“I’m also the vice president of our school’s coding club, where I have honed my leadership and teamwork skills. Together we have grown the coding club to over 100 members and I have led multiple AI projects in the coding club.”

Step 4: Connect Personal Attributes to the Internship

Think of personal attributes that are applicable to the internship and share examples that demonstrate these traits. This might include being detail-oriented, highly organized, or an excellent communicator.


“I consider myself to be very detail-oriented, a trait that has helped me excel in coding and project management. There was a project where I implemented a quality assurance system to catch any potential coding bugs.”

Step 5: Relate Your Career Goals to the Internship

Lastly, discuss how this internship aligns with your career goals. This will show the interviewer that you’ve thought about how the internship fits into your long-term plans, demonstrating seriousness about the opportunity.


“Ultimately, I’m interested in working on AI applications in healthcare. I believe this internship will provide me with invaluable experience in applying my skills in a practical, real-world setting. And I am confident that I can help your team apply AI to improve patient outcomes.”

Step 6: Close Positively

Wrap up your response by summarizing why you’re excited about the opportunity. Express your eagerness to bring your skills to the internship role and to learn from the experience.


“I’m very excited about the possibility of bringing my passion for AI and my skills to your team, and I believe I can learn so much from this internship.”

Remember, practice makes perfect. Run through your response a few times until it feels natural. This way, you’ll feel confident and prepared when the question comes up during your interview.


“Tell me about yourself” sample answers

Before we get into the do’s, don’ts, and nitty gritty, let’s look at some sample responses. Rachel Meyer, Director of Talent Management with Travelers Haven, provides this example of a great answer.

Example 1: Marketing internship

I’m a Chicago native, with five years of data analysis experience. Speaking of, I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re also from Chicago! I moved to Denver for a marketing internship that fit well with my passion for analytics and conceptualizing creative campaigns. Having been so inspired by the active lifestyle here, I never left. Now, I’m looking for my next professional challenge, and believe I can bring these same skills to bear in the digital strategy role at your company.

Example 2: Entry-level event planner

I’m due to graduate from Santa Fe University this May, and I can’t wait to get started on my career in event planning and development. Ever since I was a high school student and organized my junior-year prom—15% under budget and with record attendance—I’ve had a passion for planning amazing events. At school, I worked part-time at the local animal shelter, coordinating fundraising events and social media, where I grew our followership and increased revenue. I discovered that creating awesome events that effect positive change was a big driver for me. Now, I’m looking to do that full-time with your company, which does such meaningful work.

And don’t worry if you’re lacking in the experience department. Here’s a good example for sometime with little experience applying to a sales position.

Example 3: Sales representative with little experience

I’m passionate about giving back to the community and have found that my involvement in organizations and team sports is valuable in business. For example, through philanthropic work with my sorority, I learned how to communicate with local businesses and created a donation campaign that raised $3,000 for a non-profit organization. The networking skills I learned from that will be invaluable to this sales representative position. I can’t wait to apply my experience in a role that lets me connect with clients, add value for the business, and stretch myself.


Tips and tricks

Now that you know the basics and have reviewed a few strong examples, let’s start putting together the building blocks for creating your own unique, super-awesome “Tell me…” answer. Here are our top five tips and tricks.

  1. Use LinkedIn. Giving stock answers is a major turn-off for recruiters, according to Elizabeth Rogowski, a Direct Hire Recruiter with Employco in Westmont, IL. So, when it comes to putting together your own unique answer to this question, the best place to start is LinkedIn. It’s a great resource for researching the company and the people who will be interviewing you. “Try to develop a personal connection,” says Rogowski. Do you both follow Bill Gates on LinkedIn? Use that as a talking point. Does the company’s mission relate to your personal passion? Tell the hiring manager about it.
  2. Keep it short and sweet. An interview isn’t a senior thesis project. Companies don’t want you to tell them how to run their businesses; they want you to contribute to the firm’s mission. So, being concise is key. Make sure your answer is no more than a few sentences. If you’re an accounting major targeting an entry-level position, focus on the skills you gained from courses and how you can apply them to the opening.
  3. Build on your cover letter. The employer already has your resume, so don’t just relist all the bullet points. Think of this as your opportunity to offer a verbal cover letter that highlights your best and most relevant experience.
  4. Once you have your answer ready, don’t let stage fright turn it into an incoherent ramble. Interviewing is a skill, so practice your response on a friend or family member. Show them a copy of the job description and ask them to judge whether you come across as meeting that company’s need.
  5. One of the frustrating parts about interviewing is that you can prepare and prepare for certain questions and … they don’t ask you those questions. You can pretty much count on getting a “Tell me about yourself” question, but it may not be asked in the way you were expecting. Be prepared to spot it in one of its other forms, including “Walk me through your resume,” “Tell me about your greatest achievement personally or professionally,” or “Why did you apply to this position?”

Different wording. Same answer. You know what to do.


Why employers ask, “Tell me about yourself”

By now you understand how to answer, “Tell me about yourself,” but you’re probably still wondering why employers ask it in the first place. Every employer wants to find and hire the perfect candidate. But above all else, they want to avoid making a bad hire.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the monetary impact of hiring the wrong candidate can be upwards of $50,000. Add to that the potential disruption to internal teams and external customers, and you can see why a hiring manager wants to avoid making a bad hire at all costs.

So, where are we going with this? Employers want to know about you because they want to avoid this costly error. When you respond to, “Tell me about yourself,” you need to show that you’re definitely not that bad hire. And you can do that by connecting your qualifications, talents, and experiences to what you can do for them.

Sarah Dabby, Head of Talent at ClickTime, a rapidly growing SaaS company in San Francisco, sums up the recruiter’s perspective: “A company is posting a job because they have a need. Put the company’s needs first and demonstrate how you can fill that need.”

When formulating any answer, ask yourself, “Am I directly saying how I can help this business?”


What not to say

You understand what to say in the interview, but it’s important to know what not to say and do, too. Here are the most common mistakes candidates make when answering “Tell me about yourself.”

1. Winging it.

As internships and jobs grow increasingly competitive, candidates need to be better prepared for their interviews than ever before. You need a strategy for demonstrating how you’re different from the other candidates but exactly like the company’s ideal candidate. As Mickey Swortzel, Co-Founder of the New Eagle family of businesses in Ann Arbor, MI, states, “You need to think about the message that you leave with the interviewer. What makes you different?”

2. Sharing your autobiography.

When asked to talk about themselves, too many candidates launch into their full life story or re-state their cover letter. Instead, keep it brief and relevant. Meyer notes, “The most common, and biggest, mistake I come across is candidates who talk about themselves in a way that doesn’t relate to the role they’re interviewing for. It tells me they aren’t sure what they’re looking for and aren’t serious about the position.”

3. Oversharing.

We’ve all met people who feel compelled to explain why they couldn’t get along with classmates or former colleagues, or who want to tell you every detail of their personal lives. This type of oversharing is another way people knock themselves out of contention for good positions.

With those egregious errors in mind, let’s take a look at a fairly ordinary “what not to say” response.

I’m interested in a lot of things, which you can see from my diverse experience on my resume, and looking to get my foot in the door with a fun company that challenges me. I was a varsity cheerleader in college, which inspired me to be a sports newscaster.

This answer is less than stellar for several reasons. It’s a personal bio, rather than a solution to a business challenge, and the interviewee focuses too much on what’s in it for her (i.e., “a fun company that challenges me”). Interviewers want someone who is interested in helping them and their company.


“What if …?” caveats and special situations

For an executive with 25 years of experience, there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to her career and how she’ll help the company. But let’s look at what everyone else can do to ensure they have a strong answer.

1. “I have no experience.”

It’s the common catch-22 for students and new grads looking for internships and first jobs: You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. Not to worry; there are several ways to address this challenge.

Rogowski suggests talking about relevant experience outside of the classroom: “If you’re going for a nursing role, talk about volunteering. If it’s IT, talk about hackathons.”

You can also bring in work experience from unrelated entry-level jobs. According to Pew Research, less than 44% of 18- and 19-year-olds now have summer jobs. A proven history of reliability and teamwork—even if it was developed at entry-level or volunteer jobs—separates you from your never-employed competitors.

2. “I’m still in college.”

As a current student or recent graduate, it’s perfectly acceptable to focus on what you learned in college in your “Tell me about yourself” answer. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that a company wants to know what you can do for them. That humanities course that sparked your love of Russian literature? Great for you personally, but probably not of interest to them professionally.

Keep your answers limited to the position. For example, for a finance internship, good themes to hit on include your coursework in corporate finance or banking and/or a description of any experience you have using relevant financial software.

3. “I’m changing fields.”

Not every new graduate is 22 years old. Some people want to change career paths after years (or even decades) in a particular industry and have no idea how to express themselves without giving a full autobiography. If you’re in this situation, you want to incorporate why you decided to make a change.

Meyer recommends that you “walk the interviewer through what inspired the change” and “why this new industry is a better fit for you.”  As with internships, employers look for clues that you want their job, not just any job. And one last thing: Career changers sometimes unintentionally disqualify themselves. Even if you left an old field because you were burned out, never say that in an interview.

Whether you stay at your current company or eventually move on, a successful career is built on your ability to “Tell me about yourself” again and again. At this point, you’re ready to go. You can check out our general interview tips to get a feel for what else to expect.


Check out our other interview question articles. Learn how to answer: