Preparing the Perfect Pitch: Strategies for answering “tell me about yourself”

Happy business people talking on meeting at office

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

It’s something we have all been asked at one time or another, and we have all responded to this question with varying levels of success. It’s a tough question to tackle, at first glance, because the question itself is as open-ended as we want it to be.

I find that this fact can make the question an overwhelming one for students to respond to. They aren’t always sure where to begin, and students have told me that they felt as if they were rambling through a response. Since this is one of the first questions we are often asked in an interview setting, it is absolutely crucial to have a strategy in place to set ourselves up for success from the start. Here are some tips to get your wheels turning about what the question is asking, and how you can quickly and effectively respond to it.

1. “Tell me about yourself” is a great way for employers to get to know your skill set, experience, and goals in mere seconds.

When I work on interviewing skills with students, we often begin by dissecting common interview questions. We analyze what we believe each question is asking, and make our best judgment about how to respond accordingly. While different professionals have their own insight on this question, I find that employers or admissions staff often ask this question to get a sense of the applicant’s skills and abilities. What accomplishments, experiences, projects, and skills is the applicant most proud of? What are their short- and long-term goals and which did they choose to prioritize for this question?

As you begin working on your own responses to this question, I suggest drafting a three-column table on a sheet of paper and listing:

  • Three skills that you’re proud of, and that relate to the job description;
  • One experience or quick example that exemplifies these skills;
  • One goal (short- or long-term) that this position might help you to achieve.

You can then weave these skills, and your story, into your response without taking a lot of time to respond.

2. Decide how you will start.

Once you have a list of skills, a short story or example, and a goal, you have the basic structure of your response! Next, I suggest taking some time to think about the first line of your answer. If we are thinking about this response as something that could be used for an interview or elevator pitch, you could try some opening lines that reflect your current professional status. Some starters include:

  • I’m a student at the University of Denver, studying Biological Sciences with minors in Chemistry and Medical Physics.
  • I’m a recent graduate of the University of Denver, where I studied Environmental Chemistry.
  • I currently serve as Career Advisor at the University of Denver, working specifically with students in the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics.

Try out a few opening lines, and reflect on which ones seem to fit in best with the skills and goals you chose for item #1. It is never a bad idea to have a few to choose from, either!

3. Be sure to practice!

While cliché, practice truly does make perfect. Take some time to practice your new response with one of our Career Advisors, record your answers using InterviewStream, or share them with a friend. As you practice, think critically about which aspects of your response seem to captivate your audience, and where you stumble. The more you work on your pitch, the more confident you’ll feel in an interview setting.

What are some strategies that you have used to answer “tell me about yourself”?

By Kimberly English
Kimberly English Career Advisor