Tell Me About Yourself: 3 Ways to Impress Interviewers and Anyone You Meet

July 14th, 2015 by Marcy Schwab

Tell Me About Yourself:  3 Ways to Impress Interviewers and Anyone You Meet

Tell me about yourself.  At cocktail parties, an interview, or when meeting a new colleague for the first time, that question or one like it is the most common opening lines to a conversation.  How do most people answer it?  How would you answer it?

Did talking about your current job and career path come to mind?  Maybe you thought about sharing the wonderful degrees you earned from the impressive schools you attended.  You may have even thought about sharing something about your children or where you live or from where you just moved.

All of these are the usual answers, and they are certainly the truth and fine. But do you really think that anyone is really that interested in these facts or will find you all that exciting?  Will you be memorable?  Will you stand out?  Probably not.

Credit: Rex Auer (Flickr)

You are so much more than the facts of the career you have built, the kids you may have, or the schools you attended. The exercise of understanding yourself can obviously run deep and be very meaningful. In many ways, I think we are looking to figure ourselves out throughout our whole lives. Who am I and what makes me special? While I will not go into the depth of this exercise here, it’s one that I think is valuable throughout a lifetime.  In the meantime, to really stand out, consider thinking more deeply about who you are, what you stand for, and what gets you super excited about life.


Answer These 3 Questions:

A.  How Would Your Close Friends Describe You When You Are At Your Best?

What are adjectives that do a great job in describing who you are?  Don’t be shy or modest, be genuine and positive. Your friends will feature what’s great about you, so you should, too. Are you energetic, introspective, assertive, intellectual, thoughtful, gregarious, open-minded, entrepreneurial, detail-oriented, easy-to-get-along-with, adaptable?  These words bring out feelings in people.  And that’s what sticks.

B.  What Interests Get You Really Jazzed Up?

Now relate those adjectives to an interest or hobby or professional aspiration (especially focus on the professional interests if in an interview or networking situation) to make you relatable.  Do you love teaching people how to do something?  Do you find yourself being really creative in some endeavor?

C.  How Do You Impact the World and The People In It?

Think about how you apply those great qualities to make an important and lasting impact on the world around you.  What great successes have you had that demonstrate why your qualities and interests matter?  Think of examples of how those successes have had a positive impact and great results.  How have you made a difference in people’s lives?

Put The Answers Together

When someone asks you to tell them about yourself, think about how to put these ideas together to paint a picture of you, that inspires feelings in people, that is unique, interesting, and memorable. Consider the context and choose what you want to highlight accordingly.  Tell your story in a way that this story could only be you.

In a work context, such as an interview or networking opportunity, when someone asks me about myself, I say something like:

“I’m an energetic, highly entrepreneurial-minded person with a rare combination of strong analytical capability, creativity, and people skills.  I have a deep passion for working closely with organizations, teams, and individuals to help them recognize their strengths and unique talents. People are often surprised by their own depth of ability and thirst for the opportunity to use them. I work with my clients to capitalize on those insights to create a plan for achieving their long-term goals.  I started my own business 3 years ago, and I just finished some work with a company CEO in which I:

  • interviewed their best and most important customers,
  • understood what was important to them in their relationship with the company,
  • evaluated the organization’s greatest strengths and opportunities for differentiation in the crowded marketplace in which they sit,
  • worked with the CEO and his team to create brand-defining positioning and messaging,
  • incorporated the new positioning into sales conversations, marketing, website design, and investment decision-making.

As a result of this work, the organization has grown by 25% in the last 6 months and has improved the lives of its clients. Even more important, perhaps, is that the team is more excited than ever to be a part of a growing company.”


Credit: Steven Pisano (Flickr)

Have A Strong Finish

Now turn the conversation back to the other person. Ask them to tell you about themselves. People love to talk, so this move will endear you to them, and you may get a much more interesting answer now that you have modeled a response that leaves a positive impression.  Maybe not, but they will remember you and your inspired story.

How do you make people feel?  What makes you relatable?  How have you made an impact on people’s lives and the world?

So, tell me about yourself.

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