How To Have An Engaging 'Tell Me About Yourself' Answer For Every Occasion

Whether it's a job interview, college orientation, or extracurricular icebreakers, you might be familiar with the most common and dreaded of questions — "So, tell me about yourself." In the age of social media, we can often use our screens to avoid telling the truth about ourselves to people. Things get a little tricky when you're meeting an individual or group of people in person, though; eventually, you'll have to face yourself. But fear not — there are ways to answer the clichéd question and leave your audience impressed.


Your ability to read the room will be the driving force of almost any question you're asked. For example, a new friend probably doesn't care so much about your professional career or the academic projects you've worked on. A hiring manager is likely not interested in that time you went on the worst Hinge date ever and ended up faking an emergency. Our ability to identify, examine, and proceed with each environment we're placed in will help us navigate our interpersonal experiences, and potentially help avoid any red flags that pop up if you're in a job interview.

Have an elevator pitch ready to go

While you'll likely hear this question most often at job interviews, having a prepared pitch when out on a first date, meeting the parents, or hanging with a new group of friends can help ease your nerves and segue into a great conversation. Regardless of the setting, being able to summarize yourself in a few sentences is everything. Hiring platform Jopwell CEO Porter Braswell told Refinery29 that, "It's appropriate when somebody asks such a broad question, to ask them a question back of, 'where would you like me to start?' That allows them to guide you to a more defined answer." For example, a hiring manager might specify that they're interested in hearing about your last position, while your significant other's parents might want to know a little bit about your family and where you grew up. 


Regardless of the situation, a good formula to follow is to explain where you started, where you ended up, and what you're doing now. At a college orientation, for example, you could explain where you went to high school, what extracurriculars you were involved in, what you plan to major in, and what your future career goals are. Try to keep your answer thorough yet concise — aim to wrap up your pitch in less than a minute. 

Identify one thing that sets you apart from the crowd

For any "tell me about yourself" situation, having one unique experience makes you a magnet for connection (although again, these experiences should differ between interviews, personal relationships, etc.). If you're interviewing, describe a position that you unexpectedly received or didn't expect to enjoy so much. For example, discuss the company that started you out as an entry-level employee, but later let you run their social media channels, leading to you becoming their social media manager. If it's personal, share a time when you traveled across countries and ended up backpacking through mountains, or ended up totally lost but in doing so, connected with an amazing local family who you still keep in touch with.


According to Porter Braswell, "People want to invest in individuals that are compelling, and you can be compelling in a million different ways," rather than inventing an answer you think will impress them. "I think that people have to really embrace that and understand their story and what makes them unique." At the end of the day, the most compelling stories are those that are entirely authentic to you. Even if it doesn't line up exactly with a specific work or personal experience, it's still your own.

Speak confidently and with pride

Being told to be yourself can seem corny and played out, but the proof is quite literally in the pudding. Half the battle of landing a job or establishing a romantic connection is in your confidence. If you're unsure about how to answer a question, pretend like you aren't — that means smiling, speaking clearly and enthusiastically, and in an interview, repeating the question at the very end to emphasize you understood the assignment. Additionally, in a job interview setting, you can ask the interviewer to repeat their questions to buy you some time.


Try and incorporate sentences that tie to a specific answer. For example, a professional accomplishment can be tied to, "and I think that makes me a unique candidate for this opportunity," or, "I developed this skill that I can directly apply to this role." A large portion of interview assessment considers the candidates' ability to clearly answer questions. If you can do that, then you're set. In personal settings, if you're around the right friends or people, confidence will come naturally and with time.