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@Kaustubh Katdare • 09 Jan, 2015 • 7 likes
One of the most frequently asked question, typically in HR interview is straightforward: "Tell Me About Yourself". Almost all the HR interviews I've faced and have been a part of (as an interviewer) began with this simple question and yet it's so amusing to see no one prepares for this question as much in depth as they should. Note that answer to this question can play a big factor in your success in the interview. A well thought and revised answer to the question can help you win an upper hand during salary negotiation as well; if you are applying at a lateral position in any organisation. Is there a correct way to answer this question that can take care of 99% of the situations? I think there is!

First of all, I've briefly discussed this HR interview question in another discussion on CrazyEngineers. I however think we need to go in-depth so that every CEan here understands the proper way and easy to remember technique of answering it. If you haven't read that post, I'd strongly recommend you to go through it because the basics remain the same:
  • No mugging up of your introduction. Make it very natural.
  • Strictly no 'Myself <name>' start. It's incorrect.
  • A little smile on your face - it's not your viva question that you must recall from memory.
  • A little background information about your family is okay; but optional.
  • Avoid robot-like repetition of what's already in resume.
In this short guide, we'll discuss and analyse the most common responses and come up with the perfect 'way' of answering it; because there cannot be ONE answer that suits everyone. Our goal is to find out what information you can convey and what to avoid. Our quest to find the most correct way to answering this question would begin with what's going on in the Interviewer's mind and what is it that they want to hear.

What Response Does Interviewer Want To Hear:

In most of the HR interviews I was a part of, interviewers throw this question as a traditional way of starting. They do not always have anything specific; but they'd definitely look for clues for their NEXT Question! Note that majority of the HR interviewers would be focused on finding whether the potential recruit is suitable for the environment in the company. They'd also want to find out whether you're in for a longer term or just a casual player who'll always be looking for the next job. They'd also want to check your reliability factor. Through careful scripting of your response, you can not only be in command of the next interview (meaning, you specifically drop clues as to what the interviewers can ask) but also ensure that you come up as a positive human being who's quite interested in the work that you do - a winning combination for any employee; that HR's can't afford to reject.

Tell-Me-About-Yourself-Interview
Image Credit: OMG-HRC​

Scripting Your Response:

Let's take the most typical response to tell me about yourself question and script it differently. This should give you clues on how to craft your own 'about yourself' story. Imagine any typical interview room where you are sitting in front of the HR interviewer from your 'dream company' and he/she's holding your resume and begins by throwing the question.

HR Interviewer: Good Morning, Rahul. Tell me about yourself?
You: (5 seconds to recollect all important points that you mugged up) My name is Rahul Kapoor. I was born and brought up in Indore. I did my schooling from MG School. I come from a middle class family. My family comprises of my father, mother, sister and and myself. My father works with Indian railways and he is a very hard working person. My mother works in a regional bank and my sister is currently in junior college. I did my electrical engineering from GV College Of Engineering. I have been a hard working student. I got a backlog of 2 subjects in 4th sem because I had an accident when just on the day of exam.

I am very hard working person and I really need this job to repay my educational loan. I'm ready to do any job that you offer to me. I will make sure that that my bosses are always happy with my job and I will learn very fast. My hobbies including reading books, playing cricket and making friends.

What You're Thinking: Wow, I've just presented myself as a needy candidate who will do any job my bosses will throw at me. They are also aware of my humble background and they'll feel bad because they must sympathise with my situation. Also, they will notice that I've educational loan to pay and here's their chance to help me get out of my situation.

What HR Interviewer Thinks: Here's a needy guy who wants this job to repay his loan and has no interest in the job or our organisation at all. He wants us to do him a favor by offering him a job. Overall, an average candidate who's definitely not read a book and at best, played cricket in his backyard.

Impression: Average person with average skills.

Redoing The Script: A smarter candidate however can re-do above script as follows:-

Smarter You: (Smile) Thank you, <name, if you know HR's first name>. Very good morning to you too. I'm Rahul Kapoor. I belong to Indore, the mini Mumbai of the MP. I've had to struggle on multiple fronts to get into electrical engineering course at GV College Of Engineering. It was during my second year that I developed interest into various programming languages and decided to make a career as a developer and I believe <company name> would be great to start my career with.

I have taken up a new challenge to develop a hobby - and currently trying my hand at reading novels. I'm blessed with a family that's stood by me during all the ups and downs in my life so far and all the little successes I've had are all because of their blessings. I look forward to getting accepted in <company>.

Now That's Quite Impressive, Right? Yeah, It Is!

Interviewer's impression:-
  • Not a regular, run-of-the-mill introduction: Check
  • Positive attitude: Check
  • Struggler: Check
  • Gives credit of success to others: Check
  • Interested in joining my company: Check
  • Is passionate about work: Check
  • Can be trained easily: Check
  • Do I want him in our organisation: Check Check Check Check!
With that kind of a response, you've not only made a GREAT impression; but also dropped SEVERAL hints for the interviewers next question for which you already have prepared answers. Like -
  • You said, you've struggled a lot to get into engineering college. Tell me about it? [You will now tell your story of how your financial background required you to apply for educational loan, your struggle and how you emerged successfully out of your situation]
  • Why only my company to start your career? [You will now tell them about the research you've done about the company, how mesmerised you are just by looking at beautiful campuses, how you think the company will help you grow and learn.]
  • Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. [You are now just waiting for this question! Throw your story of how you had an accident just before the exam. How it affected you, how difficult it was to get back and attempt the paper even when you knew you'd not be able to write. A strength explained with an example - what'd the HR manager need more?]
  • Tell me about your family. [Go on, they gave you a chance]
  • Which novel are you reading [do a favor for yourself and read a novel if you are mentioning reading as a hobby]
Basically, you just took total charge of the entire interview process. With that kind of a start, there's 99.99% chance that you'll be selected. There are several ways of making your answer even more impressive - by including information about special achievements. Everyone loves winners, you see! I will now summarise all of the above to come up with a template answer to 'tell me about yourself' question.

The template to answer 'tell me about yourself' question in HR interview
  • Keep your introduction short: about 30 seconds to 45 seconds, unless you have really significant information to share.
  • Script your response in such a way that it portrays you as a struggler who fights and wins. Everyone loves fighters who win (not lose).
  • Show interest about the job/work and the organisation. Keep your responses prepared.
  • Mention about your strong support (family, friends) and region you belong to (how? go figure out yourself.)
  • Mention about your hobby - only if you have one or be smart, like in the response above.
I'd recommend that you should read two excellent articles on monster and theladders about how to answer this question. That said, you should always be prepared with few surprise questions. Here's one from personal experience.

Me: ..blah blah....I'm passionate about playing guitar......
HR: Interesting. But I don't think your guitar playing skills going to help our organisation.

Me: (smiling) I think guitar playing is one of the most important skills I have. It's helped me develop higher levels of concentration and also taught me the importance of patience and perseverance in order to get that one chord or melody right. A quick guitaring session helps me relax quickly after a hard day at work.

HR: (smile)
Me: (smile)

I hope you will find this guide useful. Do let me know your thoughts below.
@Koushal Patel • 09 Jan, 2015 • 1 like Impressive and awesome. Thanks. Not only it is for freshers, I am sure, folks with experience would surely be benefited from this.

Apart from this, While preparing for my interview, I learnt a very important factor while answering the question, that is, the pitch of the sound/voice of candidate while answering.
Example is described in the article itself-
Kaustubh Katdare
I'm Rahul Kapoor.
Here I'm is spoken very fast, and the name with giving stress, rather than giving all the words the equal stress. Similar concept should be applied while answering other questions. Important words should be spoken with stress, that's what I believe. We can watch various videos on this available in YouTube. Hope this helps too. 😀
@Ankita Katdare • 11 Jan, 2015 • 2 likes Couldn't agree more with what is written in the post above. As has been correctly put in the first post, 'scripting' you answer or using the most proper words for something really simple can pay off in the long run. One doesn't have to put something blatantly as if it's nothing.

What I've found my colleagues doing in interview is never highlighting their skills. They tend to simply assume that the interviewer already knows or understands it. The 'it' in the last statement needs to be explained very carefully. See, once you've done something, accomplished a task - you don't remember the hardships you wen through, the skills you acquired on your own, the hours of self-learning and dedication that went into something. You simply state it as something that's matter-of-fact. But remember that it really isn't so.

In the 'I play guitar' example above, we should understand that if there are 500 applicants for the vacancy, at least 50 other people play guitar or for that matter some musical instrument. So, even though that quality stands out in your resume, you still have to beat 49 other people to make it easy for the HR team to select you and not anyone else. Hence, saying 'I play guitar as a hobby' and wrapping it off at that statement gives you -50 instead of +100.

Here's an example for a programmer interview -
Some guy could answer:
"I am proficient in C, C++ and Java and know a bit of Python and Javascript. I have created my final year project as a web-based application in Java."

A smart guy would answer:
"I have deep interest in the programming languages - C, C++ and Java. My final year project based in Java helped me understand the interesting concepts of '___', '___' and '___' very well. I generally like to browse about the latest happenings in the programming world and regular reading on these topics have led me to start learning up-and-coming languages Python and Javascript through online tutorials. I am gradually grasping the newer concepts such as __ and __.'

This way you not only are uttering the world that most interests the interviewer, you are highlight your most important accomplishments, your ability to learn and your interest in embracing the new technologies.

Another point that I would like to stress on is, leaving cues for the interviewer to ask the next question. By mentioning the concepts you are good at in a programming language, you (don't ensure but) increase the chances of the next question being about the concepts you mentioned in the very first answer of your interview. Now, one must understand that one had to adapt their answer to suit the kind of interview you are facing.

If it's a HR interview, then you can dwell more on the 'skills' you've learned, while if you are asked 'tell me about yourself' in a technical round interview, you have to mention at least 3-4 technologies you are proficient in right in the first answer. Now, understand that you aren't tricking the interviewer or compelling him/her in anyway. They are going to be way smarter than you in any given scenario, simply because they've had the chance to interview thousands of willing candidates before you. They know the tendency of the interviewee and can judge you even before you enter the room from your resume itself. You are simply letting them know what you are most comfortable in and have dedicated a significant amount of time learning that.

Therefore, you have to take care of carefully crafting your response to 'highlight' your skills. This will need some introspection and laying of ground work before you enter that interview room. You need to recognize your forte (skills that you are good at) in such a way that you are able to answer all basic questions fired at you on that topic.

That said, you don't need to panic. Start off by jotting down the points in your resume that showcase what you are awesome at. Study these points thoroughly and then go about scripting the answer to "Tell me about yourself".

Lastly, do not keep blabbering on and on about your family background or your school & college life if you are not getting to some point with it and always support your statements with examples from your life. 😀 All the best, folks!
@Ankita Katdare • 21 Dec, 2015 Looking forward to reading some interesting experiences here. If you've read the posts above, please share your feedback with us. What kind of answers have you given at HR interviews?
@Ankita Katdare • 21 Dec, 2015 Here's an informative video -

@Kaustubh Katdare • 13 Sep, 2018

I'm curious to know what are the answers our fellow engineers have prepared for this question.

Let's imagine an interview where you have been asked - "Tell me about yourself, skip that part that's mentioned in your Resume".

What would be your answer? 

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