What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Sheila Smith

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

For starters, don’t freak out! The interviewer uses this common question as an "ice-breaker even though it ends up being a “stumper” for many students. I find that reaction to be surprising. What did they think we'd be talking about? Your response to that initial question directs the flow of the conversation. Being prepared shows respect for the interviewer and gives you the ability to influence the outcome of the interview.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Take advantage of the interview opportunity. Anticipate this question. Prepare a "preview" of your accomplishments, achievements, interests and strengths, your "talking points", the foundation for your campaign to get the offer. The interviewer, who may not have reviewed, remembered or even had access to your application material, wants to find discussion topics which will reveal how you are a "fit" for them. Think about yourself from their perspective. What is relevant to them? What might they be looking for in an applicant?

Ronald Smith

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Be careful of adding in an obscure "what most people don't know about me is...." in order to make yourself "memorable." It’s a risky proposition unless it is something (a) you truly have in common with the interviewer (did you Google your interviewer or do you see that prized autographed baseball in his office?) or (b) relevant to an applicable quality, e.g. "my hobby is making model ships", then emphasize your attention to detail and patient persistence.

Peggy Wallace
Founder Making Conversation, LLC

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Try to view the "tell me about yourself" question as an opportunity to shine. If you have done your homework, you know what would be convincing to them. Provide sufficient detail to entice them to ask more, but don't recount all your best stories or start a long monologue. Respect the concept of the interview as a conversation, a "give and take," where each person feels respected. Once they indicate which delicacy might be of interest to them from your hors d'oeuvres tray, be prepared to demonstrate in detail through clear, concise, effective and persuasive stories and examples, showing off your accomplishments, achievements, interests, qualities and strengths. Once you have provided your intriguing amuse-bouche and don't skimp on the main course!

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

The student should probably address this question as the sum of his or her passions and strengths. After a brief introduction of the student to the interviewer (as this question is likely to come up early in the interview), the student should be prepared with which passions and strengths he or she is going to relay to the interviewer. By emphasizing these items, the student will improve his or her comfort level with the interview process and project positively to the interviewer. The student will be more relaxed the more he talks about himself or herself. Once relaxed, the real personality of that candidate is able to shine through. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for the student to have at least a few passions and interests ready to speak about before setting foot in the interview. Interviewers may not ask a question as open ended as "Tell me about yourself?" Still, they want to get to know a student and verify his or her suitability to the particular college.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Don't Rehash Your Resume

This is your chance to step beyond the four corners of your application! If you want to talk about your grades and school activities because you feel that they accurately reflect your true and unique characteristics -- then go for it. But if you feel that you are so much more than that -- feel free to share your outside interests, interesting experiences, your family life, your part-time job, etc. You might be an avid reader or a huge fan of movies. You might have a lucrative babysitting business. You might have an impressive collection of rocks! Talk about those things! They make you --- YOU! Remember -- the interview isn't about an academic evaluation -- it's to evaluate your suitability as a roommate and classmate!

Helen Cella

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Talk about your academics, interests and community service.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Where do I begin

If someone asks you to tell them about yourself, please have a Reader's Digest Condensed Version response ready. This is where it pays to be prepared. You don't want to miss an opportunity to share something and if you haven't thought ahead, you just might. They aren't asking you to go back to the day you were born. Rather, they are interested in the recent past and your dreams/plans for the future. Feel free to include some humor in the conversation and not come across all grim and stressed. They want to see the real you, not some artificial version you've pulled out just for the interview. Be yourself, that's who needs to "fit" at the school and they're the ones who will be deciding.

Nicholas Umphrey

About you..

In just about any interview situation, this questions is always the "lead off hitter." I always thought about my answer to this one one the car ride to the interview since nobody else was with me, I was comfortable talking to myself. They want to know the basics: who are you? Your backgorund, interests, passions, and goals.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

Discuss your favorite class or teacher. Talk about how you enjoy spending your time outside of your studies. Have you read an interesting article or book that you can discuss intelligently with the interviewer? What is your favorite extracurricular activity and why do you enjoy it so much? Don't be arrogant--be interesting and interested. As the interviewer about himself as well.