The first time I was prompted with “Tell me about yourself” in an interview, I reeled off a canned spiel about how I love helping people – I was positive it would impress my interviewer. But after my cliched answer triggered a disappointed look on her face, I panicked.
I ended up rambling about how “fun” I was, citing my time as the lead singer and guitarist for a Blink-182 cover band in the sixth grade as compelling evidence. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance at first impressions. So to nail your interview, learn how to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.”
What Interviewers Really Want to Know
If you’re in the process of interviewing for a new role, you know how difficult it can be to find a unique and compelling answer to this common prompt.
“Tell me about yourself” is very open-ended yet one of the most popular ways interviewers start the conversation. This answer has a huge impact on your interviewer’s first impression of you and can shape the entire conversation.
To gain some insight on the best way to respond to “Tell me about yourself”, I asked Claire McCarthy, a recruiting manager at HubSpot, about the best way to respond to the prompt.
“There’s no ideal answer to ‘Tell me about yourself,’” she says, “but I always encourage candidates to create a value proposition for themselves that touches on a couple of things.”
According to McCarthy, the ideal value proposition covers:
- Your motivation
- The specific challenges that excite you
- What you can bring to the table
- Why you want to work for the company you’re interviewing at and why now
- Why this job is a good fit
Armed with McCarthy’s advice, we’ll help you develop a strong, cohesive value proposition that answers all of these questions.
How to Give The Best Answers to ‘Tell Me About Yourself’
- Be honest.
- Tell a story.
- Weave in personal details.
- Describe what motivates you.
- Explain what types of challenges excite you.
- Highlight your most relevant skills.
- Spell out why you want to work at the company you’re interviewing at.
- Illustrate why you want to work for them right now.
- Prove that you’d be a good fit for the job.
1. Be honest.
The most important thing about answering this question is being honest.
If you start your interview by embellishing details about your experience or lying about your skills, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Even if the hiring manager doesn’t realize it at the moment, they’ll likely detect inconsistencies later on.
It’s hard enough to get this question right, don’t make it harder on yourself. Instead, skip the games and bring your full self to the interview.
2. Tell a story.
Think of this question as an opportunity to tell the interview a short story about yourself.
Just as a story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, yours should too – except you’ll be covering the past, present, and future.
Throughout your answer, you’ll weave in several elements that will highlight your skills, motivation, and future goals.
3. Weave in personal details.
This step requires a delicate balance.
You’ll want to weave in personal details about yourself that will help hiring managers discover what drives you and have a holistic view of who you are.
However, you don’t want to do a deep dive into your personal life.
So, only highlight personal details that tie back to a professional skill or goal. For instance, you might mention your love of storytelling from early childhood and how that led you to start a career in content creation.
4. Describe what motivates you.
One of the most important (and common) traits hiring managers typically look for in candidates is their intrinsic motivation. Research suggests intrinsically motivated employees produce a higher quality of work than extrinsically motivated employees do.
So if you can recount a personal anecdote that proves you’re a craft-driven professional, and not just someone who is enamored by the company’s lucrative stock options, you’ll immediately grab the hiring manager’s attention.
To do so, lead off your value proposition like this:
“As I approach my five-year anniversary working in the content marketing space, I’ve learned a lot about myself. More specifically, I’ve realized I feel the most fulfilled when I can craft gripping stories that actually help and inspire people.”
5. Explain what challenges excite you.
Hiring managers don’t generally hire candidates to maintain their team’s status quo. They hire candidates who will challenge it and propel their team to greater heights.
To show that you can be a catalyst on the team, speak to the challenges in your industry or this particular role that excite you, just like the example below:
“Today, we both work in an industry where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, saturating our space with mediocre content. It’s never been harder to cut through the noise. But this doesn’t intimidate or discourage me. It actually excites me because it forces me to keep innovating and finding new ways to connect with an audience.”
6. Highlight your most relevant skills.
Once you explain what challenges pique your interest, you can then naturally segue into how you possess the necessary skills to overcome them and excel at the role, like the example below:
“There’s a fierce battle for attention in content marketing right now, and it has pushed me to master both my writing and analytical skills. Data drives decisions in our industry, and I know if I want to make an impact on a team, I need to be both a creative and a strategist. Thankfully, my ability to adapt has allowed me to pick up the necessary skills to accurately extract insights from data and weave them into a compelling story.”
7. Spell out why you want to work at the company you’re interviewing at.
Highlighting your most relevant skills will capture your hiring manager’s attention. But to truly impress her, communicate how your passion and skills align with the company’s interests and goals, like the example below:
“That’s why I think I’d be a high-impact employee here – you care a lot about doing two things right: making objective, data-driven decisions and telling great stories. I believe I can help you get better at both of these things.”
8. Illustrate why you want to work for the company right now.
After you spell out why you want to work for the company, delve into why you want to work for them right now.
This shows that you took initiative to learn about the company’s most recent updates, and the hiring manager will definitely take note of your proactiveness. Check out the example below:
“This is also one of the best times to work at HubSpot – I was at INBOUND in September and was impressed with all your new product launches. It’s clear that HubSpot is doubling down on innovation and strives to propel to the top of the industry. I’d be pumped to be a part of that.”
9. Prove that you’d be a good fit for the job.
To pack a punch at the end of your value proposition, show the hiring manager how you’ve used your skills to improve your current team by quantifying your accomplishments.
These previous experiences will prove your worth and qualify you as the employee who can take the team to the next level. Cap off your answer with something like this:
“And as the top-performing content strategist at my current company, where I’ve doubled blog views and grown our email subscription list by 40% in only one year, I think I could help you develop a killer content strategy, write some of the best stories in MarTech, and build an even more loyal audience than you boast now.”
What Not to Do When Asked “Tell Me About Yourself”
Just as there’s a long list of things you can say when answering this question, there’s also one for mistakes you should avoid.
When answering “Tell me about yourself,” don’t:
- Wing your answer – Memorize the key points to hit so that you can ensure a concise answer every time without sounding rehearsed.
- Focus on your personal life – Given the context in which this question is asked, focus on your professional journey instead your personal one.
- Discuss contentious topics – Topics like politics, religion, and sex have no place in an interview, much less during this question.
“Tell Me About Yourself” Sample Answer
Altogether, a strong answer to the “Tell me about yourself” prompt would look like this:
“As I approach my five-year anniversary working in the content marketing space, I’ve learned a lot about myself. More specifically, I’ve realized I feel the most fulfilled when I can craft gripping stories that actually help and inspire people.
Today, we both work in an industry where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, saturating our space with mediocre content. It’s never been harder to cut through the noise. But this doesn’t intimidate or discourage me. It actually excites me because it forces me to keep innovating and finding new ways to connect with an audience.
There’s a fierce battle for attention in content marketing right now, and it has pushed me to master both my writing and analytical skills. Data drives decisions in our industry, and I know if I want to make an impact on a team, I need to be both a creative and a strategist. Thankfully, my ability to adapt has allowed me to pick up the necessary skills to accurately extract insights from data and weave them into a compelling story.
That’s why I think I’d be a high-impact employee here — you guys care a lot about doing two things right: making objective, data-driven decisions and telling great stories. I believe I can help you get better at both of these things.
This is also one of the best times to work at HubSpot — I was at INBOUND in September and was impressed with all your new product launches. It’s clear that HubSpot is doubling down on innovation and strives to propel to the top of the industry. I’d be pumped to be a part of that.
And as the top-performing content strategist at my current company, where I’ve doubled blog views and grown our email subscription list by 40% in only one year, I think I could help you develop a killer content strategy, write some of the best stories in MarTech, and build an even more loyal audience than you boast now.”
Framing ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ as ‘Pitch Yourself’
“Tell me about yourself” might be one of the most dreaded prompts in the history of interviews.
But if you understand why hiring managers prod candidates with it, you can turn your answer into your pitch.
From there, structure your value proposition the way we did above and you’ll make a strong first impression.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Nov. 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Content Marketers Share Salaries, Career Paths, and More in 2023 [New Research]
You certainly know your answers to these questions. But, until now, little industry research has dived into content marketing careers.
We set out to find answers. Our goal is to help content marketers understand their opportunities and positions – and help companies develop meaningful roles and the resources and opportunities to retain them.
So, earlier this year, we asked content marketers about their work satisfaction, career development, and salary expectations.
More than 1,100 content professionals had their say. You can read the full story – including salary breakdowns by role, gender, and generation – in the Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook (gated).
Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the intriguing findings.
You (mostly) like your content marketing jobs
More than half of the content pros (56%) tell us they’re very or extremely satisfied with their current position.
One content marketer explains: “I can be creative while being tied to business impact. Content marketing offers the fulfillment and growth of a creative career with the stability and compensation of a corporate career. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s possible.”
Another offers this explanation: “I love seeing all the pieces come together; how great words and innovative designs can affect and influence consumers and audiences. And I love working behind the scenes, getting to turn the cogs of the content machine.”
Satisfaction rates stay roughly the same from millennials to Gen Xers to baby boomers. (We had too few Gen Z respondents to report on their segment with confidence.)
Of course, that’s not to say the job is easy. When asked about stress levels, 24% of content marketers say they are “very” or “extremely” stressed.
One survey taker explains, “The pace of work can be relentless. Just when you’ve completed one big project, another is right behind it.”
And some kudos go to employers. A significant majority (74%) said they feel their employers care about their stress levels and mental health.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
You’re well educated – and eager to learn more
Among the surveyed group, one in three has a master’s, doctorate, or another advanced degree. As you probably know from your and your colleagues’ career pathways, people come into content marketing from many backgrounds (some come from multiple fields), including:
And content marketers are eager to expand their knowledge base:
- Over 45% want to advance their skills in SEO, data analytics, audience development/segmentation, and integrating new technologies.
- 40% show interest in honing their writing and editing skills.
- One in three wants to hone their audio and video skills (filming, editing, and production).
Content marketers clearly rank high on the “digital dexterity” scale – the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new environments. That’s a sign of an adaptable, resilient workforce ready to meet whatever the future brings.
As Jean-Marc Laouchez, president of the Korn Ferry Institute, says in a Computerworld article: “Constant learning – driven by both workers and organizations – will be central to the future of work, extending far beyond the traditional definition of learning and development.”
And yet, many content marketers are looking for new positions
Content marketers like their jobs and are ready to learn. And yet, most (57%) say they plan to find another position within the next year or are unsure about their next steps.
Looking at it from another angle: Only 43% say they won’t be looking for a new job in the next year.
What’s driving this restlessness? Is it a persistent echo of the Great Resignation? Or a wave of “quiet quitting” in content marketing?
I don’t think so. Instead, the research points to something at the heart of content marketing careers.
Content marketing lacks a clear career path
The data highlights a troubling phenomenon: Only 23% of content marketers say they have a clear path for advancement inside their current company.
Nearly all the rest (69%) say they must leave their companies to advance or simply can’t visualize the path forward. (A small share – 8% – say they’ve reached the pinnacle of their careers and aren’t looking for advancement.)
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Robert Rose, our chief strategy advisor, has written about this problem: “Content marketing is growing exponentially. But the advancement ladder for content practitioners is missing most of its rungs.”
Companies that don’t address the content marketing career ladder will struggle to keep these highly educated, adaptable employees.
Content marketers want better-defined career paths and are eager to advance their skills. So, where to begin nurturing their ambitions? With dialogue.
If you’re an individual contributor on a content team, speak up about your needs and wants.
If you’re a team leader, involve your creative, results-driven professionals in open, honest conversations. Invite them to help shape their career paths based on their aspirations. Then partner with HR and executive leadership to provide what they need to achieve their goals.
After all, investing in their future also pays off for the brand.
Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook offers more insights into:
- Content marketers’ income
- Unique career priorities by age and gender
- Advice on how companies can recruit and retain the best content marketing talent
I hope you’ll download the e-book to learn more. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How do these findings align with your experience? What would you tell the next generation about content marketing as a career? Let me know in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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