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Answer This Job Interview Question: Tell Me (or Us) About Yourself

By Laura DeCarlo

While this may be among the first questions asked at the start of the interview, the goal of the interview is not to become best friends. The goal is to determine if you are a good fit for their job.

This question may come disguised as, "What should I know about you?" or they might say, "What would you like me to know about you."

Like the "Why should we hire you?" question, this is an opportunity to market yourself, presenting yourself as the solution (right candidate) for their problem (a job to fill). So, tell them the things that emphasize how your accomplishments and experience make you an ideal candidate for the job you are seeking.


Answering the Real Question

You probably find yourself wondering, “What is it they really want to know?”

Excellent thought!

They want to understand how well you fit into this position. Tell them, using the 2-part answer, below.

Perhaps, ask for clarification.

To ensure that you provide the information they want, you might wish to start your response with a question of your own, like this --

"I would be glad to. Could you give me an idea of the type of information you would like to know?"

By starting this way, you can direct your answer better and be more conversational.

The Two-Part Answer to Tell Me/Us About Yourself

This is not an invitation to tell your life story or share any secrets about your current or former employers. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes, and emphasize what will make you stand out as qualified for the company and for the job.

Break your answer to this question into two parts:

1. How/why you are qualified for this opportunity.

Summarize what you have done that qualifies you for this opportunity. Don't recite what is on your resume or job application, but don't assume that the interviewers, who may have been interviewing several candidates, remember your qualifications.

Prsent the most significant highlights, the ones that would be most relevant to this job. These are the qualifications that make it clear that you are a very good candidate for the job.

2. Why you have applied for this job.

This is where you must tread very carefully and not say anything that might be interpreted as trashing your current/former employer. Emphasize the opportunity to move forward in your career without saying that you are dead-ended in your current job.

Don't say you want to work closer to home because your kids sometimes get out of school early and you want to be able to be there with them or you are too tired from the long commute to enjoy life.

Stay away from reasons that are not clearly related to advancing your career.

For example, someone seeking a management position with a local branch of a transportation company might say:

“I was born and raised in XYZ County and have an excellent knowledge of the area as well as Central and XYY counties. During the last 9 years with the ABC Freight Company, I have progressed through positions of Package Loader, Courier, Dispatcher, and Team Lead.

"In my most recent position, I have had the opportunity to complete numerous management training programs, provide supervision and leadership to all positions within the station, and participate in special projects in conjunction with Senior and District Managers. I enjoy being a Lead and the opportunity to empower and motivate my team.

"Last year I was awarded 'Lead I' for greatest team gains in productivity. I believe this experience and training has prepared me to take the next step and pursue a management position with Big New Employer.”

Yes, this person prepared and practiced his response in advance. Smart move!

As you can see from this sample answer, this individual emphasizes the tangibles that qualify him for the job, from his knowledge of the local area, long-term tenure with the employer, and recognition for management results within the industry.

He does not focus on fluffy stuff or personal information, but paints a picture as to why he is a perfect candidate for the job.

He also looks forward to advancement in his career, seeking a management position with this new employer.

[MORE: Smart Answers to Job Interview Questions.]

What You Don't Tell Them

I call this question a "spider web" because if you simply tell someone about yourself without planning or context to the target job for which you are there to interview, you could give away all kinds of information that leaves them with the impression that you are:

  • Over-qualified
  • Under-qualified
  • Ditzy or naive
  • Unprepared for the interview (so not really very interested)
  • Simply a risk for the company

Most people talk about what they know, ramble on about where they live, kids, likes/dislikes, but, remember, THIS IS A JOB INTERVIEW.

The sole purpose of this interview is to see if you are a fit for the employer; a fit for the job!

Therefore, your goal is to avoid answers that give away personal information about yourself. An employer isn’t going to select to hire you because you have such cute children, a wonderful husband or wife, or interesting hobbies.

How to Prepare for This Job Interview question

Before you ever go to an interview, you need to KNOW YOURSELF in terms of qualifications for the job and match for the company.

To know this you should:

  1. Research the company;
  2. Identify, catalog, list, and review your expertise, strengths, and unique value; and
  3. Practice, practice, practice so you sound natural and confident.

Then, you will be ready to put yourself in the employer’s shoes and emphasize what will make you stand out for the company and for the job.

[For more tips on preparing for a job interveiw, read Pre-Interview Preparation so you will have a solid understanding of the position and the employer. ]

Bottom Line

With advanced planning and practice, you can know your target employer and how to sell yourself for the job. "Tell me about yourself" then becomes a positive and fun exercise in demonstrating your value and getting one step closer to winning that great new job!

For more about handling behavioral interviews, panel interviews, and telephone interviews, as well as preparing for job interviews, see the article list on the right.

About the author...

Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11 top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Google+ and Twitter at @careerhero.

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