While this is often among the first questions asked at the start of the interview, the goal of the interview is not to become best friends or to hear your read your resume.
Their goal is to determine if you are a good fit for their job, so your best strategy is to focus on this employer and your fit for this job.
This is an opportunity to market yourself as a qualified candidate -- presenting yourself as the "solution" (right candidate) to their "problem" (a job to fill).
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:
Most people talk about what they know, ramble on about where they live, kids, likes/dislikes, but, remember, THIS IS A JOB INTERVIEW. Sharing details about your personal life is not appropriate or smart.
An employer isn’t going to select to hire you because you have such cute children (causing you to miss work), a wonderful husband or wife (causing you to miss work), or interesting hobbies (causing you to miss work).
Your goal is to avoid answers that give away personal information about yourself, particularly because some of that information might take you off the top-candidates list.
The best way to answer this question?
Focus on this opportunity! Tell them about your accomplishments and experience that make you an ideal candidate for the job you are seeking.
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 -- what would you want to know if you were them?
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:
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, will remember all of your qualifications.
MORE: Read top recruiter Jeff Lipschultz's tips for analyzing job descriptions -- 3 Steps to Interview Success: Build Your Interview Checklist.]
Focus on advancing your career. Stay away from reasons that are not clearly career-related. Emphasize the opportunity to move forward in your career without saying that you are dead-ended in your current job.
Focus on the future -- this opportunity and your career, demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm for the job and the employer:
Avoid the purely personal reasons. Do NOT say:
This is where you must tread very carefully and not say anything that might be interpreted as trashing your current/former employer. DO tell them how well you fit, using the 2-part answer, above.
Don't spend more than 30 to 60 seconds answering this question.
Someone seeking a management position with a local branch of a transportation company might say:
(Why You Are Qualified)
I am currently the Team Lead for ABC Freight Company in this area, reporting directly to the District Manager. During the last 9 years, I have progressed through positions of Package Loader, Courier, Dispatcher, and Team Lead.
In my current 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.
My team includes over 50 drivers, loaders, and couriers and includes Big County. Since I was born and raised in this county, I have an excellent knowledge of this area as well as the 2 neighboring counties -- North County and South County.
I enjoy being a Lead and the opportunity to empower and motivate my team. Last year I was awarded 'Top Lead ' for greatest team gains in productivity.
(Why You Applied)
I believe this experience and training has prepared me to take the next step and pursue a management position with XYZ Trucking. This company has a reputation for excellent management. This opportunity looks perfect to me, and I look forward to working with the best.
Yes, this person prepared and practiced his response in advance. Smart move!
As you can see from this sample answer, this individual:
[MORE: Smart Answers to Interview Questions.]
Fortunately, this question is one of the easiest job interview questions to prepare for.
KNOW YOURSELF in terms of qualifications for the job and match for the company:
And, 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 interview, read Pre-Interview Preparation so you will have a solid understanding of the position and the employer. ]
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!
Your preparation for this question will also work well for the "Why should we hire you?" question.
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 Twitter at @careerhero.