This style of question is often used during interviews, and the first key to providing a successful response is to remember that’s where you are. You are not talking to someone in a club, online, or at a dinner party, where you can tell a full and exciting life story. Instead, understand what this question really means: “Tell me those things about yourself that will help me judge your viability as a candidate to fill this position”.
Therefore, rather than simply answering, you are about to undertake a gentle sales job about yourself. Like any such situation, the key is in understanding what the other person is looking for, and then showing how you match these criteria. Let’s look at four key areas and how best to respond…
Your professional history
Try to start in the present or recent past, not with a simple listing of your working life from the day you left school or graduated from university. Consider a few key actions you have taken, achievements you have gained, posts you have held, all of which are relevant to the position you are seeking and the skills and actions necessary to fulfil it successfully.
Your educational history
The relevance of this area often depends on both your age and the length of time since the completion of your education. If you have years of work experience, you might touch on how key educational qualifications have helped. If you have attended specific recent courses or seminars and the like that have proved beneficial, again these can be included. Should you recently have completed your education, then focus on specific areas and what you have learned, and how this can be put to beneficial use in the position you are seeking.
Your valuable skill set
Tied in with both of the previous areas, identify a few relevant skills that are of greatest importance in the sought role. Show how you believe these will marry well with the key job areas or tasks, and how you will be able to deliver the personal end product that the interviewer needs.
“In five years, I’d like to be doing your job.” No – this is trite and ridiculous. Instead, explain how you want to move forward in your career in a way that matches what the employer is trying to achieve. Show how you don’t see this as a stepping stone to elsewhere, but a place to develop and contribute over a period of time.
Take the above content and then add key reasons why you are interested in working in this role for this employer, rather than simply wanting “a job – any job”. Now, rehearse what you want to say and how best to say it. Ask a friend to play a listening interviewer, and offer some comments if they want. Then, during your interview, even if you aren’t asked exactly this question, you have a wealth of relevant information to use as and when you can.