Why do employers ask this question?
In short, it allows the interviewer to ease into the actual interview. Some might use it as an icebreaker question to get to know you a little, while others will move directly into other interview questions after you answer.
A short, summarized version of your background and skills gives them insight into what experiences and qualifications are most relevant to the position you're applying for. In addition, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your communication skills and how you present yourself professionally.
Similar versions of this question:
- Could you walk me through your resume?
- Tell me a little bit more about your background.
- How would you describe yourself?
- Tell me something that isn't in your resume.
How to Answer
When answering, it's best to follow these steps:
Present: discuss your current skills and experience that relate specifically to the role you're applying for.
Past: discuss any previous experience relevant to this job and the company you want to work for.
Future: talk about what you're looking for and why you're interested in this role, what your goals are, and how you'd like to grow.
Be sure that you tweak as you see fit and always tie it back to the job and company.
Tips for answering this question
Tailor your answer to the company and role
The interviewer isn't interested in your family history, hobbies, or future personal plans unless they somehow relate to the position you're applying for. Therefore, make sure you mention things that you can tie back to the job you're applying for.
Take advantage of this opportunity and show that you are the right person for the job. Discuss why you applied and what you can bring to the table.
Even though you should keep your answer professional, don't shy away from discussing why you're passionate about your work or working with this specific company. This will help you stand out from other candidates and make you more memorable. For example, you can say something along the lines of: 'I'm passionate about x and y, and that's what attracted me to your company...'
Don't go through your resume word for word
The interviewer has already gone through your resume, so don't waste time recounting every single detail of your career.
Read the room
There is no set amount of time you should spend on this question, but you should gauge the interviewer's reactions to see if they seem uninterested - if so, it might be time to move on to something else. On the other hand, if they seem interested in a specific topic, elaborate on it.
Think of this answer as a teaser to pique the interviewer's interest and give them a chance to ask follow-up questions.
Practice your answer out loud
It is always a good idea to practice your answers to common interview questions before any interview. This will help you feel more confident during the actual interview. However, do not memorize your answer word for word - you want to sound like you're making conversation and give the interviewer a chance to chime in.
It can also be good practice to go through your answer with a trusted family member or friend, so you can see how your answer is interpreted.
Know your audience
You may be asked this question multiple times throughout the interview process, but that doesn't mean you should give the same answer each time.
If you're speaking to a recruiter, focus on the bigger picture; if you're talking to your prospective employer, focus on the specific role and company.
If you were laid off from your previous employer, we do not recommend mentioning it when answering this question. However, you should mention it if you are asked why you changed jobs or why there is a gap in your resume. Remember - when you do bring it up - never badmouth your previous employer.