The Script

Cat: So, says the interviewer. Tell me about yourself. Sounds pretty benign. But saying the wrong thing here can be lethal. I'm Cat Miller, and this is DiceTV.

It's smart to think ahead about answering what seems to be a simple question. Go on too long, ramble too much, and suddenly you've lost the shine you've been trying to present to the person you hope is going to be your manager. The key is to not to make the question a jumping-off point for a career-path version of the "autobiography" your third-grade teacher asked you to write. Remember those?

"I was born in Metropolis, Ohio. My father is a car dealer. I have a sister, Patty, two brothers, Joe and Bill, and a dog, Spike. My hobbies are baseball, model trains and coin collecting.....

In other words: Resist the natural tendency to tick off each of your career roles and transitions in a single narrative.

The interviewer isn't looking for completeness right now. She's looking for a coherent story that provides indications you're a good fit for the opening.

That means your answer should briefly convey a sense of who you are and where you're going - why the opening is a logical next step for you. You needn't make that point explicit, but if you can suggest it in your answer, you'll score points.

And, be sure to mention something about your previous career that prepares you for the role you're interviewing for. Focus this part of your answer on accomplishments, not just responsibilities or functions. For each past or present job you discuss, tell an anecdote - a brief anecdote - about a challenge, a project, or a lesson that's directly relevant to the new role. If you can relate that challenge or project to your motivation for wanting this new role, so much the better.

Don't go through each and every job you've had. And don't explain why you left jobs: The interviewer's going to ask about that later.

I'm Cat Miller, this has been DiceTV, and we now return you to your regular desktop.