Job Search: “Tell Me a Little about Yourself”
Open-ended questions give a candidate space to shine during an interview or (more pessimistically) enough rope to hang herself. The seemingly innocent request by a hirer to “tell me a little about yourself” is more than an icebreaker; it is a way to start finding out if you’d be a good match for the organization and the job at hand. Don’t waste precious face time chronicling your grade school antics or detailing your family history. Start positioning yourself as the best person for the job.
As this article points out, employers are concerned about your professional qualifications and information that is relevant to the position. Lead with what appears to be most important at this stage in your career path. If you just graduated, detail what you studied and how it fits in with the job you’re seeking. If you have work experience, play up pertinent duties and responsibilities. While more details about your life will come up within the course of later conversation, focusing from the get-go on what you bring to the table shows you have come to the interview with a goal in mind -- namely, proving you deserve this job.
Bear in mind, too, that you begin to shape impressions with your response. Talking about being bored with classwork or how you’re so overworked at your present position can make the interviewer draw conclusions about motivation level. Likewise, bad-mouthing anyone is likely to raise eyebrows about your ability to get along with others and be a team player. Stay positive and energetic, and you’ll likely find that the employer wants to know more than just a little about you.