Q. Tell me something about yourself OR Tell us a little about yourself
Most interviews start with the interviewer saying “Tell me something about yourself”. The intention usually is to make the candidate comfortable, because s(he) now has to answer something that s(he) already knows, and there is no wrong answer. This is a great opportunity to tell a story about yourself, set the context for the interview, and above all make that first impression.
Most candidates however tend to do a bad job with the question. Unless you are a charming conversationalist, you probably can’t whip up something meaningful on the spot. The formal setting of an interview can be intimidating. Most engineers and scientists tend to be asocial. Most people are just plain uncomfortable talking about themselves to strangers. The best you can (and should) do is to prepare the answer to this question in advance.
Most people tend to summarize their background or their resume. That is not the best thing to do, the interviewer already has your resume. This is your chance to lead the interview. Leading the interview means getting the interviewer to ask you questions which you want him to ask you. A better approach is to characterize yourself, your qualities, your skills. you can also mention your last job and how that qualifies you for this one. Consider using terms and phrases to describe themselves. “Ninja”, “Hustler”, “Technopreneur”.
Since there is no wrong answer you can go with any of these or something of your own. But, whatever you pick, rest assured that the next line of questioning is going to be in that area. More often than not, successful candidates manage to lead the interviewer into asking them about their strong areas, rather than their weak areas.
Most interviews go from 30 to 45 minutes per interviewer. And most likely the first question you get will be “Tell me something about yourself”. This is your first opportunity to lead the interview. Don’t waste the opportunity by saying something terse or just mentioning your degree or something close-ended. Pick your best area, tell a story, but keep it open-ended. With some luck, you’ll spend the first 15-20 minutes on Q&A in that area. That’s 33% to 50% of your interview focused on your strengths, and that much less time for the interviewer to dig up on your weakness.
Wish you all the best in your job search!