As a rising senior in college, many job interviews are (hopefully) just around the corner. However, there is always one question I seem to dread the most.
“So, tell me a little about yourself.”
This question, like it or not, is inevitable in nearly any job interview. How do you answer it? What is the interviewer looking for? What information is relevant? Am I just summing up my resume? How far into detail should I go?
I recently attended a workshop at UNC-Chapel Hill entitled “From School to the Working World: Tips and Advice for Landing Your First Job.” Here is where I finally understood what interviewers are looking for when asking this very question (or, at the very least, where I found a good starting point for crafting my answer).
One of the speakers described it to us this way. “Think of your answer as an elevator pitch.”
An elevator pitch: a short, sweet and to-the-point summary that defines you and shows your value. This narrative should explain how you got to where you are today and what has led you to the job interview. It should be concise enough that it could be delivered during a short elevator ride.
Want to deliver the perfect elevator pitch? Here are a few tips.
- Create your own brand identity. In any job interview, you’re essentially selling a product: yourself. Think of your brand identity as the mission statement of a company and the purpose of a product. Your mission statement describes who you are and encompasses your professional values; your purpose should explain why you are interviewing for the job and why you’re the best candidate for it.
- Develop your storyline. Think of your elevator pitch as a quick story (emphasis on “quick”). Give some background on yourself, explain where your “spark” was (for example, you gained interest in the marketing field after X experience), describe your growing interest and relevant experience in this area, and finally, explain why you are at the interview today. Make sure to have good transitions; don’t leave the interviewer connecting the dots on his or her own.
- Do your research. Have a good understanding of the company and its work. This will also help you stay calm and cool during the duration of the interview. By the end of your elevator pitch, you should have somehow tied what you have said back into the company and the job for which you are interviewing. With that in mind, your elevator pitch won’t be the same for each job interview. Tailor it to each specific job.
- Dress for success. Rumor has it that most interviewers generally make up their minds on a candidate within the first few minutes of the interview. Make sure your first impression is a strong one by first and foremost dressing the part. Then dive into your elevator pitch and get that job!
- Practice makes perfect. Give your elevator pitch some serious thought and make sure it represents the best version of yourself. It will take some trial and error, and it helps to practice with others. Most universities offer career centers where soon-to-be graduates can arrange mock interviews. You can also run through common interview questions and practice your elevator pitch with a friend or family member. Get some feedback! Find out if your elevator pitch is memorable or not.
Looking for other ways to develop your professional skills? Clairemont team member Tracy Lathan shares insights from the book Lean In.
Written by Sissy Rodriguez, junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.