It happens to nearly everyone during the first part of a job interview: the prompt, ‘So, tell me about yourself.’ Interviewers have a clear strategy when they throw this line in the water. They want to know if you have a concise, articulate comeback – a short elevator speech that outlines your career accomplishments and tells them why their organization needs you and not another candidate on the short list.
For senior professionals, this conversation starter also opens the door to a pertinent discussion of your management style. And how you craft the answer can make all the difference in how successful the rest of the interview will be. So, instead of focusing your response purely on how you’ve executed professional duties, take the opportunity to show off your leadership chops, too, by weaving examples into the narrative that demonstrate your interpersonal skills and management expertise.
Follow this advice to craft a compelling personal pitch.
1. Work History in a Nutshell
Start by briefly introducing your professional story. Outline your experience, showing a trajectory from early career until now. Keep the focus on your current or most recent position—where you can speak directly to your proficiency as a leader – and stay away from personal details. Example: “I began my career as a sales team member at X Company, and quickly realized that technical sales was the perfect fit for my educational background and people-focused personality. Then, I moved into progressively more demanding roles until Y Company recruited me to help develop their newly-launched product line. I was thrilled with this opportunity to build and direct the team that has taken the company’s value to the next level. I’m particularly proud of how over the last 5 years we’ve….” Add a few examples of specific accomplishments you played the lead on while keeping this part to 30 seconds.
2. Your Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Of course, you will have done your homework before showing up for an interview, reading up on the company’s history and current business model. In a sentence or two, outline the hard and soft skills (USPs) that make you uniquely positioned to bring solutions to the organization. That means referencing not only your technical or subject-area expertise necessary for the job, but also your people and leadership skills; for instance, mention your knack for mentoring, communicating well at all levels, problem-solving, or turning around sagging team morale.
3. Make the Connection
Now it’s time to unite your experience and skills with the needs of the employer. Briefly address how you see yourself contributing to the company’s mission. Is the organization expanding? Describe how you’ve screened and identified talent in previous leadership roles, or how you’ve built a team from the ground up. Will the new hire be responsible for reorganizing or changing the status quo? Recount an experience when you’ve led subordinates during uncertain times, or ways in which you’ve managed delicate personnel situations, like shifting responsibilities among team members or letting go underperforming staff.
4. Questions Anyone?
Asking a question at the end of your answer to ‘Tell me about yourself’ is an excellent way to keep the conversation flowing. Just ask a short, “In your opinion, what qualities does the ideal person for this role need to have?”
Now practice! Write your pitch down and read it out loud. Or test it out on a friend, making sure it does not exceed 60 seconds. Knowing the script by heart will allow you to be more relaxed in the interview. Once you’ve delivered your elevator speech at a few interviews (or professionals events or even social get-togethers), it will begin to feel more natural, and it will be easier to customize it for each position you’re applying to.
Providing a short but powerful introduction about your professional experience and supervisory know-how can make an interview more successful. It tells the interviewer that you’re serious about the position. And by connecting your skill set with the needs of the company, you help the interviewer build a concrete picture of how you’ll bring value to the organization. It’s one minute that can influence whether you get the offer or not.
Kate Rodriguez is a freelance marketing copywriter based in Munich. She has over 20 years of professional experience in public and private organizations. A former international trade analyst for the U.S. government, she also worked as a university career coach, specializing in international career search. Most recently, she was employed at Experteer as a customer service agent and online marketing manager.