The day of your interview has arrived, and you’re feeling confident. You’ve prepared by doing your research about the company and memorizing your talking points. At this point, you could talk about the organization in your sleep — right down to what your interviewer studied as an undergraduate and the exact amount of media coverage the company has had in the last year.
But when the interview starts and the interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, your confidence starts to diminish. You realize in terror that you didn’t prepare to give your elevator pitch. Your palms feel clammy, and you shift in your chair as your mind races to string a few sentences together.
This is probably not the image you want to portray to your interviewer, is it?
The Challenge of Talking About Yourself
Talking about yourself seems like it should be easy. After all, you’ve known yourself your entire life! For most of us, though, it’s pretty tough, especially in an interview setting.
You need a strong elevator pitch to hook the interviewer’s attention from the outset. You don’t have much time before their mind starts to wander. So, how can you talk about yourself in a compelling way during your interview?
Not by reiterating everything on your resume, that’s for sure. The fact that the organization called you in for an interview means the interviewer already knows about your qualifications.
Instead, follow these steps to craft an answer that will showcase the things that aren’t on your resume, like your passion, integrity, goals, etc.
1. Tell Your Story
Interviewers become disillusioned when a candidate makes baseless claims about their value in the workplace. Saying you’re detail-oriented or a self-starter doesn’t give your interviewer much solid information with which to make a decision. It’s much more effective to share a story that shows your strengths, particularly if you’re new to your career, because you have more potential than proof at this early stage.
The important thing here is to describe a specific instance when your hard work and talents were recognized in the workplace, and relate that incident back to your interest in the position under consideration. By telling a story, you explain why you are a self-starter or a detail-oriented worker, rather than just asserting the fact.
To craft a coherent elevator pitch around your career story, consider the following three things:
- Start with the simple facts about yourself, such as what you’re currently doing, what you studied in college, or what your career path has been focused on. For example, you might begin, “As you’ve probably seen, I studied marketing in college, and I have been focused on content marketing and social media management ever since.”
- After that, talk about your professional accomplishments. Pick two or three truly unique milestones that relate to the job at hand. For example, maybe you were given the opportunity to work with a high-profile client as a result of your negotiation skills. Maybe you won an award for exceptional customer service. If you can include the tangible results of your accomplishments as well — like increased client retention or bigger sales — all the better!
- Finally, come full circle by talking about how all your prior experience has positioned you to pursue the challenges and opportunities the new role would offer. End with something like, “With my customer service background and my track record of solving really difficult client issues, I think I would succeed in meeting the agency’s goals for this role.”
2. Make Your Story About Them as Well as You
In addition to talking about yourself and your interest in the position, you want to make sure your pitch explains why you would be a good fit for the organization’s needs. Study the company’s mission statement, client roster, press coverage, and social media presence. Consider your own personal experiences with the company. All of this information provides you with material you can use to describe what value you can bring to the organization on the organization’s terms.
When you establish a personal connection to the organization, you also build the interviewer’s confidence that you will be a good investment — someone who truly wants to grow with the organization.
3. Shorter Is Better
Your interviewer did ask you to talk about yourself, but they don’t want to spend the entire interview on your life story. It’s normal to want to give your interviewer plenty of details to back up your claims, but lingering too long on the topic makes you look unfocused and unorganized. Even worse, you might lose your interviewer’s attention.
Limit your pitch to a couple of highlighted accomplishments. You should aim for no more than 60-90 seconds in a job interview and about 20 seconds for a networking event. You’ll have to practice your pitch at home a few times to get it clear and concise, but once you’ve mastered your pitch, you’ll be able to deliver it effortlessly.
Part of your practice will entail cutting out extraneous details. For example, you don’t want to talk about the company so much that you neglect to talk about what you can offer the company. Determine what parts of your story are the most effective and enticing and cut all the rest.
Don’t underestimate the power of preparation. It’s highly likely you will be asked to talk about yourself during an interview. Don’t miss your opportunity to deliver a prepared and polished pitch. Give your pitch the thought and time it deserves.
Jordan Perez is a human resources expert with ResumePundits.com.