It’s interview time. You’ve met your interviewer, shaken hands, and you sit down opposite each other. The initial first impression has gone really well so far. You’re feeling pretty confident, you’re keeping your posture and body language in check, and you start to relax into the interview.
“So, tell me about yourself”
This is a question that in some shape or form will make its way into the early stages of your job interview. It’s not one of the scarier, more difficult questions, but with a bit of forward planning and thought you can really up your game, and give the interview the best possible start.
A lot of people, when it comes to this part of an interview, start telling their story; when they graduated, where they’ve worked and in what capacity, various projects they’ve been involved in, and so on. This can go on for a few minutes until the candidate finishes the story at where they are now and why they are sitting in the chair they’re in now. This is technically all fine and well, but you run the risk of losing the interviewer’s attention if you waffle on for too long, or worse, you can lose your place in the story too.
This portion of the interview is your opportunity to give the person opposite you a rundown of who you are, where you’ve come from and to demonstrate in a nutshell what you can bring to the table.
You’ve probably heard of elevator pitches. The term gets its name from the scenario of being in an elevator with someone you want to impress upon – you need to get what value you can offer effective yet succinctly, in the hope that the conversation continues when the doors open.
The key to nailing your elevator pitch is making the best use of a short space of time. Try working with 30 seconds. This time can go really quickly, but the point is that you don’t need to go into a lot of detail. You simply need to craft a story that can be told quickly, making the interviewer want to know more.
Find your journey milestones
Like the example earlier, telling your story is part of it. The important thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be War and Peace.
Start from a point in the past you can demonstrate how you’ve evolved. Pick out some key milestones along the road that help to tell your story – what turning points have you reached where you ‘levelled up’ in your profession? Consider areas where you’ve worked on particularly exciting or influential projects, or where you worked towards and achieved promotion
This will give your interviewer an idea of where you’ve come from and what you’ve learned along the way.
Picking out your skills and achievements
For every milestone in the journey, pick one example (two if you absolutely must) of how you have used your skills. Keep them relevant to the job you’re interviewing for, and again, keep them succinct.
When it comes to talking about your skills, try to avoid actually using the word ‘skills’. Make these elements of the story about what you did or achieved with them, not the actual skills themselves. Focus on achievements that your future employer would want to see you repeat in their business and you’ll likely find these points being discussed in more detail.
For every example you use, make sure they’re all different. There’s no value in demonstrating the same skill over and over again in your elevator pitch. Yes, you should have multiple examples of how you use your skills, but keep that for the rest of the interview.
These examples should all complement each other and act as pieces of the puzzle that make up the ‘professional you’.
Write it down and practice
You should now have an outline that looks something like this:
I started my career at ________ working as ________ where I learned ________. Then I moved on to ________ where I used this experience to ________ and learned more about _______. The last few years I’ve been working in ________ on ________ and achieved _______.
This is a very rough guide, and we wouldn’t recommend following the template word-for-word, but consider what you would fill in the blanks with to tell a convincing story in a short period of time.
Whatever technique you use for memorising your elevator pitch, map out the milestones in the story and the examples of your skills and achievements so you can commit your pitch to memory.
Remember, this is about getting the interview off to the best start and setting the tone. Think of your elevator pitch as being potential chapter headings in the story of your career. If you tell a convincing introduction you’ll increase the chance of the interviewer wanting to learn more.