Tell me about yourself’ is one of the most popular questions asked by interviewers. It’s also one of the most feared by candidates.
I use it time and again in interviews. Why? Because I want to see how interviewees react to it. I want to see how they handle answering such a question and what they ultimately decide to tell me.
The Disliked Question
Most interviewees dislike the question ‘Tell me about yourself’. It makes them feel nervous.
‘Am I going to say the right thing?’
‘What does the interviewer want to hear me say?’
‘I’ve got so much to say, where do I start?’
It’s one of the most popular interview questions asked. It’s also one of the most popular that Academy members ask me how to answer. If that’s the case, why is it that so many interviewees handle it poorly?
It’s time to change that.
Your ‘Elevator Pitch’
‘Tell me about yourself’ is what sales people would call your ‘Elevator Pitch’. It’s that moment in the elevator with someone you don’t know, who turns to you and says, ‘So what do you do?’
This is your moment to tell them in a few short sentences about yourself – what you do and have done and how you can make a difference.
So how do we go about creating your elevator pitch?
1. BACKGROUND – in one sentence create a statement of your career history. This is a top line summary of the types of role, companies and sectors that you’ve worked in.
‘Over the last 5 years I’ve worked in sales and marketing roles. I help organisations develop their businesses.’
If you’re a recent graduate and lack work experience, include other experience that is relevant.
‘I am a Science graduate and have worked in office roles helping the organization develop a new product. I have also undertaken charity to work to help others.’
This sentence provides the interviewer with a sense of who the person sitting across from them is.
2. STRENGTHS – know your strengths.
- What are you good at?
- What do people turn to you for?
- Make a list of them.
- Choose the top 3 that are most relevant and appropriate for this role. For example excellent communicator, fast learner, positivity, resilient, pragmatic etc.
‘I am a good communicator, have a positive attitude and am a fast learner.’
3. ACHIEVEMENTS – what’s your biggest achievement(s) in your career or experience to date? For example:
‘I went travelling for a year to learn more about myself and other cultures’
‘I led a [enter name] project from start to finish that is contribute [enter contribution] to an organization’
‘I have exceeded my sales targets every year by ‘x’%’
‘I set myself the challenge of running a marathon, when I’ve never run before’
4. FUTURE – think about what you’re looking for in your next role. Is it career development? Is it the company culture? Is it the sector that the company operates in, types of clients and products and services it provides etc?
‘I am looking to develop my sales skills and a career in a blue chip organization’.
5. THE PITCH – put all the elements together. Read it aloud. How does it sound? It has to keep the interviewer interested and intrigued to learn more about you. If not, make changes.
6. PRACTICE & TIME – is it clear and concise? A good Elevator Pitch is usually between 2 and 3 minutes long. Enough to give them some detail about you and to interest them. But not long enough to bore them. How long is yours? Shorten it, if you need to.
Finally learn and practice it time and again.
You’ll never have to fear this question again if you’re prepared with your ‘Elevator Pitch’. This is your opportunity to sell yourself.
This article has been updated since it was first published in June 2014.