This is just some friendly advice to candidates in all industries and at all levels – it doesn’t matter if you are entry level or high up on the corporate chain, you need to be ready with your personal “elevator pitch” when the moment hits.
Never waste an opportunity to shine when your interviewer says, “Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself.”
Your interviewer could be a recruiter, the hiring manager, or the President of the company. Regardless, they are looking for confidence and a sense of how you’ll be perceived by peers, subordinates, customers, etc. They are interested in how you handle yourself on the fly. Are you articulate? Are you enthusiastic? Or overly nervous and avoiding eye contact.
Be prepared to answer this question and you’ll have an opportunity to set the tone of the entire interview. An engaged interviewer will ask follow up questions soon after you begin. Make good use of your time.
And whatever you do, don’t ask, “What do you want to know?”
What should you say? It’s really about understanding the position you are being considered for, the company, and when possible, the interviewer themselves (if you have their name in advance, read their LinkedIn profile.) With as much of that understanding, tell a story. The good news is that stories are easier to practice. Include your strengths, the challenges you’ve overcome, the lessons you have learned, what energizes you, why the position interests you, and/or why the company interests you.
Here’s one we heard recently and liked..
“Well, for the last four years I’ve worked in Account Management. I started with small sized accounts and because of my ability to engage customers and resolve problems quickly and efficiently, I graduated to some of our biggest and most valued accounts. The tough ones challenge me and I enjoy winning them over and building the scope of their business. I think that’s who I am overall – I don’t mind the hard stuff, whether it’s a sports competition or a work project, that end result is the big win. I used to swim competitively in college and even now, you can find me at the pool at the local Y on weekends – every visit is a shot at a personal best.”
Your response should last only two or three minutes, longer if the interviewer stops you to ask clarifying questions. You want to keep the attention of your interviewer. Being succinct will translate into confidence and competence. Rambling on will have the opposite effect. I’d recommend testing your response with a friend. Choose someone that you think is an effective communicator.
Your story should convey that you’re the right candidate for the position because you understand the challenge before you and have demonstrated success in similar positions. And your interviewer should know that you are interested!
Contributor Lauren Burns, is the Director of Executive Human Resources Talent, specializing in searches for senior HR leadership professionals, as well as interim executive opportunities and consulting projects. She is reachable at LBurns@LLoydSearch.com