The directive from the interviewer to "tell me about yourself" strikes fear into the hearts of even the most confident candidates. That's because they haven't given serious consideration to how they should answer this directive.
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It's also because they haven't taken time to construct a persuasive elevator pitch, which is one of the most important tools in your job search toolbox. There are three components necessary to answering the "tell me about yourself" question:
1. Keep It Relevant
You must be aware of what the employer wants from employees, which requires that you research not only the job but also the company.
Let's say, as a trainer, you're aware of the employer's need for satisfying people from a variety of cultures. You'll begin your elevator speech by addressing this need:
"Along with my highly rated presentation skills, I've had particular success with designing presentations that meet the needs of diverse populations."
Then, you'll follow with a memorable accomplishment:
"For example, the company for which I last worked employed Khmer- and Spanish-speaking people. I translated our presentations into both languages so that my colleagues could deliver their presentations with ease and effectiveness. This was work I did on my own time, but I realized how important it was to the company. I received accolades from the CEO, and I enjoyed the process very much."
Finally, you'll close your elevator pitch with some of the strong personality skills for which you've been acknowledge. In this case, your innovation, assertiveness, and commitment to the company would be appropriate to mention.
2. Be on Your Toes
Being prepared is essential if you want to say the right thing to your prospective employer at the right time. This is where your research on the company really comes into play. The more you know about a company, the more you can tweak your elevator pitch when needed.
Throughout the interview, you should be paying careful attention to what the interviewer has been saying regarding the challenges the company is facing. This will give you vital information about what the interviewer needs to hear from you.
Say the interviewer needs a manager who can develop excellent rapport with younger staff while also enforcing rules that have been broken. Based on this knowledge, you realize you'll have to use a variation of your rehearsed pitch. You'll open instead with:
"I am a manager who understands the need both to maintain an easy-going, professional approach and to discipline employees when necessary. As this is one of your concerns, I can assure you that I will deliver on my promise, as well as exceed other expectations you have for this position."
Then, you'll follow with an example of what you have just said about yourself:
"If I may give you a specific example of my claim, on many occasions I had to apply the right amount of discipline in various ways. There was one employee who was always late for work and would often return from lunch late as well.
"I realized that she required a gentler touch than the others, so I called her to my office and explained the effect she had on the rest of the team when she wasn't where she was supposed to be. I then explained to her the consequences her tardiness would have on her. I don't think she had been spoken to in such a straightforward manner by her other managers. I treated her with respect.
"From that day forward, she was never late. In fact, she earned a dependability award. There are other examples. Would you like to hear them?"
3. The Purpose of Your Elevator Pitch
When employers listen to your elevator pitch, they should learn about skills and accomplishments that set you apart from other candidates.
Give your elevator pitch in a concise manner that illustrates these skills. Don't simply provide a list of skills you think are required for the position; remember that accomplishments are memorable and show your value, especially if they're relevant to your audience.
Above All Else, Your Elevator Pitch Must Show Value!
The value you bring to the employer, that is. You must know your employer's pain points, as in the aforementioned example where the candidate shifted the focus of their elevator pitch to accommodate for the employer's need of a manager who could build rapport while enforcing rules.
Once you have a full grasp on the employer's pain points, you'll know which content to include in your elevator pitch and how to deliver. it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.