When you interview, one of the most important questions you can answer is “Tell me about yourself.” This is not a warm up question. According to author and recruiter Skip Freeman, your answer to this question is critical. He recommends (and I agree) that you can handle this question like a star, if you use a three-part, 90-second elevator speech.
So to get you prepared, I’ve summarized Freeman’s tips here and illustrated my own take on a less formal approach that may be appropriate, depending on the kind of culture to which you are applying. In addition, I recommend that you customize all of your answers according to the specific job for which you are applying.
How to Construct a Three-Part Elevator Speech
Prepare a one or two-sentence statement of your career history, for example:
“I am a five-year veteran of LAN/WAN administration and systems engineering, with substantial experience using Novell, NT, Cisco and Lotus Notes/Domino.”
Or, my suggestion:
“As you know from my resume, I’ve been a marketing executive for over seven years, focusing on driving consumer traffic and sales performance in a variety of industries, including food service and health and beauty. My specialty is leveraging limited resources to get the job done most cost-effectively, including social media.”
Freeman suggests that part two consists of a one- OR two-sentence summary of a single career accomplishment that you are especially proud of and one that can reasonably be expected to capture the potential employer’s attention.
“Recently, as a long-term contract employee at a local regional bank, I learned that the bank was about to install Lotus Notes/Domino and they were planning to use outside consultants for the project. I let them know that I had done a similar installation at my last assignment, outlined how we could get the job done with in-house staff and successfully complete the installation for $55-$65K less than it would have cost with outside consultants.”
Alternatively, my version highlights and illustrates one of your strengths that the hiring company seeks. This may take some research about the position and its goals so you can choose which of your strengths is the best fit for what they need:
“I love analyzing brand opportunities and have a great track record of doing so. One of my favorite projects was when I brought a cross promotion to XXXX that increased awareness by 15% and traffic by 8%, but we were able to spend only a third of the media budget to create the program– by leveraging the media clout of our cross promotional partner.”
Freeman suggests that this segment should be customized to fit the particular career opportunity being sought. He says it should be a one- OR two-sentence summary of specifically what you want to do in your next career move AND it must be relevant to the position being sought. Here is an example of how Part-three might be constructed:
“For the next step in my career, I would like to move away from contract work and find myself as a direct employee of a large firm where I can join a substantial IT team and be involved with a group that focuses on email and network security applications, while having access to the knowledge base that would come with a large, diverse IT group.”
Or, my take – what excites you about this opportunity and what do you offer?
“The reason I am so excited about this position is that I see there is a huge opportunity to bring all of my experience to bear. I see the possibility of bringing new products to market, while maximizing sales of the ZZZZ product line. Here at YYY Company, you have sufficient resources so that I can really have fun building the brand to its full potential.”
Clearly, different endings are possible, but the goal is to try to match what you want to what an employer is looking for in a candidate.
Freeman concludes that by using a three-part approach, you can brand yourself as a true professional who will stand out from the competition by demonstrating the value of what you have to offer in a very short amount of time.
Read Freeman's full article here.