The hour of your big interview has arrived, and you know you’re going to nail it. You’ve done your research and memorized your talking points. At this point, you could talk about the company in your sleep — right down to where the interviewer attended undergrad and the exact number of Wall Street Journal mentions the company has had in the past six months.
But when the interviewer asks you to talk about yourself, you freeze, realizing with horror that you didn’t prepare enough to deliver your elevator pitch. You smile politely, shift in your chair and say, “well…um…” as your mind frantically struggles to string something together.
Not exactly what you’re going for.
The average human attention span today is five seconds, so not only do you need a strong elevator pitch, you also need it to hook the interviewer’s attention from the outset. That’s just about all the time you have before her mind starts wandering to her next meeting, her inbox or her lunch plans.
So, how do you do it? Don’t start regurgitating the stuff that’s on your resume — your major, your job history, your promotions. The fact that the hiring manager called you in for an interview means he or she has already decided you’re qualified.
Instead, follow these steps to craft an answer that’ll showcase your skills, passion and fit.
1. Tell a story
Nothing is worse than hearing a candidate’s baseless claims about his or her identity in the workplace — à la “I’m a detail-oriented problem solver!” It’s much more effective to share a story that shows, not tells — particularly if you’re early on in your career, because your career has much more potential than proof at this early stage.
Try referencing a time when your potential was recognized in the workplace, and talk about how that specific incident relates back to your talents and interest in the position at hand. For example, my client Jenny spent years working as a headhunter for a large staffing firm and was hopeful to secure more responsibility doing business development. When she heard that the CEO of a global IT company moved next door to her parents, she took it upon herself to knock on their door with some “welcome to the neighborhood” brownies. By the end of her stay next door, she had a business deal in hand.
She weaved that story into her elevator pitch — and needless to say, she was leveraging multiple job offers in business development.
Bonus points if you’re able to express your passion for the industry in a way that tells the interviewer this isn’t just another job, but rather a critical piece of your life purpose.