Probably the most difficult question to answer.
Most interviews will begin with, “tell me about yourself and what brings you here today,” or some variation of that statement. This is your opportunity to intrigue your interviewer with your personal elevator pitch. It’s an opportunity to focus the interviewer on your strengths and successes and to make them think about what kind of impact you could possibly have within their organization. It is not the time to discuss your favorite pastime or random hobby. (One person told me about their love of “hanging out” and dancing then asked what I wanted to know). It’s a great time to highlight important information. The employer wants to know what you deem as important information.
Ideally your pitch should be about 30-60 seconds long. Too short – what did you really tell your interviewer, too long – did you lose them along the way? It should effectively summarize the pertinent strengths that you possess and relevant accomplishment. You want to sound confident and composed so take time developing and practicing your pitch.
Where to start
Your pitch is specific to you and will sound the most authentic coming directly from you but here’s a roadmap to help get you started (feel free to tweak and adjust as necessary):
1. Most recent degree and college information (mention what you studied, how it relates to your professional interests, specific skills learned or licenses acquired, etc.)
2. Previous jobs and accomplishments (mention relevant accomplishments achieved or skills learned that would make you a good fit for the position that you’re interested in).
3. Segue into current interest (link your previous experience with what you want to do now).
Example: I graduated from XYZ University in 2009 with a Masters Degree in Social Work and earned my LMSW in 2010. My concentration in community organization, planning and administration provided a solid background in necessary management and leadership principles, advocacy, and program development. As director of workforce development for ABC Settlement, I put my educational skills to practice and effectively designed a standardized evaluation program that allowed all program directors and senior management staff to have a realistic view of program performance in real-time. From this project I realized I wanted to work on a tool that allowed an agency with multiple departments to evaluate each program individually against contract demands and collectively against each other; the senior program officer position and DEF Global seemed like the right fit to transition into this role.
You want to sound authentic, not rehearsed. Draft your pitch and practice. Practice it in front of a mirror then practice in front of a friend. Practice until you feel comfortable.
When you’re called for an interview, the employer is about 75% sure that they could offer you a position. The actual interview is your time to alleviate any fears and affirm to them that you are most certainly the right candidate for the position. The best way to do this is to start the interview with a confident, composed highlight reel of your past experience that will make them think of how great of a job you will do for their company if hired.