This is probably the most frequently asked question in any job interview. But the trick is to think of it as your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or business and its value proposition. It answers the question: “Why should I buy/invest?” It should be concise enough.
You need an elevator pitch for yourself as a job candidate — and it should be customized for different opportunities. You must keep it focused and short, ideally less than a minute, and no more than 2 minutes.
You won’t be able to fit all of your great qualities and resume high points into 2 minutes, so you’ll have to spend some time thinking about how to present yourself in a way that starts the interview on the right note.
A great answer will address the following:
- What are your primary selling points for this job? This could be number of years of experience in a particular industry or area of specialization. You might also highlight special training and technical skills here. Focus on the qualifications in the job description and how you meet and exceed the requirements.
- Why are you interested in this position right now? You can wrap up your answer by indicating why you are looking for a new challenge and why you feel this role is the best next step.
The Skillful Formula for Answering This Question
There are three components:
1. Who you are
Your first sentence should be an introduction to who you are professionally, an overview statement that shows off your strengths and gives a little sense of your personality too. This is not easy to do gracefully on the fly. It pays to prepare a bit in advance.
It concisely summarizes diverse background.
“Well, I grew up in Ikeja. As a child, I originally wanted to be a Policeman, then later became interested in animals. I excelled in the sciences from early on, placing first in my SS1. Funny story about that…”
It contains way too much information.
2. Expertise highlights
Don’t assume that the interviewer has closely read your resume and knows your qualifications. Use your elevator pitch to briefly highlight 2-4 points that you think make you stand out.
“I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a customer service manager for X Inc., where I have won several performance awards and been promoted twice. I love managing teams and solving customer problems.”
The emphasis here is on experience, enthusiasm, and proof of performance.
“My first job was as an administrative assistant for Y company. I learned a great deal in that role that served me well over the next 12 years. At the time, I wasn’t sure about my career path, so I next took a position selling real estate. It only lasted for six months, but I sure enjoyed it.”
You are starting with the least impressive part of your career and the interviewer is likely to tune out before you get to the good stuff.
3. Why you’re here
End by telling them you want the position and why.
“Although I love my current role, I feel I’m now ready for a more challenging assignment and this position really excites me.”
This is concise and positive.
Bad: “Because of the company’s financial problems and my boss’s issues, I’m worried about my job’s stability and decided to start looking for new opportunities.”
Don’t be too candid or you risk coming across as negative. This answer also makes it seem like you’re interested in a job, any job — not this job in particular.
Remember: You will have time later to walk through your resume in more detail and fill in any gaps. Don’t try to squeeze in too much information or your interviewer WILL start to tune out.
A good interview is a dialogue, not a monologue. Keep it concise and give your interviewer the chance to dive in and ask questions.
Did you find these tips helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments section!