Tell Me a Little Bit about Yourself: How to Interview Well, Part Three
**Over the past decade at Legion, I've interviewed hundreds of people - some great, some....not so great. From that experience, I've learned a great deal about what works - and what doesn't - in an interview, and I've turned that into the curriculum for my interview coaching. In this blog series, we'll explore how to prepare - mentally, physically, emotionally - for an interview.**
I start every interview (and every face-to-face networking interaction at job fairs) the same way. I ask the candidate to tell me a little bit about themselves. What astonishes me is how often someone can't answer that question, and we're left staring at each other as they mumble through the first three items on their resume.
Asking the same question of everyone in these situations is, I find, a great equalizer. If you start at the same place with all your potential candidates, you'll be more easily able to compare apples to apples. The baseline from which we are starting will be the same, and I'll be able to see how someone handles a deceptively hard question.
Most people *think* it's easy to talk about themselves - after all, we are our own favorite subject, and what could we possibly know more about than ourselves? But, as with everything in life, preparation is key. If you don't have a prepared answer to a question like this, you'll likely ramble....or overshare. What I teach my students (who get asked the "tell me a little bit about yourself" during interview training) is that it is important to think about this personal elevator pitch, and to frame up your experience and interesting personal facts in a way that draws in the listener, and engages their interest. Here's my three-step method:
First, set up your story concisely. This is where practice is most key - it takes time to learn to tell a story quickly. Introduce yourself and give a quick explanation of what brought you to this interaction. Hit the high points and make sure it is easy to understand what you are after.
"I'm Lacy Starling, and I'm a fourth-year student at UC, majoring in marketing and looking for a permanent job after I graduate in May."
Then, add some color - one great fact about you that people will remember after the interaction is over.
"While at UC, I started the first-ever campus tarantula farm, and grew it into a business with four employees and customers all over the country."
Finally, wrap it all up and leave them wanting more.
"I've had several other internships and jobs while at UC, and I'm looking to combine my classroom experience with what I've learned in the field to work for (insert company name here)."
And then shut up. You've given the person you are talking to three "beats" of information, some interesting facts about yourself, and you are well-positioned to talk about your experience and what you want. They can take the lead from there.
It will take you multiple iterations, and plenty of practice, to get your personal elevator pitch refined and ready to go. And it will evolve over time. My actual personal elevator pitch has changed and morphed over the years as I've added new responsibilities and interests, and it also depends on where I'm telling it. My pitch at a business meeting is different than the one I use when I'm guest-lecturing in a college class - the audiences are different, and I want to capture their attention differently. The old cliche is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but there is truth to that. When I have a candidate who can't tell me a single interesting thing about themselves, or they can't do it in an effective and compelling way, the rest of the interview is a long uphill climb from there.