“Tell me about yourself?”
What does someone really want to know when they ask you this question?
When you are asked this question during an interview, what they really want to know is: ARE QUALIFIED FOR THIS JOB?
For anyone else asking, for example when you first meet someone at a networking event, what they really want to know is: SOMETHING MEMORABLE ABOUT YOU!
Spiff Up Your Pitch
Your answer fits somewhere between 15 seconds (during a networking encounter) and a minute (during an interview). It shouldn’t go longer than this, ever.
One of my favorite tools was Harvard Business School’s Elevator Pitch Builder (but it is no longer available.) It prompted you to answer questions about yourself and then analyzes your pitch. Here are the questions:
WHO: What would you like people to remember you for?
WHAT: What value do you bring/offer?
WHY: What do you do that is better than others?
GOALS: What are your goals (measurable/realistic)
One of the best reminders shared in this tool is that verbs are more powerful than adjectives.
Your pitch should be a summary of your benefits (the problems that you solve). It should not be a chronological regurgitation of your work history and academic experiences.
Instead of saying “I am a recent graduate of XYZ college” state instead “My recent studies and experience at XYZ college have enabled me to gain tangible skills in (the skills the job requires, as long as it is true).”
Instead of saying “I have over 25 years of experience as a PDQer” state instead “My cumulative experience has enabled me to hone my skills in (the skills the job requires, as long as it is true) and have delivered tangible results.”
These phrases encourage your listener to hear what you can do for them, so it is obvious and memorable.
Here is more information on how to prepare for an interview.
In a networking situation, you will more likely be asked “What do you do?”. In 15-30 seconds, how will you answer this?
Make it interesting. Make it understandable to all! Never assume you know your audience.
“I help (who) do (what)”
“I (what type of problem do you solve)?
Your job title may not be meaningful to anyone other than you and your past employer. It may not be descriptive enough to help your listener understand what you do. Make it clear.
Here are some more information on preparing your answer to this question: Have a good answer for “So, what do you do?” Don’t forget to check out the “related posts” at the end for more information.
Add your pitch to the comments and I’ll provide my 2 cents (if you dare!)
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.