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How to Answer the Question "Tell Me About Yourself?"

Updated: May 1, 2019



Imagine this scenario. You walk into a professional conference that has great potential for connecting you to job opportunities in your field. Someone turns to you, and after exchanging pleasantries about the weather, says, “So, tell me about yourself.”


Would you: 1) stare at them blankly? 2) ramble incoherently? 3) answer with a robotic-sounding memorized statement?


Don’t worry! We’ve all been there. Creating your elevator pitch will prepare you for this very moment. Using the tips in this blog, you’ll have the confidence and ability to answer this important question in a way that’s engaging and opens doors to new possibilities.


What’s an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator pitch is a brief statement of who you are with the aim of selling yourself or positioning your background in a positive way. You’re basically answering two questions: Who are you?

Why should I care?


The goal is to answer these questions in the time it might take you both to share an elevator – hence the name. That’s pretty short – probably less than 30 seconds. An alarm won’t sound if you go over, but it’s an important reminder. Remember, you’re not giving a prepared speech. You’re starting a conversation.


Why is an Elevator Pitch Important?


It’s Your Personal Brand

Not just celebrities and influencers have personal brands. You need one too. How do you want to be perceived by others? The process of creating an elevator pitch will help you clarify your skills, personality, abilities, and knowledge. Then you can bring it together into a coherent, appealing package. Make it easy for the listener to take away a specific impression of who you are, what you represent, and what you have to offer.


Make a Great Impression

It’s an unfortunate fact that younger professionals face some discrimination in the working world. Due to your lack of experience, older individuals may assume you’re not serious about your career or field, don’t have as much to offer, or won’t be a good connection. Take this opportunity to prove them wrong. Be the exception. A confident, engaging elevator pitch will make a significant impression that could lead to more than you expected.


So Many Places to Use It

If you’re job searching, use your elevator pitch at job fairs. Events like these are a great way to gain a lot of practice in a short time. You can also use a condensed version of your elevator speech when you’re in an interview and they start with the open-ended question, “tell me about yourself.”


Even when you’re not job hunting, elevator pitches are especially helpful at networking events and conferences as you meet new people. Making quality connections should be an ongoing process,

not something you scramble to do when you need a job.


Tips for Nailing Your Elevator Pitch


It’s Not About You Actually

You would think if someone says, “tell me about yourself,” you’ve got free rein to talk about whatever you want. But this is a pitch. You’re trying to sell the concept of you. What about you would help this person – skills you have, connections you know, resources you could give them? That’s what they really want to know. This leads to the next tip…


Know Who You’re Talking To

It’s all about context. For example, if you’re speaking to someone at a job fair, it makes sense to talk about your education, job experience, and accomplishments. That’s what they expect. But if you’re speaking to someone at a conference where you’re all in the same field, it’s more appropriate to make your pitch about specialized knowledge you have or resources you could share.


Tailor Your Pitch

If you know you’ll be attending an event, find out the purpose, who organized the event, and what types of people might be there. This will help you mentally prepare for the kinds of conversations you might have and tweak your elevator pitch ahead of time. You should also be conscious of jargon. If you use the same elevator pitch every time and it includes industry terms, it will turn off or confuse certain people.


Read Your Conversation Partner

Your conversation partner may have already introduced him/herself. Be sure to use this information to adjust your elevator pitch. Listen for any common interests so you can reinforce your connection. Also, be attuned to their body language. Some individuals may ask about you, but only out of forced politeness. Are their eyes focused on you? Do they seem engaged? If not, keep your pitch as short as possible and move on.


Don’t Be Boring!

The biggest challenge is making your elevator pitch memorable, especially when you’re right out of college. Don’t reduce yourself to a school, a major, some internships and a GPA. You’re so much more than that. Share an anecdote that spurred your interest in a career. Spotlight a life-changing experience that made you want to solve a big problem. Show your personality. Make them remember you!


Talk About Your Goals

Obviously, if you’re seeking a job, you want to make that clear. But if you’re not, it’s still helpful to state your long-term goals. Someone might be able to recommend a mentor or organization that could help you along your path. It also shows that you value professional growth, which makes a good impression.


Practice

Most people write down their elevator pitch first. However, the way you write often doesn’t match with how you speak. Read your elevator pitch aloud and switch out words that sound too formal or unnatural. You don’t want to appear like you’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Read it to someone else and ask if it sounds like you. Keep practicing all your versions until they’re

second nature.


Samples of Elevator Pitches (how to create an elevator pitch)


Rather than offer a template, we’ve provided sample pitches to show the types of information you should include in different contexts. As you’ll see, there’s no right way to do it. You’re unique,

so your elevator pitch should be too. Hopefully, these will spark some ideas for you.


Recent Graduate | Seeking a Job | Job Fair


  1. "I just graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Chicago. My final internship at Ernst & Young really sparked my interest in forensic accounting. I briefly considered going into criminal justice, so the “detective” aspect gave me a thrill! I’ve watched too many episodes of Law & Order, I guess! I’m looking for a position where I can grow into that area of accounting."

  2. "Just got my degree in Construction Management from Everglades University. My father was a general contractor and I’ve been following him around on job sites since I could walk. I have a lot of work experience in residential construction, mostly retrofitting old houses for environmental upgrades. I’d love to get a job as a Project Coordinator with a solid construction company in the area and work my way up."

  3. "I’ll be graduating in a couple weeks with my bachelor’s in Psychology from Temple University. I grew up in a tough neighborhood, so I’m on a personal mission to help the kids from my city get all the resources they deserve. I worked all through high school and college at an after-school program. I’d love to run a program like that one day, but for now, I’m looking for an entry-level position to get my career started."


New Professional | Growing Network | Conference in Field

  1. "I’m an Audit Coordinator at Deloitte, just started this year and am loving it. I have a degree in accounting and I’m working toward my CPA exam. My goal is to become a forensic accountant, so I’m hoping my auditing background will help. Do you know anyone in that field? Is it tough to break into?"

  2. "I’m a Project Coordinator with Smith Construction in downtown Miami. Got the job last fall and have already been assigned to manage two major developments this year. They’re both LEED certified. Do you have experience with sustainable building? I’d love to have someone to bounce ideas off."

  3. "I work at Better Tomorrows, an after-school program for troubled kids in Philadelphia. Our kids have fun, learn something, and get a hot meal. They know they have a safe place. I’m he volunteer manager, so I keep the place running! I’d love to be Executive Director down the road. I see you’re an Executive Director from your badge. How did you start out?"


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So many career success stories include a random encounter that set everything into motion.

By having a great elevator pitch, you’ll be prepared for the potentially life-changing conversation that could happen anytime, anywhere!