Recently, I wrote a blog about pitching a project successfully. But do you know how to pitch yourself? I’m talking about the infamous elevator pitch. Nowadays, especially in the remote world, chance encounters in the elevator may be less frequent. However, answering the interview question “Tell me about yourself” is not going away anytime soon. In this blog, I’ll explain the dos and don’ts of talking about yourself as a professional.
So Tell Me About Yourself: The Why
First, it’s crucial to understand why this skillset matters. You’ll find it useful even if you’re not actively interviewing. As this Indeed article points out, you need a way to summarize your background, experience, and skills as a professional. Though a resume does this on paper, you accomplish something different in a conversation. When you can describe yourself clearly and concisely, you demonstrate confidence in yourself. Your pitch lets the listener know whether you yourself know what you bring to the table.
In an interview particularly, this video from Big Interview points out a few unique benefits. “Tell me about yourself” is often the opening question to an interview. This means that your pitch becomes your first impression. It lets you set the tone of the conversation going forward. It’s important to take advantage of this opportunity rather than feel intimidated by the interviewer from the start.
Perhaps most importantly, when you give your pitch in person, you tailor it to your audience. This is your chance to show them that you understand their needs and how you can add value. Professionals are busy people; you won’t want to waste their time. When you tailor a pitch to the listener, you demonstrate respect and empathy.
What to Include in a Pitch
Okay, when it comes to planning a pitch, Big Interview offers a simple formula that I like. Talk about who you are, why you’re qualified, and why you’re here. That’s it. Of course, that’s still a very open-ended instruction. Fortunately, we can break this down a little more.
This article from Indeed suggests starting out by focusing on the present. This is who you are. Explain how you see yourself now. Highlight any major, relevant achievements you’ve had in your current role. Then, to explain why you’re qualified, turn to your past. What experiences have you had? Have you been recognized with any professional awards? Do you have quantifiable results to share? This is the place for all that. Finally, sum up with why you’re here. In other words, explain why you’re looking for a new opportunity. Ideally, you should explain how your experiences and skill set align with your listener’s needs. This might have to do with hiring, investment, or a different need. Either way, your pitch needs to include the audience and you.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what to include in your pitch, that article includes brainstorming questions. For instance, what makes you stand out? This can help you decide what to include in the first part of your answer. Also consider how colleagues would describe your strengths. For instance, your coworkers might think of you as synonymous with creativity. If so, be sure to highlight that superpower! When it comes to explaining why you’re here, think about what makes you interested in your listener. Is it their mission or track record, for instance? You may find that the organization or individual you’re speaking with aligns with your professional goals. If so, bring that up. These are all important points to include.
Don’t Do This!
With all that said, you may be tempted to craft a super long pitch. However, rambling on and on is a common mistake. And it’s not the only one. Make sure you’re aware of the classic pitfalls so you can avoid them. I found a big list between this video from Indeed, this article, and Big Interview.
When it comes to content, don’t just repeat your resume. Remember, your pitch should describe who you are as a professional. You’re certainly more than a bunch of bullet points. (By the way, your resume and your pitch should both focus on accomplishments, not just job duties.) At the same time, don’t be too personal. Your life story isn’t relevant… unless a specific part is. For instance, if you’re drawn to working in addiction and recovery because of a personal experience, share it! But otherwise, there is no need to go back to your childhood or college years. Also skip any controversial information about yourself like your religious or political beliefs. These aren’t appropriate in a professional setting. Finally, don’t just deliver one identical pitch in every setting. A standardized answer indicates that you don’t care about your listener’s perspective or needs. You don’t want to make that impression, do you?
The way you make your pitch matters too, of course. Don’t make the mistake of winging this one. If you’re acting flustered and stumbling over your words, you look like you’re uncertain of yourself. That’s a red flag for someone considering taking a chance on you. On the other hand, you won’t want to just recite a memorized script. Talking like a robot completely omits your personality, like some of the other mistakes I mentioned. You don’t want to mess up your chance to make a great impression.
How to Talk About Yourself
So you’ve included all necessary information and screened out anything that doesn’t belong. Now you have to actually make the pitch. That might feel like the most daunting part. It will help you to remember, as this Indeed article advises, to center your passion. When you speak from the heart and communicate sincerely, you’ll go far.
Big Interview and this HBR video featuring presentation expert Joel Schwartzberg have a few more ideas. Passionate as you may be, you don’t want to bore your reader, so keeping it concise matters. This is where bullet points can come in handy. Unlike a script, bullet points won’t sound the same every time you deliver your pitch. Instead, they’ll guide you through key points with room for spontaneity. This will help you keep the pitch brief, anywhere from 30-60 seconds to 2-3 minutes. Depending on the context, your target may vary. Schwartzberg suggests practicing with confidence until this gets easier. He specifically points out that mumbling through your notes won’t do the trick. Instead, try to speak as you would in a real professional conversation. Practice with a friend or just the mirror. Get comfortable delivering your pitch smoothly and in the right time frame.
Elevator Pitch Examples
Just in case you’re still looking for more guidance, I wanted to leave you with some examples. This article provides written examples. In addition, you can hear some examples spoken aloud in this video. As you browse these samples, look for the key points I’ve outlined. They should all include the necessary, relevant information, omit any fumbles, and be delivered with confidence. Good luck, and here’s to creating that perfect pitch!