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How to Answer the Interview Question, 'Tell Me About Yourself'

It's often the first thing hiring managers ask candidates in job interviews, and the first opportunity to really screw things up. Unsurprisingly, most of us have a really hard time summarizing our careers, skills, and interests in the conversational equivalent of a tweet. But having a job search "elevator pitch" is a really important part of acing the interview.

elevator pitch

(Photo Credit: Oliver Stevenson/Flickr)

"People screw it up all the time," says career coach Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, in an interview with Forbes. "They think they should walk you through their entire résumé."

Thanasoulis-Cerrachio and the other career experts Susan Adams spoke with agreed that the short, snappy pitch is important, and said that the whole spiel shouldn't take more than the time it takes to ride an elevator -- 30 seconds or less, in other words.

What else should you keep in mind?

1. Focus on what they need.

When you're trying to sell yourself to a prospective employer, it's tempting to concentrate on what you think your greatest strengths are. In fact, you're probably better off if you figure out how to tailor your description of your experience to what the employer actually needs. They're not going to hire you just because you're impressive; they'll hire you because you solve a problem or fulfill a desperately needed function.

2. Edit yourself.

Be prepared to go through many iterations of your pitch before you hit on the right one. Think of the old Mark Twain quote, "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead." Brevity takes time and ruthlessness.

3. Rehearse.

Practice on your own in front of a mirror, or better yet, with a friend, until you can deliver your pitch confidently and without a hitch. Ideally, it should sound organic and natural -- as if you just happened to think it up on the spot, or as if it's always been a personal credo.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have an elevator pitch for interviews? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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