My Worst Interview.
Believe it or not, my worst interview EVER happened late in my career when I applied for a high level Professional Development position. I was very qualified and genuinely interested in this work- that wasn't the issue. The problem was that the first question threw me off completely.
"So Kim, tell me about yourself," she commanded, leaning back into her chair expectantly.
Huh? I wasn’t expecting that. I sat there- my mind initially blank, and then began racing with thoughts: "What does she mean? What does she want to know? I mean, where do I start? What kind of a question is this anyway? There is so much to tell- what is the right answer here?”
I scrambled to come up with a good answer on the spot, but wasn't able to collect and organize my thoughts. I rambled, and gave a much too long answer that missed essential parts of what I NEEDED to say to impress upon her why I was actually there, wanting this position, in the first place.
I realized, for the gazillionth time in my career (not a real word, but I like it), that if I- a seasoned professional - was struggling with this question, probably a lot of other people were too. My interview was over before it began. As I shook my head at myself in disgust, I realized that I HAD to come up with a really great way to answer this question. Not just for the next time I was asked, but for all the people getting hit with it in high stakes interviews every day.
I researched "elevator speeches" and "elevator pitches" but knew from my own recruiting experience that wasn't going to do it in this instance. A clever, catchy 30 second blurb of an answer is not sufficient in this setting.
When I reflected upon all the interviews I had conducted and observed, as well as the recruiting committee meetings I had been part of- I realized what this answer needs to include to be immediately impressive, relevant and memorable.
There IS a way to answer this question- really, really well.
You need to be able to connect your 1) relevant past, 2) your personal strengths, 3) your inspiration and 4) your goals in a concise and meaningful way. I know it sounds kind of daunting, but it is easier than you might think.
I have laid it out, step-by-step, in a resource you can grab for free: a Winning Professional Pitch.
It is worth taking the time to create a professional pitch you will be proud of. Not to be overly dramatic, but your answer to this question might determine the outcome of the interview or meeting. I know, no pressure.
Here's the other thing. When you know how you will answer the really tough questions in advance- your confidence level rises a LOT. One of the reasons people are SO nervous about interviews and networking events is the unknown- and if you know you are well prepared for the questions that freak you out- you will feel MUCH better about the whole thing.
Happy reading, and let me know if I can help.