So, tell me about yourself: Interview tips for Jayhawks

Posted on Nov 12, 2015 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

Strong Hall Jayhawk

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with KU students while serving on an alumni panel for the University Career Center. The topic turned to the proverbial “elevator pitch,” or how to sell yourself in 30 seconds or less and make a great first impression. Now, I was never any good at baseball, but as a marketing professional, I have learned a thing or two about pitches. This is what I shared with these future alumni.

“So, tell me about yourself.”

The opportunity to answer this question is everywhere, whether you meet someone on Wescoe Beach, the Wheel or in a professional networking setting. In each instance, you have the same opportunity to make a first impression. In an interview setting, however, the stakes are even higher. And so are the odds that this question will be asked. More than 90% of all interviews (probably) begin with this question, and while it might seem as if there is no “right” answer, consider the following.

A typical candidate will usually start by sharing where he’s from before reciting the progression of his career, in chronological order. Sound familiar? It should. This conversation is chronicling the candidate’s resume, which is typically what the interviewer is holding while asking the question! Where you’re from and what you’ve done is certainly relevant to the conversation, so that’s not a bad thing to share. But the goal of the interviewee–and the interviewer–is actually the same: to bring out the person behind the paper. To do this, you need to uncover the motivation behind your experience, and the passion that fuels your purpose. In other words, you need to answer “why.”

One student I met was majoring in math, but it was his passion for sports that motivated his ambition to apply his skills and interest in statistical analysis to understand how teams could improve. Another student hoped for a career in human resources, but it was her passion for working with people that peaked her interest in the field. They shared why they were interested in pursuing their chosen fields, and their experience backed it up. More importantly, I felt like I had gotten to know these students on a personal level.

Sharing what you love can feel like an act of courage, especially when you’re putting yourself out there in front of a prospective employer. But sometimes it takes bravery to just be yourself, and that’s the best advice I could ever offer.

–David Johnston

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