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Many candidates dread the question, “So… tell me about yourself.” Even though interviews are the forum for you to learn more about a candidate, this question puts them right on the spot. And that can be startling. But you should always include this question, because it’s a great way for you, as the interviewer, to get a good sense of what the candidate is like.

To tell you about themselves, a candidate will generally give an elevator pitch—a short snippet of what he or she is all about and can bring to your company. The best elevator pitches will give you important insight about the candidate, but you need to know what to listen for.  

The top five things you can learn from an elevator pitch:

  • Benefits. The most effective elevator pitches are a kind of sales pitch, and customers always want to hear about benefits, not features. Your ideal candidate should have an understanding of your industry and its pain points. As the candidate’s number-one customer (his or her potential boss!), listen for how exactly this candidate has helped previous employers and can also help you.
  • Confidence. Though most people are a little nervous during an interview, the one topic they know the most about is themselves. Plus, most candidates will have an elevator pitch prepared ahead of time. This allows you to get a sense of the candidate’s confidence as he or she delivers the pitch—but be careful not to mistake boastfulness or arrogance as confidence. If a candidate seems to be overselling, he or she may be attempting to hide something.  
  • Dedication. A well-prepared, well-delivered elevator pitch is a sign that the candidate did his or her homework. This is a hallmark of professionalism and career dedication. It’s a good sign that a person who takes the time to ace their interview may also have an excellent work ethic once hired.
  • Experience. Beyond all else, an elevator pitch should give you an idea of the candidate’s skills and experience as applied to your job opportunity. These pieces of information, in the very least, should pop up in an elevator pitch.
  • Cultural fit. There are different ways to convey the same information. A candidate’s demeanor, word choice, level of enthusiasm, etc., can give you clues as to his or her personality. And you may be able to glean cultural fit from a winning elevator pitch.

Keep your ears open

Most elevator pitches are just 60 seconds long. That doesn’t give you much time to gather your thoughts! So pay close attention—you can jot down notes and impressions after the “performance.”

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