You’ve probably noticed that the whole job application process only lets you have a few short interactions with a company before the people there make a decision that affects your life. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a broken system—but it’s what we have to work with for now.
One way to work with it is learning how to tell your story consistently in bite-sized chunks so that the hiring manager knows you well enough to say, “Yes, hire her today!”
So, the big question is: What’s your story?
If answering that feels a bit daunting to you, don’t worry—you don’t actually have to respond. Here’s where you can actually use the broken system to your advantage. Since you’re not really going to have the chance to tell your full story anyway, you should focus instead on the three main points you want to get across about yourself.
These should include what your skills are, what motivates you, and what sets you apart. For the sake of this article, let’s say the three are: You have data science skills, you’re motivated by helping people, and you’re passionate about travel.
Now that we have those set, we can take a look at how you can work them in throughout the process.
1. In Your Elevator Pitch
You always need an elevator pitch, but especially when you’re looking for a new position. Yes, it feels cheesy and somewhat fake to have one on hand, but it’ll make your life so much easier if you do. (And if you need help, crafting one, here’s a handy guide .)
I’m an analyst at National Labs, where I’ve developed strong expertise in modeling and data analysis. I’ve always wanted to combine these skills with my passion for travel—I’ve checked 30 countries off my bucket list—and I know I would be inspired working for a company that makes traveling easier for people. That’s why I’m excited to learn more about the data scientist position at TripAdvisor.
You can whip this out at networking events, career fairs, and anytime you’re ever asked, “So, tell me about yourself.”
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2. In Your Application
You can certainly incorporate some of these points in your resume. For example, when you build out your skills section . But really it’s your cover letter where you’re going to have the opportunity to dig in on this stuff.
One way to do it is to use this template , which has the handy feature of highlighting three key points. All you have to do is fill in the blanks. And yes, fine , add a few more words around those blanks.
Going off that template, your three paragraph topic sentences would look like this:
An effective data scientist: In my role at National Labs, I…
A motivated big picture thinker: I have found that I am most inspired by my work when I can see how to contributes to…
A passionate world traveler: I have kept travel a central part of my life…
Ultimately, you want all of these points to contribute to a pitch that shows how you can contribute to the company. One thing to be careful about is spending too much time on what the organization can do for you and not enough on what you can do for the company. Don’t lose the plot.
3. In Your Interview
This is where it all comes together. The interview is your biggest opportunity to make your point—or points, in this case. You’ll definitely incorporate them in the beginning to respond to the typical interview starters, “Tell me about yourself,” or, “Walk me through your resume,” since these responses can be similar to your elevator pitch.
But, even later when you’re thinking of ways to wrap up your responses or how to answer, “Is there anything else you want us to know?” it’s helpful to keep coming back to the same themes. For example:
I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to talk about, but I’d do want to take this opportunity to reiterate my excitement about TripAdvisor. I never thought I’d have the chance to use my background in data science at a company where my love for traveling is an asset rather than a nuisance.
You’ve probably noticed that while the same key points are made over and over again, the language is always a bit different. While you want to make sure you’re making a specific impression, you don’t want to come off like a robot with taglines programmed in. So, while it’s a smart approach to guide your branding during your job search, don’t get too carried away with it.
TopicsJob Search , Syndication , Resumes & Cover Letters , Interviewing for a Job , Networking , Land the Job by Lily Zhang
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author