Clients ask me for help with this question almost every day. Many struggle to identify the characteristics that make them unique, tell potential employers why they are interviewing for their company and deliver information about themselves that is both the right amount authentic and boastful.

Feeling prepared to answer this question can be achieved by doing the following three things:

1. Listen to your heart

Ask yourself, what is your mission or purpose for pursuing this position? Talk about it out loud to friend, trusted mentor or career coach. Nine times out of ten, they hear your passion, enthusiasm and true intent for pursuing your field or position of interest and reflect that back to you. Take what they heard and find a connection between your motivation and the company or position’s mission, goals and priorities. For example, one person asked if she could talk about the reasons why she chose her college because the values of the company matched the qualities of the campus environment, those of individual expression, collaboration and mentorship. This is exactly the kind of connections companies want you to make: thoughtful and connected to your authentic self.

A great tool to help you consider your purpose is Imperative’s purpose pattern assessment.

2. What have you done to support your mission?

Using the above client example, she now has a thesis statement upon which to base her (under 2 minute) pitch to the employer. Referring back to her resume, she can choose 2-3 examples from her experience (paid or unpaid) that illustrate her values and purpose for applying to this position. Briefly highlighting the ways you acted on your mission in essence prove your affiliation with that goal and let the employer know that you are a good fit. Remember: You do not have to tell them everything you think they need to know right away. Instead, give them nuggets of information about how your experiences tie into your mission and overall goals so that you can refer back to them when they ask behavioral question like, “Tell me about a time when…?” “Share a strength and weakness, etc.”

My goal, always, is to invoke emotions and connectedness to the employer in my first impression and that often requires this kind of reflection and tie in of your purpose to the mission of the organization or company.

3. Why/how does the company or organization fit in with your mission/purpose?

The last (essentially closing) statement you want to make will be about how the organization will allow you to continue to advance your purpose. This can be someone future-oriented which will help to preface a question they are most likely going to ask you such as, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You are setting the stage for them to understand you briefly in the past, mostly in the present and partially in the future as those states of being relate to their company and the open position.

So let’s put it all together with an example:

Interviewer: So, Meghan, let’s get started. Please tell me about yourself.

Interviewee: Great. For over the past 5 years, my work has had three focuses: entrepreneurship, higher education and community development. Navigating careers and anchoring futures for young and mid-career professionals is how I spend most of my time. (1) At Mount Holyoke College and in my business, I advocate for women’s professional success through individualized advising, online skills webinars and and tailored programs. Additionally, I am an active member of the Alumni Association Board for Franklin & Marshall College and one of the coaches for this year’s class of a local leadership development program, Leadership Pioneer Valley (2). I’d like to continue to have strategic impact, be part of a creative and innovative institution and support women’s professional and personal leadership development (3).

Meghan is an advocate, blogger, speaker and educator for women who want to build a career that lasts. She coaches groups and individuals on how to navigate their professional goals, negotiate transitions, and engage in both local and national leadership opportunities. She is also the Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College where she supports alumnae and students in building a community around career through on-campus and virtual programming and individual advising.

Her advice has appeared in the Huffington Post, several higher education blogs for job seekers, NerdScholar, CardHub, and LinkedIn. For monthly tips and advice, sign up for her newsletter at and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

© Meghan Godorov, 2015

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