Directly from Handshake
Elevator pitch vs. bio vs. “tell me about yourself”: what you need to know.
In the course of your job search, you are constantly having to introduce yourself. Whether it’s at career fairs, networking events, or interviews, you have a short moment to tell your story. You’re telling versions of that story in your resume, cover letter, and Handshake profile, too. So how do you know when to say what? Here’s our handy guide—with examples!—of how to make a great impression with your intro.
When to use it: In-person at a career fair or networking event.
What’s the purpose? The name ‘elevator pitch’ can sound misleading, as if you’re trying to make a sale. Think of it more like a set of important facts about yourself that you want to convey, then work it into the conversation. Take a deep breath to relax, smile, and don’t rush through it. Networking is just talking!
What it can sound like:
At a career fair:
“Hi! I’m Gia, a senior majoring in psychology, and I’m exploring a career in marketing.”
“Nice to meet you! What aspect of marketing are you interested in?”
“Well, last summer I interned at a healthcare startup where I was helping expand their social media audience. It made me realize that I really love writing and editing video, so I’m looking to use those skills in a full time role. Does your company hire for social media marketing roles?”
At a networking event:
“Hi! I’m Gia. I’m a senior majoring in psychology, and I’m here because I’m exploring how to start my career in marketing.”
“Nice to meet you! I’m the senior content marketing manager at Acme. What aspect of marketing are you interested in?”
“That’s so interesting! Well, last summer I interned at a healthcare startup where I was helping expand their social media audience. It made me realize that I really love writing and editing video, so I’m exploring where I could apply those skills. Could you tell me more about what you do in your role?”
Written bio or professional profile
When to use it: Whenever you’re asked to provide a written bio, like in your Handshake profile.
What’s the purpose? Even if it’s optional, it’s a great place to talk about yourself in your own words, and to highlight key skills. When recruiters look at your Handshake profile, this short bio can give them a quick snapshot of you as a candidate. Leave out jargon, but do include skill keywords that make you stand out. If you want, feel free to add more personal detail (just keep it workplace-appropriate).
What can it sound like?
“I have always been fascinated with how people make decisions. That’s why I chose to major in psychology, and why I’m excited to pursue a career in marketing. Through my coursework and internships, I have honed my writing, video editing, and content creation skills. I’m a contributing writer for my college paper, an avid runner, and iced coffee connoisseur.”
“Tell me about yourself”
When to use it: This is the typical first question you’ll get on a phone screen or in an interview. (Sometimes, a recruiter will say, “Walk me through your resume” – the example below works well for this, too).
Although the interviewer already has your resume, they want to hear about you in your own words. You don’t have to go line by line: your answer should be a highlight reel. This is the time to add extra context to your resume. Tell them about what motivates you, and where you want to go in the future. The key? Connecting those interests and passions to the specific company and role you’re interviewing for.
Although you’ll have more time to talk than at a networking event, practice this answer so you don’t ramble. Keep it to 1-2 minutes max.
What can it sound like?
“I am graduating this year with a degree in psychology. I chose it because I was always fascinated with how people think and make decisions. Over the course of my studies, I got a chance to explore a career in marketing. In my most recent summer internship, I had a lot of freedom to create a social media strategy for my company, which was focused on helping clients access and act on their health data. I was able to increase our Instagram followers by 15% over the summer by focusing on video content. I’m really excited about this content marketing opportunity because I want to work on a bigger marketing team and be a part of your company’s growth.”
Tip: The paragraph above would work just as well in a cover letter!
Practice is key! Try out your elevator pitch conversation and your “tell me about yourself” answer with friends. Or, take a video of yourself answering the question to get a better idea of how it comes across. Don’t memorize it word for word: you want to sound prepared, but natural. And remember: introducing yourself is a skill that improves with time.