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  3 Steps to Describe Yourself Effectively in 30 Seconds (or less!)

Jun 25th

3 Steps to Describe Yourself Effectively in 30 Seconds (or less!)

Career Management, Nail Your Narrative, Personal

What do you say when someone asks you "What do you do?" or "Can you give me an overview of your background?"or "Tell me about yourself"?


Do you have a go-to personal statement that is not only informative and concise, but more importantly, understandable and engaging? I can guarantee you for 99.9% of us out there, the answer is "NO"! 


The reason is simple - you have never meticulously crafted your personal statement/introduction. Even if you did, you haven't practiced it enough on enough people, AND received feedback on it. It's one of those annoying things in life you wish you spent more time on, but just never got around to doing it (like those thank you cards or last week's dishes).


Well, fear no more - here's a 3-step technique to describe yourself effectively in 30 seconds (or less)!



Think of your intro as a 3-part statement and write it out in the following format:

  • If you're a new grad or under 5 years of work experience, mention your School/Major (1 sentence - 5-7 seconds)  If you've worked for 5-10+ years, you can probably skip this part unless your training is an essential part of your job (law, medical, PHD, etc.)
  • Job experience summary (key word summarize!) - this is the ramble zone, spend too much time talking here, and you'll see your audience's eyes glaze over in boredom (2 sentences - 3 max! 15-20 seconds)
  • What you're interested in/working on now (1 sentence - 5-10 seconds)


You may be wondering, "That's all there is?!" Indeed it is. "Well, why is it under 30 seconds and don't people want to hear me talk more about me?" The answer is OF COURSE NOT!  

The intro question is simply one of establishing first contact and getting a feel of HOW you communicate. It's not the content length and melodic sound of your droning voice that the questioner wants to hear, but more so, "Do I like this person? Can they coherently speak in a tone that is relatable and engaging?"  

Which leads me to... STEP TWO: PRACTICE YOUR PITCH.

Once you've written out this speech, practice delivering it verbally in a mirror.  Look at your facial expressions, listen to your tone - do you sound confident/likable, are you being engaging? Don't talk in a high-pitched, uncertain tone, keep your voice low and end the sentence as a finite comment, not a question. This is known as upspeak/downspeak. The sound of a definite statement is more authoritative and incites more respect than the alternative which trends upwards into a semi-squeal. 

TIP: It sounds robotic if you memorize it word-for-word, so think of your statement with the bullet-point format in mind and it will act as a prompt for you.


Hopefully, you have friends, families, and colleagues you have a good relationship with, and won't mind helping you out. You can get information and direct feedback from these trusted sources. Try your pitch on them!  

It's as simple as, next time you see your parents, or hang out at a social gathering, experiment with your pitch and use variations to test out nuances.  Especially in prep for an interview, ask your 3 closest friends or mentors, how does this sound as an intro? Then proceed to deliver your 30-second pitch.

TIP: You can also have multiple variations if you want to get fancy with it! It would be great if you did because you can tailor it to: a new acquaintance at a company event, a networking session, an interview, a meetup group, or even a date! 

Here's one version of my personal statement - this would fall under the networking style pitch.

"My name is Dandan Zhu. I studied finance and strategic management at Babson College. For the last 5 years, I was a headhunter developing client and candidate relationships to fill niche roles across all levels including executive search for the life sciences industry. Due to my success as a top-billing recruiter, I've now left the corporate world to start my own coaching company, Dandan Global, helping professionals understand, navigate, and leverage the recruitment process to achieve the life and career they envision."

As a headhunter who has asked and received answers to this question literally 100,000s of times, I can tell you, nothing is as sweet on the ears as a nice SHORT intro. Especially for the candidates with longer work history, oh man, 5 minutes of resume overview is totally overkill! Not only is it already listed on your resume (which I have in front of me), I am more interested to know why you're leaving your job or what jobs are most relevant to you or what is your next plan, versus what you did that summer in 2011.

In summary, the trick to an effective intro is not content/speaking length, but to deliver a prepared statement approved by friends and family, in a confident and engaging manner!


For more personal and professional development tips, read my recent article 3 Egregious Abuses of LinkedIn

Watch Dandan live in action in personal development Meetups in NYC at NYC GAME CHANGERS

Follow @DandanGlobal for more advice, tips, and secrets about how to work with recruiters, HR staff and hiring managers to find, negotiate and achieve the career and life you envision!