Job Interviews for Dummies — Part 5

By Scot Herrick | Book Reviews

Feb 22

If you read the news, you’d think every company on the planet was laying people off. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot more people heading out for job interviews — and getting shocked at the Interview Gauntlet.

So I asked Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition, published in January of this year, for a little interview advice. Today’s final question:

Cube Rules: We’re always told to have an “elevator” speech about ourselves, especially to show our skills against the job requirements. What are the key elements in constructing this pitch and how should it be delivered?

Joyce Lain Kennedy:

Almost certainly you will be asked to respond to some version of the “Tell me about yourself” question. That doesn’t mean the interviewer wants to know everything about you since you appeared on Earth.

Memorize a personal commercial — a short description of your background (education, experience, and skills) that matches your strengths to the job.

After briefly relating the facts of your background, add a sentence or two about your curiosity, commitment, and drive to build mountains atop your already good skills base. Speak for between one and two minutes. This is your personal commercial.

A personal commercial enables you to:

  • Grab employers’ interest with a confident statement about yourself and your value related to the job you want
  • Support that statement with specific facts

What to Include in Your Personal Commercial

Depending on your experience level and the job you’re trying to land, your personal commercial can include any or all of the following information:

  • Competencies, skills and experience for the job
  • Academic degree
  • Positions of leadership
  • Specific job training
  • Date of expected graduation (if applicable)
  • Honors or achievements
  • General goals
  • Sell employers on why they should hire you instead of someone else

© For Dummies. Excerpted by permission from Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition

A seasoned manager’s personal commercial highlights accomplishments and experience. Here’s an example:

I am an experienced line manager with extensive knowledge in team-building that ranges from organizing project teams to informally encouraging people to work together. I’ve developed solid skills in hiring and retaining employees.

I also have incorporated technological advances into a company where such advances require a significant amount of employee retraining.

Additionally, my track record is substantial in major presentations to clients, which has led to as much as an 87 percent increase in product adoption from the year I took over.

In summary, I believe I have the required skills and experience sought for this position, as well as the technological savvy and a positive attitude toward implementing change. Is my background on the mark?

Personal branding is a related concept. Personal branding is being known for something — a leader in green construction , or a talented Web designer. You don’t have to be famous, just consistent in your efforts to develop your brand. Prepare a “branding brief” of 20 to 30 seconds, or in 100 words or less. Like this:

I’m a people-friendly IT specialist. I offer expert consulting services to your staff and managers for data management services you can be proud of. Think of me when you want a real pro who speaks plain English. I’ve always believed that good geek is chic and works wonders for the bottom line. Give me a chance to prove it and you’ll be glad you did.

A branding brief may also be called an elevator speech, personal branding message, or profile summary. By any name, you can use this summary with networking contacts to obtain an interview, or you can use it inside an interview (especially in your closing statement, for instance). Additionally, a branding brief can be included as part of your longer one-to-two-minute personal commercial.

For any statement, remember to sell rather than tell employers what you’ve got and why they should want it.


It takes a good deal of effort to create personal branding statements and/or elevator speeches, period. To then authentically tailor those statements to directly address the qualifications of the position is a true skill.

Joyce offers some very good tips here on verbalizing your brand.

I’d like to thank Joyce for her time and effort. These interviews actually take a lot more time to put together than one would think. She’s been a champ throughout the entire process.


Joyce Lain Kennedy is the nation’s first syndicated careers columnist. Her work, Careers Now, is distributed by Tribune Media Services and appears in more than 100 newspapers and Web sites.

Job Interviews For Dummies, 3rd Edition is an authoritative theatrically-themed guide that takes readers’ problems seriously but not itself. Richly complete with both fresh and timeless interviewing solutions for job seekers at all levels and size of employer. Special attention is focused on new graduates, career changers, and prime-timers over 50.

The 3rd edition is loaded with scripts and tips to use in a reinvented world of eye-popping technology, workplaces without borders, and a changing generational mix.

Chapters 1,2,3,4, 15,16 & 17 (68 pages) are totally new with game-changing topics. Additionally, the 3rd edition is chock-full of updates and revisions throughout, reflecting important changes in job interviewing practices and tools over the last 8 years. (this is a serious update — Scot)