90 decisive seconds of the interview… Pitch it!

Job interview _ Pitch ItIn most job interviews you will get the possibility to give your own “sales pitch”. It is the answer you give to THE classical question “tell me about yourself”, that mostly follows after a few icebreaking questions about your travel experiences to the company and if you would like to have something to drink. It is probably the most important question to nail as it greatly influences the overall impression the interviewer gets from you and it sets the tone for the rest of the interview. But how (not) to pitch?

 

Elisa Barth is sitting a job interview for a quality management (QM) and regulatory affairs position at a small pharmaceutical company producing recombinant proteins. On the other side of the table there is someone from the HR department, the R&D group leader and the head of QM.

Q: So Miss Barth, tell us about yourself?

A:   Hmm, what do you exactly want to know?

Q: Well, whatever you think is interesting us most.

A: Ok, let me think… so I did my PhD in the Baxter group at the University of Glasgow and studied the interaction between GFP mRNA and the Rhodococcus DNA repair protein recO. I used E. coli to produce recombinant recO protein, which had his own technical difficulties. Once I managed to purify the protein, I focused on isolating GFP mRNA. With the help of ESI-MS, I then made sure that I was working with the right mRNA. I did dynamic light scattering to study the interaction between the two and found that….

–FAIL—FAIL—FAIL—

What went wrong?

1) She was unprepared.

2) It was a much too technical pitch for the position she is applying for and for her audience.

Let’s try that again!

 

Q: So Miss Barth, tell us about yourself?

A: Yes sure. I am Elisa Barth and I just finished my PhD in the field of microbiology at the Baxter group at the University of Glasgow. During my PhD, I have mainly been studying different types of recombinant proteins.

Of course, I did other things as well, like teaching and helping to keep the lab running. For example, I was the person responsible for the safety documentation. During my PhD, the biology department started a huge project to create an online database of all chemicals in the department. Everything we had in store needed to be barcoded and registered, something I happily did for our lab.

Even though I very much enjoyed the time I spent within academia, I feel that continuing with my own research is not ideal for me. I very much like the administrative tasks around the whole thing and would love to learn more about the legal aspects of research as well. This, of course, is exactly the reason I am here with you today. I could very much see myself working in the fields of quality management and regulatory affairs and I am very keen to hear more about the position you have in mind.

 

—WELL DONE—

 

What made it good?

1) It is a real pitch!

2) She shows her motivation to conduct administrative tasks. Please mark: she mentions a rather “small” thing she did during her PhD (barcodes), which fit the position well instead of something out of her research, which was a big chunk of work and important to her personally- but irrelevant to the interviewers.

3) She shows that other things than just research are important to her as well.

4) Use of language that everyone on the table understands.

5) Adapted to the position she is applying for.

6) The length.

What could be improved?

She could have mentioned that she read or heard about quality management and/ or regulatory affairs somewhere and got interested in this type of jobs.

More examples

Do you want to prepare your own pitch? Here a few more tips & tricks.

  • Practise your pitch a few times beforehand and ask someone for feedback.
  • Organisations are unique, so should be your pitch. You need to adapt your pitch to every job interview!
  • Unless you apply for a research position, don’t bore your interviewers with the technical details of your research projects. If they are interested in it, they will ask you.
  • Yes, in most cases it is a pitch, so you talk. However, you should of course welcome interruptions if the other party sees it differently.
  • Don’t hold a monologue for more than 90 seconds (during a telephone interview not more than 30-60 seconds).