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30 Seconds that Can Change Your Career and Life

30 Seconds that Can Change Your Career and Life

During job interviews, many employers make decisions about job candidates within the first 30 seconds to two minutes of having met them.  And what is the basis for their decision about a job seeker?  Their first impression of the person!   While a first impression can be changed, how you present yourself initially to an employer will have a huge impact on whether or not you are hired for a job.

First impressions are developed from the minute you walk in the door of the employer, or these days the moment you appear online during a Zoom conference call.  Positive first impressions can be made by smiling, enthusiastically greeting the employer and giving good eye contact. The impact you make is also affected by how you answer the first interview question, which is often a general question such as “Can you tell me about yourself?”  This innocent sounding question trips up many candidates as they are not able to articulate in 30 seconds their skills, abilities and experiences that will meet the employer’s needs. 

One of the most strategic things that you can do for yourself in making a good first impression and answering the interview question of “Can you tell me about yourself?” is to develop a Strengths Summary which is a “commercial” (about 30 seconds in length) about what you can do for an employer. The Strengths Summary is also known as an “elevator speech” because it can be delivered in about the time it takes to ride from the bottom floor to the top of a building in an elevator.

Sometimes Christian men and women are uncomfortable writing a Strengths Summary because it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that a humble Christ-follower would do, being concerned that it feels like bragging.  If you struggle with this, consider that you are not serving the prospective employer well unless you give him or her an accurate understanding of how your skills and experiences can help to meet their needs.  The employer cannot read your mind, and your resume doesn’t provide sufficient information about you. The employer won’t be able to make a good decision about you unless you do a thorough job of describing your strengths and the results you can produce for their organization.

Here is an example from Kathy, who used her Strengths Summary to answer the interview question, “Can you tell me about yourself?”

“I’ve had three years of administrative and management experience. I have been responsible for organizing new office systems, including setting up a 20-person company on a computerized payroll system.  I have supervised up to four workers, both permanent and temporary staff. I am proficient at using office machines, such as multiple-line phone systems and high-demand copiers. I type 65 words a minute and am proficient using several programs in the Microsoft Office Suite as well as an accounting program. Overall, I have well-rounded office management skills and supervisors have described me as conscientious, efficient and team-oriented.”

As you can see, Kathy’s answer to “Tell me about yourself,” uses her Strengths Summary and includes specific details about her experience. Kathy has given her interviewer a succinct, powerful overview of her capabilities in approximately 30 seconds!

While Kathy was looking for a job in her field, Jane wants to make a job transition from management trainer into graphic arts. While at her child’s school for Open House, Jane discovered that one of the other parents there owned a large graphic arts company. After talking to him for a while, she told him she was interested in getting into the field, and asked if he had any advice for her. He responded by saying, “Tell me a little bit about your background.” Jane was ready with her 30-second Strengths Summary:

“I’ve had two years of work experience designing and producing brochures, newsletters and training materials. I’m proficient with several desktop publishing programs including Adobe InDesign,  Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and PowerPoint. Last year I saved my employer more than $6,000 by doing the work he’d previously outsourced. I’m also skilled in providing good customer service, handling pressure and meeting deadlines. I really enjoy the graphic arts field and look forward to having an opportunity to work full-time in it. Do you have any advice for me related to companies or individuals that would be good for me to contact?”

Jane did a great job of showcasing her skills in the Strengths Summary and asking a question that could lead to knowing about job opportunities. She was able to use content from the “Summary of Qualifications” section of her resume to develop her Strengths Summary. The man Jane spoke with at the Open House was so impressed that he invited her to come by his office the next day to talk further about how she might fit into a new project his company had just undertaken. Why did Jane get this opportunity? Because she was prepared to let someone know what she had to offer!

But what do you do if you are interviewing for your first job, and don’t have experience from extensive past employment to use? You can use examples from school, internships, summer jobs, sports, volunteer activities and leisure pursuits. John is a college senior and is seeking a marketing position at a job fair. He uses his Strengths Summary to introduce himself to the recruiters representing companies that interest him:

“Hi, my name is John Smith.  I’m graduating with a degree in marketing from Houghton College. I very passionate about presenting ideas to companies that accurately portray their product, service, and culture. I want to use my creativity, project management and leadership skills in an account manager position in the advertising industry. A recent client for one of my university projects told me that I had strengths in creative brainstorming, presenting ideas, and developing proposals.  Do you currently have any entry-level openings in your marketing department?” 

John was able to engage the company representatives by emphasizing his education, as well as his skills and experiences that would be needed for an entry-level job in marketing.

Your Strengths Summary can help you get people’s attention and communicate key information about yourself in the following situations:

  • Introducing yourself to potential employers virtually or in person
  • Leaving a voice mail message for prospective employers
  • Informal networking with friends, family and people you meet at church, kids’ events, sporting activities, etc.
  • Networking at job fairs, professional meetings, and other business events
  • Answering interview questions such as, “Can you tell me about yourself?”
  • During performance evaluations or when applying for promotions or other job opportunities within your own organization

If you are job hunting, you will want to develop a tailored 30-second Strengths Summary for each of your job targets (if you have more than one). This involves writing a three or four sentence paragraph that describes your skills and how they relate to your job target.

The good news is you should have all the information that you need from your “Highlights of Qualifications” section of your resume. You will be able to use the information in this section to create a Strengths Summary that sound conversational.  (If you have not yet developed this important part of a targeted resume, this article will provide examples of how to develop your own “Highlights of Qualifications” that you can then use for your Strengths Summary - Learn more here - 14 Keys to Writing a Winning Resume For Christian Jobs).


By preparing your Strengths Summary you can be prepared to respond to questions like “Can you tell me about yourself?” much more effectively.  You can use your Strengths Summary in interviews, networking and at job fairs.  Make a great first impression by preparing a 30-second Strengths Summary. People can’t guess what God-given skills you have; you need to be able to communicate succinctly what you can do and how you can meet an employer’s needs.  

If you would like assistance developing your job search marketing tools (which include your Strengths Summary, targeted resume, LinkedIn profile and three types of cover letters), the first identifies your top skills and then helps you to use your results for exploring the right jobs, developing your job search marketing tools, interviewing successfully and landing a job that fits your God-given design.


© Article copyright by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, and All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.