How to Always Have An Elevator Pitch Ready
Imagine your potential employer is standing next to you in an elevator, and you have less than a minute to convince him he should hire you. Would you be prepared to sell yourself in 60 seconds or less? If your answer is “no” you may not even get a chance to get in on the ground floor. In today’s competitive job market, it’s essential that you always have a compelling—and concise—pitch ready to go.
An elevator pitch doesn’t have to take place in an elevator. It’s simply a term that refers to a brief 30 to 60 second verbal summary of who you are and what you have to offer – almost like a commercial. It’s important to have a pitch ready at all times because you never know when you’re going to run into a potential employer. It could be in an elevator—but it could also be at a job fair, conference, or lecture—it could be just about anywhere. And when you only have a moment for introductions, you better know how to smartly and succinctly brand yourself a winner. Here are a few tips to help you ascend:
Know Your Brand
It’s much easier to pitch your best qualities if you know exactly what they are, so write them down. If you’re being sincere, pitching these pluses will come naturally. There are several ways you can approach presenting your brand and your skills. Open with:
An accomplishment. “I’m enthusiastic about our product, and I sold more widgets than anyone in my office this year—but here’s another reason why I was so successful…” A legitimate, concrete success story lets them know you have a positive track record.
Knowing the company and solving a problem. “Do you have issues with XYZ? My experience with ABC has given me the tools to help you solve that problem.” Show that you’ve done your research and know how you’ll be an asset.
Your goals. “I’m fascinated by data, and I’m looking for a role in marketing that will give me an opportunity to share my findings—and suggestions—with clients.” Introduce them to who you are and why your goals fit with theirs.
Just remember, you want a hook, but you also need to be sincere. If you’re just saying what you think an employer wants to hear, you might forget what you were going to say. Even worse, you might come off as fake. But if the aspects of your brand truly reflect who you are and what you bring to the table, remembering what to say—and saying it well—should come easy. If you’re the number one salesperson in your office, make it known. If you have a reputation for being calm in a crisis, clearly point that out. If you’re a member of MENSA, don’t be shy about it. There’s no time for subtlety.
It can be hard to get someone’s attention when you’re merely rattling off a list of run-of-the-mill attributes like “hard worker” and “team player.” When you want to stand out—and you only have a minute or so to make a lasting impression—you can’t just rely on off-the-rack selling points.
Too vague: “I’m very driven.”
More specific: “I’m creative, motivated, and flexible—nothing slows me down.”
Too vague: “I’m punctual.”
More specific: “I’ve always been an early bird. If I’m not in the office by 8 am, call the cops because something’s wrong.”
The meaning is the same, but the delivery is far more interesting.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you want your elevator pitch as readily available as a business card, practice it until it’s second nature. (Speaking of which, you should always have your business card with you too.) If you don’t want to sound stilted or awkward make sure you know exactly what you’re going to say. You can also benefit from practicing in the mirror or recording yourself, so you can make the necessary tweaks before you actually test it out in real life.
You don’t have to stick to the same script all the time. You may have a pitch prepared for the “tell me about yourself” question in a formal interview. You can create a different one for job fairs or networking events. Or you may be interested in different types of careers. In that case, you’ll need one pitch for marketing and one for public relations—or whatever your choices are. The key is to make sure what you have to say is suitable to the situation and goal. For example, don’t talk about your great accounting skills if you’re trying to get hired as a copywriter. You don’t need to tailor a different pitch for every possible occasion, but having an extra speech or two in your back pocket will help you be prepared and confident.
Hit the High Points
You could spend your entire 30 to 60 seconds focusing on one attribute. And if that attribute is astounding, such as winning a Nobel Prize, that might be the way to go. But if you have a lot of different qualities that potential employers might be interested in, try to hit on each of them briefly, rather than spending the whole time talking about one thing. You’ll increase your chances of hitting on something that strikes the hirer’s fancy if you highlight several strengths, for example, “I have an effective transactional leadership style, an ability to react quickly, and an innovative mindset.”
Summing up who you are in the time it takes to go from the first floor to the 25th may feel intimidating. After all, you’re a deep and complex person with a whole lifetime of experiences. Unfortunately, you usually won’t have time to go into the details. And if you try, it could actually be a turn-off. Having an elevator pitch or two (or three) ready could open a lot of doors very quickly—without sounding any alarms.