By: Paula Rucci Voigt, Career Advisor at National Louis University
Walking up to a potential employer at a job fair or networking event and knowing how to start the conversation can be intimidating, if you’re not prepared. As NLU students and alumni prepare for the upcoming Spring Career Expo, an “elevator pitch” is no doubt on their minds. Knowing how to grab an employer’s attention, and keep it, is a valuable networking and interviewing skill. You’ll want to be able to deliver a clear summary 30 seconds to one minute in length consisting of your background, experiences and goals. Here are some key steps to keep in mind as you develop your perfect pitch.
Start with a Concise, Value-Added Intro
After offering a firm, comfortable handshake and a smile, begin by conveying the basics to give context to your pitch. This will orient the listener and help them stay focused on what you’re saying. Begin by stating your name, your major or industry, and a concise blurb about what you do or your future goals. Don’t rely on boring job titles to describe your unique set of skills; instead, use a descriptive phrase that emphasizes the value that you bring to the table.
For example, rather than stating “I am an accountant,” you could say, “I’m a CPA who helps companies save money and improve profitability.”
Or, instead of “I’m a career advisor,” you could say, “I teach job seekers how to cultivate and present their unique story in a way that will attract recruiters and help them land a job.”
If you are a student who hasn’t yet worked in your chosen field, briefly describe your aspirations. For example, “After graduating I plan to inspire kids to engage and learn through reading, and hope to spark their interest in literature.”
This value-added method will draw the listener in and they will naturally want to know more.
Continue with Evidence and Passion
Next, offer some details about your past or current experiences that support your goals or work, and briefly summarize your qualifications and skills. Be sure to convey your enthusiasm by adding a few words about what motivates you and drives you to do your best, as well as what you are looking for. Choose just one to three things to emphasize about yourself and remember to keep it simple – you can elaborate with more details later on once the conversation gets going. Here is an example of how to incorporate both evidence and passion into your pitch:
“When I started school I originally thought my major would be finance, but my internship and work experiences helped me to realize that my real talent and interest lies in marketing. In the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to work on numerous projects that revolved around the presentation and promotion of products, and I’ve found that I’m good at it and really enjoy it. I’ve discovered that I have a talent for understanding the big picture and then taking that vision and applying it to all aspects of product promotion and presentation. When I heard about your opening for a Brand Manager, I knew this was an opportunity that I could embrace. I feel confident that my talents and experience in helping to create a brand and positioning it to succeed in the marketplace will be valuable to your organization.”
Customize Your Pitch
Above all else, know your audience. Hopefully you’ve done some research on the company or organization and are familiar with their unique challenges. This is important so that you can offer some ideas on how you can address those needs and how your skills could benefit them. For example, knowing that a certain community agency serves a large population of Hispanic families will help clue you in to what sorts of qualifications they will be looking for in a candidate, and you would be wise to mention your bilingual skills. Or perhaps you discover that an organization has suffered a recent financial setback due to a reduction in federal funding and you’ve had past success in fundraising. Remember to think outside the box and put yourself in the shoes of who you’re talking to – being tuned in to a potential employer’s perspective will really set you apart.
Keep it Professional
An elevator pitch is much like answering that dreaded interview question, “Tell me about yourself…” This can seem like a trick question, begging you to go down the path of describing your hobbies, your kids and your plans for Friday night. Don’t go there! As depicted in the meme above, what an employer really wants to know is information about you that relate to the job, nothing more and nothing less – so be sure to keep your answer within this realm.
Some Additional Tips…
- Be clear and concise, without leaving people wondering exactly what it is you do.
- Maintain the proper amount of eye contact. This is essential in helping form a connection between you and the other person.
- Use a conversational tone. Think of this as “intelligent conversation,” and not a formal speech.
- Stay in tune with the listener’s verbal and nonverbal cues as you deliver your pitch.
- Confidence is key. It’s okay to fake it until you make it.
- Ignite and propel the conversation by following up your pitch with a relevant question that will convey your interest in learning more about the organization and help you uncover their needs as well as potential opportunities that may exist.
- Remember to ask for a business card so that you can follow up with a thank-you email within 24 hours.
You’ve got the basics down – the ideal elevator pitch will convey passion, contain evidence, and be customized, professional, clear, concise and value-added. Practice makes perfect! Use a friend or a mirror to help polish your delivery. Now you’re ready. The bell dings, the doors slide open – you’re on!