You know that creating a solid cover letter and resume are key components to the job search process – but what do you do if you “bump into” the perfect networking opportunity on the street, at the gym, in an elevator, or at a casual networking event? Having a quick “pitch” prepared for those surprise moments can help you make connections and find new opportunities – all without needing to carry a stack of resumes with you everywhere!
In the book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell unpacks the notion of first impressions and shows that first impressions are overwhelmingly accurate. He uses the term “thin-slicing” to explain how people make first impressions based on just a thin slice, or quick interaction, with a new person. Gladwell argues that we do this out of necessity and that we can learn a lot from even the shortest interactions with others.
When it comes to finding the perfect job, first impressions are everything. Creating a solid elevator pitch is one easy way to put the “thin-slice” theory into practice!
What is an elevator pitch, and why do I need one?
“So, tell me a little about yourself.”
If you’ve ever struggled to answer this question during an interview, you’re not alone. However, a carefully crafted elevator pitch makes for the perfect answer!
An “elevator pitch” is just that – a short pitch that you could easily rattle off during an elevator ride (most people aim for 15 to 30 seconds). An effective elevator pitch takes full advantage of the thin-slicing concept. By creating a professional “pitch” centered on yourself, your background, your experiences, and your goals, you’ll be able to impress a hiring manager and position yourself as a strong candidate—all in those critical first few seconds.
An elevator pitch isn’t just for elevator rides – a job interview is the best time to break out your carefully crafted pitch. A thin-slicing study from the University of South Florida found that “Applicants who appeared attentive, not anxious, competent, confident, dominant, optimistic, and professional” during an initial 12-second impression were given “positive hiring recommendations.”
So, how can you maximize the impact of your first impressions with potential employers? By focusing on your micro traits—smiling, eye contact, hand gestures, visible, active listening—and crafting a solid elevator pitch!
Crafting a Compelling Elevator Pitch
Creating an elevator pitch takes a bit of time and preparation. Once you have, it completed and well-rehearsed, you can feel confident you will make a great first impression at your next interview or networking event. Here are four easy steps to help you create the perfect elevator pitch for your needs!
1. Know who you are addressing.
Just like you customize your resume or CV based on a specific job, it’s important to customize your elevator pitch to the person you’re addressing. Chances are, you’ll have a “core” pitch that you adjust based on the position, the institution, and the person to whom you’re speaking.
For example, if you’re creating a pitch to use at a networking event, keep it short (under 15 seconds) and general to any industry. If you’re working on an elevator pitch for an interview, it can be longer and more detailed (aim for around 30 seconds). In this case, consider how your strengths, interests, and experience pair up with the job description and the company’s motto or work culture.
2. Make a list and then cut it down.
Look at your resume/CV, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and any other sources that outline your background, education, experience, and achievements. Create a bullet list of your top 20, most important details. Then, condense those to 10. Then narrow it down to just 5. The goal is to find pieces that will pique the interviewer’s attention. The rest of the information can wait until they read your resume or ask more detailed questions during an interview.
For example, if you’re applying to work for a travel company, the years you spent abroad may be more compelling than work experience or academic achievements. Focus on what matters to that particular institution and its culture—sometimes, it’s not the obvious superlatives.
3. Hit the key points…and do it quickly.
Every elevator pitch should accomplish the following goals:
- Introduce yourself
- Explain who you are
- Articulate your professional goals and objectives
- List a few reasons you’re the right candidate for the role
Be succinct and clear-cut—don’t inflate your experience with buzzwords, extraneous details, or a speed-read of your entire resume. After all, the goal of an elevator pitch is to leave your listener intrigued and eager to learn more!
4. Practice makes perfect!
Practice your pitch in front of a mirror and with friends or colleagues, and time yourself to make sure your pitch is somewhere between 15-30 seconds (depending on your purpose). Even better – film yourself giving your pitch, then play it back to look for any nervous habits or ticks.
Your goal is to sound confident and conversational—sounding rehearsed will come off stiff and disingenuous. The more comfortable you become with your pitch, the easier it will be to adapt and evolve it for individual hiring managers and positions.
One final tip: Smile!
A small, friendly smile can be a positive micro trait that leaves the interviewer with a good first impression. Beyond that, a U.K. study revealed that “we can hear a smile in someone’s voice” whether we’re face-to-face or not. That simple visual and vocal shift can help boost your candidate profile by maximizing that “thin-slicing” moment.
So get out there and tell everyone a little about yourself! With a solid elevator pitch, you can get the attention of potential employers at networking events, confidently set yourself ahead of the pack during job interviews, and hopefully land your dream job!
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