Job Searching: 8 Tips for an "Elevator Speech" - dummies

Job Searching: 8 Tips for an “Elevator Speech”

By Joyce Lain Kennedy

Simply put, an elevator speech (or elevator pitch) for job search purposes is a brief oral overview of who you are, what you do, and how you can help a hiring authority. It’s another branch of the branding concept.

Elevator speeches are no place to get lost in details. Most often they run 20, 30, or 60 seconds. Highly successful elevator speeches increase the listeners’ desire to meet again for a longer exploration of what you, the job-seeking speaker, can do for them.

In case you’re wondering how on earth a quick, succinct summation of what you offer ever became known as an elevator speech, here’s a clue: Supposedly, the colorful term came about because an introduction speech should last no longer than the average elevator ride. In fact, the precise origin of the elevator speech term is — pun alert — left up in the air.

You may not actually be explaining your life’s experience and job ambitions in an elevator. But even when your meeting venue is a planned, formal dinner, or a job interviewing office, or a career fair, you want to be primed to capture your listeners’ attention. Here are eight tips to be sure you’re heard loud and clear.

Create a basic format for your elevator speech

Begin writing your elevator pitch by answering the following essential questions:

  • Who am I (student, athlete, veteran, rookie, seasoned worker)?

  • What do I do, or want to do (to help people who hire me)?

  • What is my most important credential (education, award, publication)?

  • Why am I qualified (skills, experience)?

  • What value do I provide (make money or save money for employer)?

  • What stands out about me (dedication to meeting challenges)?

  • What type of employer is most likely to see my value (industry or career field)?

Cut your elevator speech to size

When your cup runs over with good things to say about yourself, write it all down. Then keep cutting and editing until you identify three talking points that give a snapshot of your career. Here’s an example:

(1) I spent 22 years as a successful recruiter and HR manager.

(2) I know how to find and retain top talent.

(3) Now Im ready to head up executive talent management in a forward-looking company.

Hang a hook in your elevator speech

Try to include a hard-to-resist hook — a statement or question using words that glue ears to your speech. Use compelling words like the following:

Now I take those financial insider secrets and teach people how to . . ..

Another project I led installed a call center that aided people displaced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

After I recovered missing evidence in a publicized law case, we won, and amazing things happened after that.

Prepare targeted elevator speeches

Although you need a solid elevator speech ready for any occasion, make it listener benefit–oriented by customizing it. The customizing strategy works because human ears perk up when hearing “what’s in it for me.”

Soak up material for your elevator speech

Practice your speech enough to express key points without sounding as though you’re reading from a teleprompter.

Go with change in your elevator speech

Every career grows and morphs, and your elevator speech needs to grow and morph with it. Updating becomes ever more urgent as the years pile up.

End your elevator speech with an action request

Don’t get so caught up in enthusiasm for your speech that you forget to mention what you need. When you’re speaking to a hiring authority outside of office hours, the action you want is to set up a job interview. Here are two approaches:

Based on this brief introduction, do you think a future meeting has potential for both of us?

I hope we can speak further about your companys current or potential need for people with my abilities. Can I get on your calendar in the next week or so?

When you’re delivering your elevator speech in an interview (answering the “Tell me about yourself” probe), you want clarification of the next step in the hiring decision. Or you want to know whether the interviewer sees any reason why you’re not well qualified for the open position, to address any negative issues and perhaps overcome the objection.

Sometimes your action request is for an introduction to an individual who can hire you or open doors for you.

Express appreciation in your elevator speech

Frame a gracious exit with your final words:

Thank you for sharing your time with me today.

What elevator speeches look like

The following four 30-second elevator speeches were created by Laura DeCarlo of Melbourne, Fla. DeCarlo is president of Career Directors International, a leading professional writers’ association.