Interviews / Job market

First impressions count – nail that elevator pitch!

Imagine you get in an elevator with the manager of the company you want to work for. It should be possible to introduce yourself in a way that creates a powerful first impression in the time span of an elevator ride from top to bottom – no more than 60 seconds.

Essentially, your ‘elevator pitch’ should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? What are you looking for? It can act as an ice breaker, a summary about yourself and an introduction. It can also serve as the foundation for covering letters, email introductions, meeting employers and other social settings.

When preparing it, consider:

  1. Where you are: Are you at a careers fair, employer presentation, on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, in front of your PC writing your CV and covering letter or an email to an employer or preparing for a job interview? The context is very important when preparing your pitch.
  2. Who you are: Are you a maths finalist, a young entrepreneur, an aspiring sports journalist etc.? Describe what motivates you, what you are skilled at.
  3. What you want: Are you looking for work experience, are you seeking tips and advice on how to enter a specific industry, do you want to find out more about the organisation or type of job, or are you interested in the person you want to approach?
  4. Who you are speaking to: You might need to introduce yourself differently depending on whether you are talking to a recruiter, a course mate, an academic etc.
  5. What you have to offer: This is about your unique selling point. What is your proposition? What can you bring? Why should they give you their time?

An elevator pitch can take the following forms:

  • CV personal profile / career objective / summary: There is considerable discussion about whether personal profiles are ‘killer of filler’ but if you do choose to include one, you really need to make it count. For example:

Seeking an internship in the ___ industry to build upon a keen scientific interest and start a career as a ___. Eventual career goal is to become a fully-qualified and experienced ___, with the longer-term aspiration of moving into ___.

  • LinkedIn summary: Having an online profile is imperative if you want to be ‘found’ by employers and build your network.  And when you are ‘found’, you need to look great! Your summary is the best introduction to your LinkedIn profile. For example:

I am a second year History student at the University of Warwick aspiring to work in publishing. I review books for The Boar – Warwick’s editorially independent student newspaper and you can see some of my articles here. Last year, I came third in PBS National Student Poetry Competition for my poem ‘X’. I am currently actively seeking editorial work experience in a publishing house.

  • Job interviews: Undoubtedly, one day you will be asked something along the lines:“Tell me (something interesting) about yourself? Why should we hire you? Why are you the best candidate for the job? Why are you the right fit for the position? What would you bring to the position?” These questions cannot be answered without knowing how to ‘pitch’ yourself. For example:

I have the experience and the attitude to excel in this production assistant position. I have almost two years of television production experience — including two summers interning at The X Show, where I was exposed to all aspects of TV production. I made such a strong impression the first summer, I was invited back and given a role with more responsibility. During my final year, I have been working part-time for a production company – in an assistant role – but have also recently had the chance to help edit several episodes. I have a reputation for getting things done — and with a smile. That’s because I love working in the TV industry and am excited to learn and get experience in every way possible.

  • Speculative applications: Anecdotally, 60-80% of the jobs are not advertised. There is a hidden job market and the only way to access it is via networking and speculative applications. Your speculative covering letter should be clear about what motivates you, what you have to offer and why you are approaching them. Prospects has a really clear example to highlight the points, and here is just a flavour:

I am writing to enquire as to whether there are any suitable vacancies in the audit department at Just Boom Finance. I would like to draw your attention to my most relevant qualification and experience:

I am predicted to achieve a 2:1 in my BSc Finance and Accounting degree. This programme, which is accredited by the Association of Financiers, provides thorough preparation for a career in audit.

My work placement and subsequent employment at Thrift Financial enabled me to see how aspects of the professional services industry work together and to understand the importance of the audit function in supporting clients’ financial and business development. During this time I participated in a new client interview in which my mentor supported a new business to establish new record and reporting systems.

  • Networking (interviews): We all know that one of the challenges of networking is breaking the ice, starting a conversation. When attending such events you need to go prepared. With prior research on the speakers, the companies and the industry and preparing in advance your introduction, you should be able to confidently approach them for useful information, tips and advice. For example:

Hello, my name is __________ and I am a __________ year __________ (degree) student at  the University of Warwick. I am interested in a career in the ___________ industry as a __________. During my time at Warwick I have been involved in __________ (societies, projects, interests etc.) and developed skills in __________. I have also had an internship position / work experience as a ___________ with __________ and discovered that I really enjoy __________. Could you tell me more about __________?

Initially used in sales to create interest in a project, idea, product, the ‘elevator pitch’ has become a useful tool in personal branding when networking and job hunting. As they say, it only takes a few seconds for people to make up their minds about someone, so, make these 30 seconds of your elevator pitch count. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”!

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