Your Elevator Pitch

17 08 2009

Alisa B. from Boise, Idaho posted me a message on LinkedIn and I thought that it was totally relevant for everyone else, too!  So here goes…

Stephanie-I loved your posting but here is my dilemna: I have been doing a lot of research online about personal branding and I have seen so many blog postings and web articles on the subject but I have yet to have an author give me examples of what are good branding statements or 30-second elevator pitch statements. Isn’t that how much time you have to engage your audience? What would you consider to be a good couple examples of strong branding statements? Thanks so much for your insight!

To be honest, I don’t believe the idea that you have 30-seconds to sell yourself in an interview.   I really don’t think it’s true.  Let’s break it down… what could people possibly learn about you in 30-seconds?

  1. Your level confidence and your presence (or lack thereof).
  2. Your communication skills and the ability to articulate your ideas.
  3. Your level of engagement (eye contact, active listening, ability to understand what they say).
  4. Perhaps some astounding accomplishments… but really, the majority of us are quite average–I know I am!
  5. Perhaps an interest/passion or 2.
  6. Perhaps you said something that piqued their curiosity.  But that probably will vary by person.

If you can’t yet deliver on 1-4, please practice.  For those of you who are confident, good communicators, engaged, and have some great accomplishments to boast about, let’s move on.

Nowadays, people have the opportunity to provide an abundance of information about their strengths beyond 30-seconds of face time at a career fair.  I would encourage people to get creative, and get scalable.   Build a website about yourself, your interests, your specialties, your accomplishments.   Tweet.  Leverage social media to show them your influence and scope of interests.  People are searching.  Let them find you.  You’re awesome, just unemployed!

So how long do you really have to sell them on you?  Well, you have 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, however long they’ve scheduled you for your interview!  But you should always try your best to start and end strong.  Albeit, most interviewers know in the first 10 minutes (first few questions) if you’re a fit for the role or the company.   That being said–you won’t be able to gauge how well or poorly you’re doing in the interview, so don’t focus on that–focus on delivering YOU and solving their problems.

Therefore, positive impressions are important, so how can you make sure this impression is a good one?

You understand their business and gave personal attention to understanding how they differ from their competitors.
You have done as much research as possible to understand the role and to understand the company and what it does.  You’ve looked for similar people on LinkedIn.com.  You’ve read the latest news articles on the role/business/industry.  You are interested.  You really are.   You also either have direct experience, or you have translatable experience and you can articulate how this might be helpful.

Understand their company mission statement and philosophies.
Not every company has this, but many of them will.  In your sales pitch, or interview–whatever,
provide solid examples that tie you in with their core philosophies & mission.  Let’s use McKinsey & Company, a top consulting firm, as an example.  Their “What We Believe” page (as of 8/17/09) says that they aim to…
1)  Put the client’s interest ahead of our own. (How do you do this in your daily life?  at work?  at school? Articulate it.)
2)  Behave as professionals. (Good grief, see my guest post on Recession Mama as an example of an extreme no-no.)
3)  Keep our client information confidential. (You can bet they’re going to ask you about a time when you were asked to keep or breach a secret.)
4)  Tell the truth as we see it. (Have you ever stood up and said, “That’s not right, because…” or “I know a better way…” and you saved the company from harm?)
5)  Deliver the best of our firm to every client as cost effectively as we can. (How have you solved a problem and come up with the trim, streamlined solution?)

Sense of self.
Really–what are your core motivations for choosing their company?  Are you a walking model of their core philosophies and business practices?  I once went into an interview with a potential employer and (being honest) I told them that I would love to work for them for a few years and that I would love to move on to a larger company.  They later told me that as much as they loved me for the role, they knew my heart wasn’t in it long term, so they gave it to the next person.  But it was important that I didn’t get it.  I wouldn’t have been happy.  You should be really honest about what motivates you and what gets you excited to wake up in the morning.  They are looking for people who want to wake up in the morning and do what they do every day.  If that’s not you, then don’t worry–there is a company that is just right for you.

Square Peg, Round Hole (From Flikr.com, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

Square Peg, Round Hole (From Flikr.com, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

For the average person, there is no one size fits all pitch, unless you’ve started your own company, competed in the Olympics, or played at Carnegie Hall at the age of 12 (or something else that very few people in the world can say that they’ve done).  So, voila.  If you’re averagely unique, like me, your sales pitch will change by company and it will show them how YOU are aligned with THEM in every way.

But don’t take my word for it–what are your stories?  Does this really work or not?

Revised 4 hours later: haha — I’m re-reading Alisa’s questions and the short answer is that there’s no secret sauce for the elevator pitch which is why no one gives an example of a good one.  Hopefully, you can align your strengths and experiences with each company’s core principles and show them how you’re a shoe-in for the role.  Thirty seconds or 30 minutes, at all points in the conversation, this perfect alignment of you and the company should be apparent to your interviewer (or recruiter, or whoever).  Funny how it takes writing a novel to finally come to a 3 sentence conclusion! 🙂  Thank you for reading!! 🙂

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