It's a brief moment with a big opportunity. An "elevator pitch" - also called an elevator speech or statement - is your chance to quickly but persuasively sell yourself to a potential employer, and it's vital that you make the most of the time.
An elevator pitch is basically a one-minute introduction of who you are, what you do, what you are seeking, and what you can offer a company. The term came into vogue during the earliest days of the Internet boom as start-up companies vied for venture capital. Today, it can be applied to job-hunting and networking as candidates seek to make a lasting impression on prospects.
"An elevator speech gives the person you're talking to a direction to work with," said Liesl Hyde, regional director in Minnetonka for Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement and consulting company. "You're offering them some information about you and what you're looking for. And if you do it correctly, you will trigger some of their creative forces to work for you."
Here's how to stand out with a succinct and impressive elevator pitch:
Keep it short and sweet. Try to limit your message to just one or two sentences, said Karen Melby, managing director in Minneapolis of Steven Douglas Associates, a project-based professional services firm with offices across the country. Otherwise, your message can get muddled. "People only remember the first few seconds," she adds. "If you can say it succinctly and in a way that people will remember, then you've got your hook."
Hone in on what you want. Don't be vague when it comes to your pitch, like saying you aim to work at a $50 million company or you seek employment at a business with strong leaders, said Hyde. That's too vague. Instead, come up with three to five things you look for in a position: I want to work in sales, help people, and use my Spanish skills. "You are giving the person a direction to work with," she says. "Offering them some information about you gives them the freedom to be creative in what they come back with. You find them the path without hemming them in."
Tell a prospective employer how you can help them. Sum up your strengths and give a brief overview of your career, then spell out how you will apply those skills to the company's advantage. "Explain how they will be better by hiring you, and how you will benefit the employer," Melby said. "Tell them, 'This is how I can help you be successful.' Employers want to know you are a team player who can hit the ground running."
Pay attention to your delivery. It's important to practice, practice, practice until your elevator speech is second nature. Give your pitch on video or in front of a mirror. Go over it with friends and family to get their feedback. Above all, said Melby, make sure you deliver your elevator speech with passion and positivity - that enthusiasm is infectious and can go a long way toward making a great first impression.