Adapting Your Elevator Pitch to the Occasion
Practice makes perfect, but be sure to tweak your pitch to keep it effective. By Andrew Klappholz
In the job search, the “make or break” moment for candidates often comes down to just a couple sentences: the elevator pitch. This is a quick statement about who you are and why you should be hired. Theoretically, it should be so brief that you can sell yourself while sharing an elevator with a hiring manager.
But traveling between floors of an office building isn’t always the scenario where an elevator pitch needs to be deployed. Some variation of it can be drawn on during anything from a networking event or a cold call to a Little League game or a chance encounter on your daily commute.
A base elevator pitch should be something like:
“Hi, I’m Jane Smith. I work in sales for NBC. I’ve beaten revenue projections for the past nine quarters and I’d like to do the same for CBS. My knowledge of the industry, contacts in the business world and proven track record of success would be a great asset to your company.”
Why would anyone say “no” to that? Well, if that exact pitch is given in the middle of the CBS executive’s yoga class, they’d have good reason to ignore you. “If you’re at a casual social event, you want to make it more casual — not so much of a hard sell,” said Patty Malone, a communications professor at California State Fullerton. Malone helps job seekers perfect their interviewing and networking skills at drpattymalone.com.
She says that elevator pitches, while important to practice out loud and memorize, are most effective when they don’t sound like they’re rehearsed. And, she adds, it all depends on the setting. During yoga, it would be nice to compliment the person’s downward dog before getting down to business. If you’re at a Little League game and your son is playing the team of the CBS executive’s son, talk about the game without being an annoyance. “You can chit-chat a little bit, but don’t just hang out there,” she said. “Don’t take up too much of their time.”
Malone said that in such a setting, Jane Smith would be better off if she seemed like a parent — not a job seeker — and mentioned, almost in passing, that she’d be a good asset to CBS. “I would walk up and introduce myself and let him or her know that I’m interested in their company,” she said. “And say that I’d like to talk to them in the future and send a resume.”
It’s all about adapting, said Andrew Schrage, the careers expert at Money Crashers Personal Finance. “Adapt your pitch to the situation you’re in,” he said. “If you are in an office setting or a formal setting, you’ll keep your pitch more formal … and talk yourself up. In a casual setting, the Little League setting, you want to straddle the line between casual, along with being personable, and connect with that person.”
Andrew Klappholz is a general assignment reporter for Ladders.