Do You Have an “Elevator Speech”?

By Joe Stein

When job searching, preparation is critical.  One of the ways you can prepare is to create an ‘elevator speech”.  What you are preparing is a short introductory statement about yourself of no more than 45 seconds to a minute (sometimes only 30 seconds or less).  It is named after a specific situation in which you may use this prepared introduction…while on an elevator with someone you wish to meet.

Of course, this “elevator speech” can be used in many other instances than this specific situation.  Let’s examine some of the times you may need just this kind of introduction.
• Career Fair – How many times have you been at a Career Fair and waited for the Recruiter. Then, when it is your turn, you did not know what to say?  If you are like most, then you can probably relate.  At a Career Fair, when you really do not have the undivided attention of the Recruiter, it is important to be able to quickly communicate your information while keeping the listeners attention.
• Networking – In many situations, an opportunity to network comes at an unexpected time.  You may run into someone while you are out and about.  By preparing ahead of time what you will say in this situation, you will prevent being tongue-tied and (also) not take up too much of the other individuals’ time.
• Phone Screen – In this example, a Recruiter is calling you to learn some basic information to determine whether to move you forward in the process.  The person conducting the phone screen is probably not planning on going into significant detail regarding your experience, so it is important for you to be able to concisely communicate your message.
• Resume Follow-Up/Cold Calling – If you are calling someone who you do not have an existing relationship with, then an “elevator speech” will be needed if you happen to connect with the desired person.
• Interview – The “elevator speech” usually works quite well if given the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” opening interview question. 

So, now that you know some of the situations that you may use your “elevator speech” what should be in it?  You really don’t have a lot of time, so the basics in a clear and concise manner are the key.

• Who You Are – Don’t forget to provide your name.  Even if you think the person may know you, don’t assume they will remember your name.  You want the person receiving the information being provided to easily attach it to yourself.
• Who You Know – If you mutually know someone, then weave this briefly into the introduction.
• What You Have Done – This is where you include information such as a company you have previously worked for, or your current (or last) role.  If there is something you have done that would separate you from others (particular role, project, achievement), then work the relevant information into this part.
• What You Are Looking For – This is usually the toughest part, as you need to quickly express the type of role you are looking for.  If there is currently an open position you desire, then attach this information when expressing what you are looking for.
• Closure – What are you ultimately seeking in this encounter?  Whatever it is, make sure you ask for it prior to ending the introduction.  If it is a business card, then ask for it, if it is an appointment, then inquire regarding scheduling one. If it is a referral, then seek it.

Be careful to not be too bold or forward when providing your “elevator speech”.  Make sure the time is right for the listener. Be cautious of creating an introduction that is too boastful (although you do want to sound confident) and be careful of humor.  You may be a hit with your introduction, but you also may go down in flames immediately with a poor 1st impression.  I tend to prefer taking a more conservative and basic approach.

Finally, don’t forget to practice (out loud) until it sounds and feels natural, and not a rushed and/or canned speech.  Role play different situations where you may use this introduction, using a friend or family member as the audience.  If you really want to get sophisticated, then have slightly different versions depending on the situation.  Ask that they provide you with honest and specific feedback regarding how you do.  Remember that you only get one chance to make a 1st impression, so your “elevator speech” needs to be your best effort.

As always, best of luck in your job search!