Whether you call if an elevator pitch, a personal value statement or just an introduction, it is how you introduce yourself in a professional setting and how you respond to the request, “Tell me about yourself.” These are called elevator pitches because you should be able to deliver it in the time it takes for a typical elevator trip. If you are wondering what building is tall enough to support your introduction, it is too long.
Here are some suggestions to enhance your elevator pitch.
Less is More – When someone asks this question they are not asking for your life history or even a summary of your resume. They want a brief statement about what is unique about you. The longer you ramble on, the less they will remember. Be concise and confident. For an interview, think about which aspects of your skills and experience are most relevant to the employer and focus on those. They can always ask follow-up questions if they want to hear about something else in your background. Keep your response relevant to the person you are addressing.
Be Unique and Memorable – Be authentic and genuine in your response. It shows. Don’t try to memorize a response but know the key components you want to emphasize. If you have a unique angle, use it. “Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of working in this industry because….” “The two accomplishments I am most proud of are…” “My manager/colleagues would describe me as…” “The three words that best describe me are….” Be sure to use key words that are important to them so they will remember you.
Deliver it with Confidence and Enthusiasm – Don’t hesitate, this is not a trick question. If you aren’t able to talk about yourself it implies a lack of confidence and preparation. Be prepared with an answer and deliver it with confidence.
Be Prepared – In the course of your round of interviews, it is likely that someone will ask you this so be prepared. Think in advance about what is important to them and how you want to respond. This will also help you identify key points for your closing statements in your interview.
Interviewers are monitoring all your communication and non-verbal communication during your interview. Responding to the “Tell me about yourself” request gives you an opportunity to shape their perceptions. Be prepared to do this successfully.
Your resume and cover letter are your personal sales tools in your job search so it is important that they are always putting your best foot forward to make a positive impression. I see many candidates still using outdated advice that detracts from their job search collateral.
References Available Upon Request
Banish this phrase from your resume and cover letter. Every employer assumes that references will be provided when requested. It is part of the process. Leaving this on your resume or cover letter makes your materials look outdated and unprofessional.
Take this off the bottom of your cover letter. Most resumes and cover letters are submitted electronically. Be sure you have your name and contact information on both documents.
I Will Call You to Schedule an Interview
Don’t ever put that in your cover letter. You are not in charge of the process. The employer decides which candidate will be called for an interview and when. Don’t give the impression that you think you control the process – you don’t.
Skip the objective on your resume. First of all, hiring managers don’t care what your objective is and it makes your resume look dated. It is much more important to provide a summary at the top of your resume highlighting your transferrable skills. This creates the lens through which the hiring manager reads the rest of your resume.
Avoiding these common pitfalls will help you present yourself more professionally and will increase your likelihood of success.
In your job search, you are the product. You need to sell your experience and skills and convince the employer that you can solve their business problems. Your personal brand is essential to your success in this process. You should be very aware of your personal brand and you need to manage it carefully.
What are the key components of your personal brand?
- Presence – Before you speak your first word, you are making an impression on the interviewer. Do you walk with confidence? What is your posture while you are standing or sitting? Do you look comfortable or terrified? Whether their impressions are completely true or not, it is how they are experiencing you. Being aware of this helps you better manage the impression you make.
- Eye Contact – Be confident enough in who you are to make strong eye contact. It projects confidence. Looking off into space conveys a lack of interest and sincerity.
- Smile – A smile goes a long way in building personal connections. Even if you are nervous, smile. It demonstrates that you are happy to be there and interested in what you are going to learn about the opportunity.
- Professional Attire – When interviewing or networking with potential employers, dress like the successful professional you aspire to be. It sends a positive message and it shows them that you can dress appropriately when needed. Even with a casual workforce, you have to be able to dress the part for important client meetings, etc.
- Handshake – No wimpy handshakes allowed. Web to web connection with a moderate amount of pressure. Don’t be a bone crusher but show them you are a confident professional. If you are worried about sweaty palms, go to the rest room and wash your hands just before the start of the interview.
- Collateral Materials – Remember your resume and cover letters represent you in your job search. Be sure they are accurate – to grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. Make sure they put your best foot forward.
- Online Presence – Employers will check your online presence so be sure you have a professional presence and that your security settings are up to date. I’ve had candidates lose an opportunity because of what employers found online. Google yourself so you are aware in advance of what comes up.
- Your Key Differentiators – You are a unique individual with your own set of experience and skills. Be prepared to clearly articulate your key differentiators in your interview responses and as you wrap up your interview. Be sure to include key differentiators in your introduction as well
Paying attention to your personal brand throughout your job search process will help increase your success.
After all your preparation and surviving the interview questions, how do you end your interview in a way that makes them remember you? When they sit down to debrief about candidates you want them to have a very clear sense of who you are and what you bring to this position. Most candidates focus their preparation on the questions they will answer during the interview but to be memorable, you must focus on how you will close the interview successfully.
Ask the Interviewer Questions
It is always critical to have questions to ask the interviewer. When the interviewer asks, “what questions do you have for me?” the answer should never be “I don’t have any.” Do your research in advance and have insightful questions prepared. Ask things not found on the website. While it is appropriate to ask about company plans going forward and priorities it is critical to ask questions that envision you in the job. Samples:
- What would be your expectations of me in the first six months in this job?
- How would you evaluate success at the end of my first year in this position?
Also, be bold. Ask the question that needs to be answered – “What concerns do you have about me as a candidate for this position?” Don’t wait until they debrief internally and debate their concerns. Get the issue out on the table so you have a chance to address it. “I understand why you are concerned about my lack of experience in your industry, but my track record demonstrates that I have learned new industries quickly and was able to contribute value in my new industry. I would welcome the challenge of learning your industry.”
Summarize Your Key Strengths
In your closing remind them of the critical skills and experience you bring to this position. What are the three most important things that would enable you to succeed in this job? Don’t assume they will remember from the conversation. Summarize why you are the best candidate for this position without being cocky or over confident.
Clarify Next Steps
Be sure to ask what next steps are in the process and when they expect to make a decision. This helps you determine whether you need to send a quick email thank you in addition to your handwritten thank you notes. It also helps to manage your expectations. It is yet another way to demonstrate your interest.
Demonstrate Your Interest
It pains me to hear feedback from interviewers that the candidate “just didn’t seem that interested in the job.” Let them know at the end of the interview that you are definitely interested and tell them why. What is it about this opportunity that interests and excites you? Leave them knowing that you would love to be part of that team.
Leave your interview knowing that you gave it your best shot by asking relevant and important questions and reinforcing your critical skills as well as your interest. Memorable candidates are most likely to land the jobs.
Most websites and resume guidelines advocate the use of key words. I am often asked by students and alumni why key words matter?
The Resume Review Process
It is often not a human making the decision on whether to advance your resume in the process. Many employers rely on software to review applications and if your resume and cover letter do not contain the appropriate key words, you are eliminated from consideration. You must make it through the computer screening to have any possibility of having a human review your resume and inviting you for an interview.
Regardless of your relevant experience and key transferrable skills, you may not emerge as a candidate for the position if your resume does not make it through the automated screening process. The scanning software it set up to search for critical key words in your resume and cover letter.
How do I know which key words are critical?
The single most critical indicator of relevant key words is the job description. Review the entire job description carefully and highlight the key words in the posting about the skills needed for success. Be sure to include the applicable ones in your resume and cover letter. It is likely that the software will be searching for critical skills identified in the job description. Increase your chances of success by including words from the job description in your resume and cover letter.
Be strategic about how you use your key words. Be sure they are in your resume summary and core competencies as well as in your cover letter.
I am often asked this question. It is so much easier to just send a resume. Is it really important to write a customized cover letter? Yes, if you hope to be invited for an interview. If you don’t want the job, don’t bother but then why even send your resume? If you are interested in the job, a cover letter is a critical component. The cover letter may well be your opportunity to stand out from the mountain of online applications.
Why is the cover letter so important? This is your opportunity to connect the dots for the hiring manager. You read a job description and said “this is good job for me because…” You need to make those connections obvious to the employer. What do they gain by hiring you? Focus on your relevant experience and transferable skills. Differentiate yourself in the process with a strong cover letter.
How professional should it be? It should be a business letter, your name and address on the top in the same format as your resume, date, address block, salutation prior to the body of the letter. Demonstrate your professional writing skills in your cover letter. It should never be more than a single page. Sincerely is the acceptable close, never fondly or other approaches. Use “Dear Mr. Smith” not “Dear Joe”, or “Dear Joe Smith”. Your letter should contain an introduction, body and then a strong close. Do not just summarize your resume. Do not over use the word “I” and be careful not to start most sentences or paragraphs with “I”. Focus on the needs of the company.
What are some of the current trends in cover letters? An alarming trend is the number of candidates who do not bother to write a letter, this tells the employer it wasn’t worth the applicant’s time and effort. Many applicants focus their cover letters on what they want and need when the focus should be on how you can address the needs of the employer. Many applicants over use the word “I” in their letters. Do not start every paragraph with “I” and do not start every sentence with “I”. Do your first draft and then go back and eliminate half the “I”’s by restructuring the sentences. Your letter serves as a professional writing sample so demonstrate strong grammar, proper structure, correct spelling etc. Lack of attention to these details is a quick route to the no pile.
Does it have to be customized if my resume stays the same? Yes! You need to customize every letter to the specific needs of the company and the specific requirements of the position. Show them why you are a strong candidate for this job. Most hiring managers can spot a template letter and it will quickly move it to the “no” pile.
Do not use a template and Beware of cut and paste – Most hiring managers can spot a template letter very quickly and then move it to the no pile just as quickly. Generic language and no focus on the specific job tell the employer you were not interested enough to prepare a customized letter. Even if you think you are being careful cutting and pasting into a template for minimal customization, errors occur much too frequently. Employers lose interest very quickly when your letter refers to the wrong company or position. You can talk about your attention to detail all day but if you make these types of errors in your cover letter no one will believe you. Demonstrate your skills and your interest with your letter.
A strong customized cover letter increases the chances that you will be invited for an interview while a poor letter earns you a quick trip to the no pile.
I was asked earlier this week for insights on how to know it is time to make a career change – either within your current organization to a new department or role or a switch to a completely new organization. While there are many personal factors to consider, here are some key considerations to help you determine if this is the time for you to leap forward.
How do you know it is time to change careers?
- You have trouble getting yourself out of bed in the morning and motivating yourself to go to work
- You dread going to work, just the thought of it makes you anxious
- You get depressed on Sunday night knowing you have to go back to work in the morning
- You are constantly thinking that this isn’t what you want to do when you grow up
- The thought of doing this for the rest of your working career depresses you
- You are frustrated that you are not using certain talents and abilities or not pursuing key interests or passions
- You have that nagging feeling in your gut that just won’t go away
Is it real or a passing phase?
- Do some self-assessment exercises to clarify your interests and abilities
- Get input from colleagues and friends about your strengths and your possible fit in your desired role
- Ask your mentor for honest feedback
Learn more about the career you aspire to before making a final decision
- Conduct informational interviews with people who are doing the job you think you want, find out what it is really like
- Is there any opportunity to test what you think you want to do by doing it part time or in a volunteer situation while you keep your day job?
- Identify what education or certification may be required and determine what you need to do to meet those criteria
- If you aren’t qualified to take your dream job now, identify what you need to do to quality, what job now would lead to the job you desire?
- What companies offer the type of job you desire? Who do you know at those companies for networking?
If you decide it is time for a change, have a plan.
- Identify target companies and research those companies
- Identify networking contacts within those companies
- Conduct informational interviews with contacts in your target companies
- Prepare your resume and cover letter to focus on your transferrable skills
- Prepare your pitch of how you will present yourself in networking events and in interviews, explain your motivation for the change and your transferrable skills
- Identify opportunities to gain needed training or experience while you are searching
- Use your passion to motivate you throughout the process
We all spend too much time working to be miserable doing it. Find work that you love and do it well but go into your career change with a specific action plan for success.