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Your personal brand: Revisiting the elevator speech

The elevator speech/personal commercial is supposed to be the key to introduce me to people or respond to the question ‘tell me about yourself’ asked at the start of an interview. Why is it so important? How come I can’t get it right?

Hold the door!
Photo by Mark Wilson

We’ve discussed this idea in the past. It’s the lead paragraph in your cover letter, and probably what you put in your career summary at the top of your resume. You can use it for introductions at networking events or casual meetings/encounters. You can have as many of these as you would like to prepare, preferably one for each type of job you go after. If you google ‘elevator speech’ you will get plenty of places that will help you prepare them. The personal commercial is your opportunity to provide information to create interest and response from prospects. It is NOT a bunch of boring facts about what you do but a series of questions and statements designed to communicate how you help others and solve problems. It is the prelude and the gateway to a sale according to Homer Reid, Career Coach.

So why do we not get this part right? Why do we freeze when they ask us to tell them about ourselves? It’s normal to be nervous about this because you are trying to condense what you are into a 30 second to one minute timeframe. It’s a bit daunting for anyone and the first thing to remember is not to start with where you came from, where you grew up, or any kind of personal information. The listener is not looking for your life story. Time and again when conducting speed interviewing exercises, I listen to people start with their personal history, but unless you want an employer to hire you because you were born on Maple Street in Peoria, it’s not a good way to begin your pitch. You must address specifically why you are good, what you can do and why that might be of value to a potential employer. You need to do it quickly, convincingly and it has to be targeted to what you know the company might be looking for, which means doing your homework.

Can you handle it? Simple things are the hardest to execute skillfully. Crafting the right personal commercial means that you have to think hard about what you’re best at doing in business and conveying how that adds value to the employer. Here’s an example for someone doing talent acquisition: “I’m Nancy Smith, I specialize in the acquisition of high tech talent. I have been a technical recruiter with a recruiting agency, a talent manager with a high-tech engineering firm, and most recently heading up the search practice at Technology Partners. I specialize in hard to find niche positions requiring a mix of engineering and marketing skills. I’ve placed four people in the last six months”.

What “Nancy” has done is to demonstrate that she is expert in her field; she’s done it in a variety of environments and moved up to take on more responsibility at a higher level. She could even get more specific about the kind of technology she specializes in which will add to the impression of her expertise. Notice she doesn’t say where she is from, what school she went to, or supply anything extraneous. All of that can be done later. So get out those pencils, or tablet computers and start re-writing your personal commercial/elevator speech/pitch. It’s time to rework your personal brand.

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