An elevator speech or pitch is a prepared brief commercial about you. In about 30 seconds, or approximately the time it takes an elevator to go from the top to the bottom of most buildings (hence its name), it tells the person listening a little bit who you are, what you are looking for in the way of employment, and how you can benefit their company or organization. At a job fair, you use it to introduce yourself to employers.

Because you never know where you will have an opportunity to talk about yourself, you must know it well enough from practicing in front of a mirror to come off as natural conversation. For example, I’ll start out saying: “Hi, I’m Ron Kness [while handing them one of my “business cards”]. I’m a military veteran and a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources. I’m looking for a long-time career in an enterprising company’s HR department where I can use my skills to grow myself while at the same time help grow the company. While on active duty, I was team leader in a personnel section doing many of the same tasks an HR department does in the civilian world. [Next I would briefly talk about an applicable situation, the steps I took to resolve it, and the outcome.]

The position of Section Supervisor you have listed seems like it would be a perfect fit for someone with my skills, experience and education. I’d like to hear more about that job in your company. May I call next week to set up a meeting?”

In those few words, it says a lot about me. The first sentence brings out the fact that I’m a military veteran. Employers familiar with veterans know I have several “soft skills” that translate across the business industry, such as communication, organization, resourcefulness, attention to detail, mission accomplishment, etc. This alone should perk up their ears.

Then couple that with training and experience of leading a team and having a degree in that job field, it will be hard for them not to want to hear more about me. With my foot in the door, and having their attention, I can further expound on why I would be a good fit and how I could fill the open position.

The Money Question

Now, I want to continue by answering the question they are dying to ask – “Why should I hire you?” The best way to accomplish this is by telling a story. I’ll start out by setting up a situation or problem applicable to the job opening, the actions I took to solve it and the outcome. This gives them a look at my reasoning and judgement skills in a real life work situation.

Finally, I include a call-to-action. In this scenario I ask to call and set up a meeting. Other calls-to-action could have included encouraging them to call me (from my contact information on my business card) or asking for one of their business cards. Depending on how the conversation is going, I would apply what I think is the correct call-to-action. But regardless always include it. Another reason why you don’t want to memorize your elevator speech; you may have to alter it depending on the trend of the conversation.

I would briefly write down what was discussed with each employer so I can send out thank-you emails next week. Because so many people looking for a job are not prepared, just having a nicely prepared elevator speech will put you towards the top of other interviewees.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.