Your Elevator Pitch: Going Up?
Get the employer's attention with a persuasive elevator pitch.
It’s called an elevator pitch. It’s a 30 to 40 second recap of who you are, your hospitality service background, your professional kitchen interests and what you can do for the company. It’s called an elevator pitch because that’s about how long you have to pitch yourself and your food service skills—the length of time it takes to get from the ground floor to the top floor in an elevator.
Now a good elevator speech doesn’t just happen. It’s something you can (and should) prepare long before you need it. And, as you develop this “advertisement for you,” keep the following dos and don’ts in mind:
Elevator pitch do's.
Start by writing down your work-based strengths—education, experience, specialties and so on. Organize this information so the most important facts come first.
- Next, edit your pitch down to no more than 60 seconds. Practice your pitch. Rehearse in front of a mirror using index cards to remind you of key points.
- Practice sounding casual, natural and sincere. It should sound almost effortless. “Oh, Hi, Mr. Smith. I’m Sarah Wilson from the front desk.” An enthusiastic smile is always a nice addition.
- Extend your hand and shake with a firm, confident grasp.
- Maintain eye contact and at the first sign of disinterest (or worse, boredom) wrap it up quickly. The objective is to leave a positive impression, not an impression of a dull, pushy person—especially in the hospitality and service industries where a warm personality is an asset.
- Finally, finish your elevator pitch with a request for action. It could be something as simple as asking for the manager’s business card to asking for an interview. This is one you have to play by ear. If the listener is engaged and attentive, ask for an interview. If she looks a little rushed, just ask for a business card.
Elevator pitch don'ts.
- A short introduction to the food service manager can do more harm than good if not done properly. Indeed, there are many mistakes to avoid. Don’t rush.
- It’s going to take a few seconds for your listener to tune in to what you’re saying so speak slowly, quietly and in a non-threatening voice.
- Don’t make your pitch when others are around. First, other people may distract your listener. Second, you don’t want your pitch heard by five other people standing next to you at a job fair table. Pick your moment, take a deep breath and follow your rehearsal plan.
- Don’t monopolize the discussion. Build in pauses where the listener might ask a question or two, or otherwise keep the conversation moving forward (a very good sign).
- Don’t use a lot of industry doublespeak and lingo. Your listener may not have a clue what ceviche is so it’s not going to be impressive, it’s going to be confusing.
- Don’t turn the spotlight on you. Pitch ideas that will benefit the listener and the company—ideas to cut costs, streamline procedures and improve performance.
- Don’t forget to clearly state what separates you from the rest. In business this is called your "UPS" or unique positioning statement. What makes you the better choice than others? Is it your experience? Your knowledge and formal training? Your personality? Be sure to leave the listener with a clear picture of what sets you apart from the rest of the pack.
The key to finding the perfect job is to always be ready. Update your elevator pitch as you gain more experience and accomplish more in the hospitality realm. Keep your resume and cover letter up to date. Be prepared, at all times, to take advantage of the professional opportunities that come your way.
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