by Kate Wendleton
Your Two-Minute Pitch is the back-bone of your search–you’ll use it in job and networking interviews, and in cover letters. You’ll be ready when someone says, “So tell me about yourself.”
Your resume summary statement serves as the starting point for your Two-Minute Pitch. Keep in mind:
- to whom you are pitching;
- in what they are interested;
- who your likely competitors are;
- and what you bring to the party that your competitors do not.
Don’t tell your life story. Instead:
- let this person know that you are competent and interested in the area he or she is interested in.
- say things that are relevant.
- come across at the right level.
If I had eight hours to chop down a tree,
I’d spend six sharpening my ax.
Case Study: Phil
Pitch for Target #1 vs. Target #2
Here is a pitch Phil developed when he wanted a position in adult education:
I have eighteen years experience in all aspects of education and training. I’ve set up and run training centers and have hired and managed trainers. I’ve developed a variety of training programs–for stand-up training, video training and computer-based training. I’ve developed the training materials, including the layout, the design and the logo. I have trained over 800 people in individual and group programs, and have even designed and coded the student registration and grade reporting systems. I wanted to talk to you today because (your company is known for its excellent training programs).
Phil met with a number of people in the training and education market, and it looked promising. But a friend knew Phil had another love, personal computers. In fact, the training centers Phil set up and run were PC training centers. Phil’s friend suggested he meet with Deirdre, who actually had a job opening. Phil was very excited about meeting Deirdre, and he and I met to prepare for this meeting.
When I asked Phil to do his Two-Minute Pitch, he did the pitch you see above. However, the interviewer would be interested in Phil’s experience with personal computers, not his background in education. How much did Phil know about PC’s? A lot. “Why, I can make PC’s dance,” he said. “The only problem is that the hiring manager would probably want someone who could network them together, and I’ve never done that.”
If your pitch–the way you position yourself– is wrong, everything else about your search is wrong. Phil’s first pitch is good if he wants to specialize in education, but terrible if he wants a job working with PC’s. Phil needed a new pitch to suit this completely different target, and it would also be better if Phil had the experience Deirdre was looking for.
I asked Phil if he could network computers together, and he said, “Of course.” Then, why not quickly get the experience and have a stronger pitch for the interview? That night, Phil networked together the computers he had at home. Then he attended the meeting of a group that specialized in computer networking. Phil asked one of the members if he could go along on a computer networking call. Here is Phil’s pitch only one week later:
I have eighteen years experience in computers, specializing in PC’s. I have built PC’s from scratch, and I’ve done software and applications programming on PC’s. I also understand how important networking is. I’ve even networked together the PC’s I have at home, and I belong to a group of PC experts so I always know who to talk to when tricky things come up. I can do anything that needs to be done with PC’s. I can make PC’s dance!
I’m excited about talking to you because I know your shop relies on PC’s. I’d like to hear more about your plans and tell you some of the specific things I’ve done.
He has managed to tailor his pitch to a specific situation. Both pitches are true about him. But each is tailored to his target market. In the first pitch, for example, he mentions that he has developed educational software. In the second pitch, the software application (education) is not important, but the fact that it was on PC’s is important. Notice, however, that each pitch starts with a summary statement of how he would like the interviewer to see him, one as an experienced education expert and one with PC experience.
Think through what you want to say to your target market–just as you did when you were developing the summary statement on your resume. Think about the person to whom you are talking.
Know Something About Them
If an interviewer immediately says: Tell me about yourself, how will you know how to position yourself? If you don’t know anything about why they are interviewing you or the position they have in mind, you may say: I’d be happy to tell you about myself, but could you first tell me a little about the kind of work you do here?
What Point Are You Trying To Make?
Most people write their Two-Minute Pitch and rehearse it in front of a mirror. Say to yourself: “What point am I trying to make? What impression do I hope they’ll get about me?”
Barbara had spent her life in the not-for-profit arena, and now wanted to teach grant writing. In her old pitch, she recounted the jobs she had held, and expected the listener to notice the parts of importance to them. When prodded, she admitted that the point she wanted to make was that she was seen as one of the best grant-writers in the country. Her new pitch, that she used in her cover letters, started like this:
Would you like to meet someone who is seen as one of the “best grant writers in the country,” and is also an excellent trainer? I have been in the not-for-profit sector for almost two decades and have been able to attain grants for a variety of programs. For example, . . .
Ask yourself: What is the most important point I am trying to make? One client said, “I just want them to know that I have eighteen years experience in capital markets, whether it’s in aerospace or petroleum, metals and mining, or real estate. My experience is in capital markets.”
That’s a great pitch. Why not tell them exactly that?
They Won’t “Get It” on Their Own, So Just Tell Them.
Most job hunters think, “I’ll tell him my background, and he’ll see how it fits with his needs.” Usually, he doesn’t see. Think about the point you are trying to make, and say it. If you have a conclusion you would like him to make about you, tell him what it is. Don’t expect the interviewer to figure it out.
If you want him to see how all of your jobs have somehow been involved in international, say: “All of my jobs have somehow been involved in international.”
If you want her to notice you have always moved wherever the company wanted, say just that. If you want her to know you have done things Treasury executives rarely do, then tell her that. If you want her to see you have developed intensive product knowledge while handling various operations areas, say so. Do you want her to know that Fortran is your favorite language? Then don’t say: “I have five years of Fortran experience.” That’s not your point. Do you want her to know that you can make computers dance? Tell her. Don’t make her figure it out for herself. She won’t.
Make your message so clear that if someone stops her and says, “Tell me about John,” she will know what to tell the other person about you.
Two Minutes is a Long Time. Show Enthusiasm.
In this TV society, people are used to 15-second sound bites on the news. As the communicator, engage your listener. Reinforce your main points. Don’t say too many things. Sound enthusiastic.
If you are not a lively person, the least you can do is sit forward in your chair. I once did a magazine article on who got jobs and who got to keep them. I talked to the deans of business and engineering schools. I learned that the enthusiastic person was most likely to get the job. And the enthusiastic one got to keep the job later–even over more qualified people. Employers kept people willing to do anything to help the company.
Even more interesting was that this same thing is true for senior executives. In my line of work, I sometimes have the opportunity to follow up when someone doesn’t get a job. I am amazed by the number of times I was told (about people making from $150,000 to $600,000), that the applicant lacked enthusiasm:
He was managing 1300 people, and I don’t know how he did it. He just doesn’t sound enthusiastic. How could he motivate his troops if he can’t motivate me? Anyway, I don’t know that he really wants the job. He didn’t sound interested.
In addition to the job content, display enthusiasm. If you really want this job, act like it. It does not hurt your salary negotiation prospects.
As you practice, you will learn to see more of the job hunt process through the eyes of the “buyer”–the hiring manager. Instead of thinking only about yourself and what you want, think more about what the managers want and what you have that would be of interest to them.
In preparing for a meeting, use the “Summary of What I Have/Want to Offer,” below. For each target area, you will need a different pitch–just as Phil did. And you will need to modify your pitch for various companies within that target. If your pitch never changes, you are not thinking enough about the person you are talking to.
Summary of What I Have/Want To Offer:
- Statement of why they should hire me (My “Two-Minute Pitch”).
- 3-5 accomplishments that would be of interest to hiring managers in this position/industry.
- 3-6 personality traits appropriate to this position/industry.
- Other key selling points that may apply even indirectly to this industry or position.
- Any objection I’m afraid the interviewer may bring up, and how I will handle it.
Things which matter most
must never be at the mercy of
things which matter least.
The preceding is an excerpt from The Five O’Clock Club Book Series by Kate Wendleton. The Five O’Clock Club, Forty-Year Vision and Seven Stories Exercise are registered trademarks of The Five O’Clock Club, Inc.