The Elevator Speech: Going Down?

It may be too early to write the obituary, but the future of The Elevator Speech, at least as we refer to it in the Career Management industry, is in grave doubt. The phrase has been around since the modern résumé came into popular use after World War II , and during the Dot Com boom the Elevator Pitch gained ground. The resultant expulsion of Hot Air into the atmosphere was likely a main contributor to Global Warming and provided considerable lift to the bubble, but it burst nonetheless.

So here we are in Job Search in the Brave New World. After trimming words and phrases to a white heat of 30 second brilliance, we used to coach our clients to rehearse in the mirror with a stop watch (I did say “used to”) so they would be prepared to gush their magnificence on command to those hiring managers who would hang out in elevators just waiting to happen on true executive talent.

Not so much, any more.

The business community has morphed beyond recognition, and communication styles, methods and technologies have a synergistic influence on changing culture and expected behavior at the executive level. The one way communication method suggested by speeches and pitches has been supplanted in most cases by an active and rapid interchange, a spontaneous sharing and exchanging of information and viewpoints.

Sometimes, even today, an interviewer might ask The Question: “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?” In the age of LinkedIn profiles, electronic résumés send by email, and internet based background checks, the interviewer is generally being rhetorical. What they’re looking for is a quick and easy path to determining why they are speaking with you, and what they can expect from listening.

To demonstrate your embracement of efficiency, the only information you should share is how hiring you will eliminate the problem that has caused you to be considered for this career opportunity in the first place. Jobs aren’t created by politicians or good intentions, opportunities arise through pain, because there is a lack that can’t be fulfilled without hiring someone. This kind of information cannot be imparted through a standardized presentation, and people simply don’t have time to listen to a speech, even thirty seconds.

Interviewees often kill the opportunity by (1) volunteering information about their background that is irrelevant for the projected position, bringing into question whether he/she is the right person, or (2) neglecting to clearly delineate the unique qualifiers the audience desires.

So, when it comes to speaking in today’s interviews, choose your words wisely and quickly. Don’t rehearse a speech: practice fencing.

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