Mastering Your Professional Elevator Pitch

You have less than half a minute to explain who you are and what makes you special. Here’s how you can maximize those 30 seconds.

Where accounting and finance jobs are concerned, the ability to sell yourself – in a way that’s succinct, memorable, and genuine – is a real asset. And while being able to woo potential employers, recruiters, and other important decision-makers in an interview is key, there is also a huge, sometimes overlooked, advantage to being able to sell yourself on the fly, in 30 seconds or less. Whether it’s at a cocktail party, a networking event, or quite literally in an elevator (Don Draper from Mad Men, anyone?), you never know where or when your next opportunity might appear. But when it does, you need to make the most of every minute – or every second – if you want to nail that first impression and earn consideration for the most desirable accounting and finance jobs.

Here are some pointers to help you perfect your elevator pitch, so that you can start seeing those offers for sweet finance jobs roll in.

You really only have 10-15 seconds 

Did we say 30-second elevator pitch? The truth is that you have a lot less than that. Research suggests that it only takes about seven seconds for an individual to form an impression of someone they’ve just met. After that initial, gut-level assessment, you only have an instant to draw them into the story of who you are professionally.

Making a good impression is largely about appealing to people on an instinctive or emotional level. That means that not only do you have about 10 to 15 seconds to establish an emotional connection; you also have to make sure they walk away with a soundbite that encapsulates your various experiences, strengths, and ambitions. That’s no small task.

…not only do you have about 10 to 15 seconds to establish an emotional connection; you also have to make sure they walk away with a soundbite that encapsulates your various experiences, strengths, and ambitions. 

Establish an emotionally-engaging narrative

Forging an emotional connection is half the battle. As such, you need your elevator pitch to tell a compelling story. Don’t just mechanically list your achievements and qualifications. Rather, build a narrative that’s concise, personalized, and engaging, and that conveys what you’re all about and what you’re looking for professionally.   

For example, don’t say, “I worked for four years as a comptroller and then for three years as an accounting manager.” Instead, try something like, “My roots are in comptrolling, but my creativity, love of working with people and leading a team have led me to management accounting.” Make yourself the protagonist of your story – not a passive bystander.

Understand the formula

Establishing an engaging narrative about your career trajectory isn’t as hard as it might sound at first. In some ways, it’s actually as simple as adhering to the following formula, which boils down to three questions:

1. Where have you been previously?

2. What are you doing now?

3. Where are you going in the future?

The key is to connect the dots between your answers to each of these individual questions, so that there’s a kind of organic continuity from one to the other. In a movie or a book, nothing happens randomly; the plot develops according to a purpose. Likewise, your elevator pitch should unfold according to some larger logic, so that there’s a reason why you are where you are today. Even if your accounting and finance career has progressed somewhat haphazardly and you haven’t been as proactive as you should be, for your elevator pitch you want to show that there’s been a method to your madness.

Avoid Bad Finance Hires

For example, you might say something such as the following: “I began my career as an accounts clerk in the retail sector. I was determined to learn everything there was to know about accounting processes and their connection to generating profits. Once I learned the ropes, I discovered that I especially loved brainstorming ways to make process improvements to the accounting cycle. So I parlayed that into my next job as an accounting manager at Loblaw’s.”

When you use words like “love” and “passion,” people’s ears instantly perk up.

Use the word “love” 

What’s love got to do with it? Everything! When you use words like “love” and “passion,” people’s ears instantly perk up. Simply telling someone the straight facts of your career – e.g., “I’m a CA, I have this designation, I worked there before and now I work here” ­– is a good way to lose someone’s interest. After all, these bland details aren’t likely to stick with them beyond their next lap around the event.

But by communicating what it is you love about your current or previous job, as well as what you’d love to be doing moving forward, your words are far more likely to resonate.

Of course, most people can spot a phony a mile away, so you have to be genuine in your passion. Be specific: pinpoint precisely what it is you like about a certain element of finance or accounting, no matter how obscure it might seem, and convey your positive feelings towards it. Trust us – people will take notice.

The elevator pitch can be extremely intimidating, and isn’t exactly an easy feat to master. Most of us aren’t in our element selling ourselves to strangers. Like anything, a lot of it is about practice: once you’ve composed a narrative for yourself and determined the right language in which to express yourself, practice delivering it at least a dozen times. Then practice it a few dozen more times. Ensure your presentation is bang on – that it’s as engaging as it is concise. Perfecting your pitch will bring you one step closer to your dream accounting and finance jobs.

What’s your elevator pitch sound like? How do you sell yourself in 30 seconds or less?

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!