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Developing Your Elevator Speech

Use these tips to develop the 30-second answer to 'Why should we hire you?'

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For many years, health care practitioners have felt their positions were protected or safe; indeed jobs in health care are consistently ranked as among the most secure, even in troubled economic times.1 However, with fluxes in the economy, downsizing, reordering and/or restructuring of positions has occurred, even in the clinical setting.

Although jobs are still available, the approach of the professional to the position may now have to shift with these fluxes in order to secure the exact "fit" that she/he desires in the clinical environment. Finding this fit may provide more long-term satisfaction on both a professional and personal level than pursuing a given career based simply on a promise of salary or compensation.2 Additionally, the current economy has stimulated an increase in students seeking to get a degree, hone their skills or obtain an advanced degree in health care. In time this may create a situation where there are more applicants for a given position than ever before. In this case, answering the question "Why should we hire you?" may be as important as all of the other interview questions combined.

Webcast

Click here to listen to Dr. De Ruiter talk more about elevator speeches and how to present yourself quickly and effectively.

An "elevator" speech may be a fruitful first step in securing the ideal position when a clinician finds her/himself in front of a potential hiring authority or clinical manager. It also can help in answering why you are the exact fit for the job. An elevator speech is one that can be conducted in less than a minute. In fact, an excellent rule might be to develop a speech that can be conducted in 30 seconds or less, based on the average human attention span.3 Often, more succinct discussions can have an even greater degree of impact.

Many tips exist for developing elevator speeches in the business environment.4 However, fewer exist for securing a position in the clinical environment. Overall, some of the general rules of the establishing an elevator speech come from across disciplines, such as those outlined in Nick Wreden's "How to Make Your Case in 30 Seconds or Less."5 For instance:

  • What is the goal of the speech? In this case, the goal will be to introduce yourself as the perfect candidate for the position at hand. Or, you might be informing someone within an organization about your knowledge, clinical skills and interests should an opening arise. Just remember, these speeches are used for initiating the topic and not typically when you have actually secured the job.5
  • What is the subject? What can you say about yourself that describes your passions in a sentence? This might involve simply making a statement that begins with, "I am passionate about ________" and then filling in the necessary blank. Exuding this enthusiasm during the speech will be another important factor in the process.
  • Who is your audience? In this case, you might want to consider several factors. Are you speaking with a clinical professional who understands the jargon of your field well? Or, are you speaking with a representative from human resources who recruits or does initial interviewing? It is important to make certain that you tailor your discussion to the knowledge base of your audience. Additionally, it is crucial to remember that you should have an awareness of the organization that you are considering. What do they do? Why are you the right fit? Many hiring professionals expect that you have done your homework.6

Although these types of general pieces of information have been given in the literature,5 what can the health care professional do to make their discussion even more specific? Some general considerations are outlined below:

  • First, remember that you need to discover what you are passionate about in your career. This is the entire subject of the conversation. This must be clearly separated from being eager about having a job. Therefore, keep your message and passions sincere.
  • Next, figure out exactly how your passion fulfills the needs within the organization. Remember, your preference is to find a position that is open. However, never underestimate the power of networking among those who may have positions available in the future who will know about you and your driven focus on your career. Specifically, tell your future employer during your elevator speech not just how you see yourself as a fit into the organization, but also how pursuing what you love professionally fulfills you personally as well. This will help the employer to understand that you are more than just a job seeker; you are a focused and driven individual.
  • Now, put it all together. Consider your passions, the goal, the subject and your audience. What is it that you have to say about yourself and your fit within the organization? Sometimes organizing your thoughts on index cards can be helpful. Label cards with "goal, passion, subject, audience" and fill in the necessary information. Then, make a few sentences that flow together. (An example of this can be seen in the "Elevator Speech Toolkit" table below this article).

Putting it all together can be the challenge for some, whereas stage fright can be a consideration for others. There are two main areas in which to focus as your rehearse your speech so that it appears polished and professional, and you are at ease. The first is content; the other is mechanics.

  • As you assemble the content of your speech (passions, goal, subject, audience) ask for feedback. Excellent feedback can come from a clinical peer or mentor. However, family members and friends can be helpful as well. This is especially true as you attempt to reduce jargon in your speech and put something together that can be clearly understood by "generic" listeners.

With respect to mechanics, there are several considerations:

  • The presentation of the elevator speech absolutely matters. First, remember the pace. The goal of the elevator speech is not to "rattle it off" as quickly as you can. Instead, your conversation should be clear, easy to understand and somewhat casual in nature.
  • An effective "pause" in the speech can be used to give a speech dramatic impact.3
  • Next, eye contact is crucial. Although you might feel nervous, do not release your gaze because your time with the potential employer may be very short. These important factors can be accomplished through rehearsal with a friend, colleague or family member.

If finding a person to offer feedback is a challenge, or if you are not ready to have this conversation with another person, you could video-record yourself for practice. Here you could self-study both the mechanical and content aspects of the presentation before having this discussion with a peer, friend or family member.

Using the tools provided, a sample elevator speech might have elements in it as follows. If the professional is seeking a position working in an hospital-based HIM department, for example, he/she might include:

  • Passion: "Since my first clinical experience I knew I wanted to work in acute care. I know this aspect would fulfill me personally and professionally because..."
  • Goal: "I see myself growing professionally here and being a contributor to your team."
  • Audience: "I have read about the family-and-patient-first 'feel' of your facility and I would be very excited to be a part of that. I am certain that contributes to successful outcomes for patients."

A concise statement of your intent, delivered with confidence, may help you secure the clinical position that can turn your passion into your profession.

Mark De Ruiter, MBA, PhD, CCC-A/SLP, is the clinical program director of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. He can be reached at derui001@umn.edu. Elizabeth VandeWaa, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Adult Health Nursing in the College of Nursing at the University of South Alabama. She can be reached at evandewaa@usouthal.edu.

 Elevator Speech Toolkit

Elevator Speech Content Area  Tips  Broader Considerations
 Passion/Subject What are you passionate about? This should be more than the job itself. Is it working with people? Increasing function in a rehabilitative atmosphere? Begin by considering "What am I passionate about?" and filling in the blank: "I am passionate about ______."
 Goal Consider the long-term here. Go beyond just "getting the job." What do you hope to do with your career?  How does what you say speak to your investment in your education, your career and the organization?
 Audience Who is listening to your speech? Make sure to tailor the speech to your audience. Also, be certain to show that you have done your research on the organization. Use jargon carefully and judiciously. Make a timeline to continually check-in on the organization you are interested in. Have they changed? Are they growing? 


References

1. Wolgemuth, L. (2008). The 30 Best Careers for 2009. Available from: http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/best-careers/2008/12/11/the-30-best-careers-for-2009.html. Accessed on: February 12, 2009.

2. Lencioni, P. (2007). The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (And Their Employees). Jossey Bass: San Francisco, CA.

3. Frank, M. (1990). How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less. Pocket Books: New York, NY.

4. Wallace, M. (1998). The Elevator Speech-It's There for You." Available from: http://www.llrx.com/columns/guide18.htm. Accessed on February 10, 2009.

5. Wreden, N. (2002). How to Make Your Case in 30 Seconds or Less. Harvard Management Communication Letter, January Edition, 3-4.

6. Adler, R. & Marquardt-Elmhorst, J. (2008). Communicating at Work: Principles and Practices for Business and the Professions, Ninth Edition. McGraw Hill: New York, NY.


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