HEC Paris MBA students benefit from an exclusive career-development program that begins even before they arrive on campus and continues throughout their 16 months of studies. Led by our experts at the HEC Paris Career Center, the unique program features an MBA-specific series of workshops, coaching sessions and on-demand mock interviews designed to help students clarify, define–and reach–their career goals. This is an overview of one of the most necessary skills to develop in any job search: acing your pitch.
When an opportunity presents itself, you have to be ready to present yourself, with an utterly compelling description of your unique background and skills. But knowing how to pitch yourself–or your idea–isn’t an innate skill. Pitching yourself can be highly stressful, especially when you’re speaking to someone who holds the key to your dream job.
That’s why the Career Center has crafted a series of workshops for HEC Paris MBA students on how to best present yourself. The workshops are accompanied by a standing offer: if you have a phone call or appointment with a recruiter, you can prep with a one-to-one mock interview with one of the center’s seasoned career coaches.
The following information on pitching is taken from an introductory-level workshop presented to all incoming MBA students.
The Golden Rules of Pitching
Every pitch should be:
- Customized to the person to whom you are speaking and to that exact situation.
- Practiced until you can present yourself flawlessly. A successful pitch is literally all about practice.
Elevator Pitch (30-60 seconds)
The elevator pitch is just the beginning of a conversation. In order to succeed, it has to be dynamic and interesting. Your main goal is to capture the attention of the person, and convince them that they must spend more time with you.
When do you use the elevator pitch? Since it lasts only between 30-60 seconds, the elevator pitch is perfect for when you are socializing in a group or networking at a career fair or event.
Structure of the Elevator Pitch
Start by clarifying your goal. What are you trying to achieve? Once you have your answer, you’ll know which information is the most important to share. Whittling down all your past experiences and choosing the precise information to share will be your biggest challenge. Another will be expressing your passion for what you are discussing. The person hearing your pitch needs to think, ‘Wow, If I don’t take the time to learn more, I will be making a mistake.’
At the end of every pitch, have a call to action, a simple and natural way of transferring to a longer conversation.
“Hi, my name is Laura. I’m looking to work in brand marketing with a luxury company. I have always been fascinated with consumer behavior and psychology. I’ve spent five years working as an accountant, but my real passion is marketing. During the last year I helped a colleague market her new online jewelry business, and we successfully increased her sales by 15 percent. It was so fulfilling to help her succeed. Today, marketing is very data driven just like accounting, and I think my passion for the industry, my strong analytical skills and my practical experience in online marketing make me a great candidate. I’d love to be an intern in your Parisian headquarters this summer. Could you tell me more about the marketing internship I saw on your website?”
This pitch includes precise, relevant information, and is completely focused on convincing the person to spend more time with you.
The “Tell Me about Yourself” Pitch (about 2 minutes)
When someone says “tell me about yourself,” that’s the time to unroll a perfectly honed, two-minute description of what you’ve accomplished. It’s usually the first question asked during formal interviews, and acing it is a priority. Statistics show that 50 percent of hiring managers make their decisions during the first five minutes of a job interview, and another 30 percent say they decide within the first 90 seconds of meeting you.
In other words, making that good first impression is critical.
This pitch is much more than a re-hash of your CV. You need to succinctly explain what you’ve accomplished, and why you’ve switched positions. You are connecting the dots between everything mentioned on your CV. Think of it as a piece of theater that you need to master. Write out your response, practice it many times, but be ready to adapt your pitch to whomever is in front of you.
Key points in creating the “tell me about yourself” pitch
- This pitch can be told chronologically, or in a storytelling form.
- Explain the “why.” Include the context and the logic behind your choices.
- Knowing yourself is key to crafting this pitch.
Understanding exactly the right level of detail to share is the challenge with this pitch. Everything you say needs to be relevant to the job opportunity. Content is important, but just as important is the way that you deliver your speech. Your tone of voice, the position of your body, your smile and your passionate, positive attitude will all be noticed.
By working with the Career Center, HEC Paris MBA students have numerous opportunities to strategize and practice with expert coaches about the best ways to present and deliver their pitches.