The “Elevator Speech” of the 21st Century: Selling your Skills in 75 Words

Texting has become the preferred channel for communication among friends and family, and is starting to expand its sphere of influence to the world of job-hunting. Even for recruiters seeking an email--or, surprisingly, a snail-mail--application, the job market is often so flooded with applicants that they want to be sold on a candidate before even glancing at a resume or cover letter.
How do you sell your capabilities in 75 words or less? Look to the Elevator Speech for inspiration. This type of speech is designed to sell your brand, product, or skills in 30 seconds or less. It takes 20-25 seconds to read 75 words without sounding like an auctioneer (if you are an auctioneer, yours may be closer to 150 words). An elevator speech is a story, and therefore needs a beginning, middle, and end.
A good beginning hooks a reader or listener. The best way to write a hook for a job application is to spell out your skills. Don’t try to be crafty in your word choice--this is no time to go to town with a thesaurus. Be concise--for example: “I have over ten years of experience, including writing, editing, and photography.” You should be able to write a strong and succinct hook in 15-20 words at most.
The middle needs to provide the meat of your message. What can you do in the role for which you’re applying? How do your skills listed in your hook apply to your audience? Sticking with the journalist example: “I can manage freelance and editorial opinion writers, and shape the editorial voice of The Times. In my work with The Herald, I increased quarterly ad revenue by 60%.” In 25-35 words, provide detail about your experience.
The end is the most important part of your 75-words. The end sticks in your reader’s memory--so make it memorable. By now, you have anywhere from 40-55 words, so you have another 20-35 words to make a lasting impression. Ask yourself: What’s unique about my skillset? If my audience had contact sheets of photos of all the applicants for this job, what do I want them to remember about me? Ask, “Why should they care?”
An elevator speech needs a hook, a middle, and an ending--something memorable--to comprise your fully-formed mini-cover letter...the same goes for a mini-cover letter or blurb about why someone should consider your application. Hopefully, this article and the example of the journalist will help you--but if you’re still having trouble visualizing what 75 words look like on the page, scroll up and glance over this article once more. Each paragraph is exactly 75 words long.