Recruit Awesome Candidates in 60 Seconds or Less

This article was originally published on centricconsulting.com on September 30, 2014.

One of the first things you learn in business school is the fine art of crafting an “Elevator Speech,” which is essentially a concise (and persuasive) description of what your company does and why it matters. The premise is that you should be able to deliver your monologue to your unsuspecting, and captive, travel companions on a short elevator ride.

Along with a shiny diploma and a mountain of debt, most B-school grads leave campus with a well-polished stump speech. Throughout the course of their careers the messaging will change, but the premise remains the same – “My company, Acme Corp., makes awesome widgets. The widgets are awesome because of X, Y & Z. Are you interested in learning more about our widgets?”

This is well and good if you are selling widgets. But what if you are selling Acme Corp.? More accurately, what if you are selling your elevator-mate on the idea of working for Acme Corp.? While most people have their “selling widgets” elevator speech down pat, I find that they stumble when it comes to their “recruiting for Acme” version.

Here are five tips to refine your recruiting elevator speech and persuade awesome candidates in 60 seconds or less:

  1. Answer the question, “What is it that you do?” Keep your answer simple – time is limited, people. We don’t need all the details that are included in your sales pitch. Your victim, er, elevator-mate, is more interested in getting a job, not buying widgets. YES: “Acme is the leading global manufacturer of widgets.” NO: “Acme makes widgets. We make green widgets and blue widgets and striped widgets and polka dot widgets. We sell them in the U.S. and Europe and Kazakhstan. Our widgets are made of industrial-grade, stain-resistant, BPA-free flubber…..”
  1. Answer the question, “Why do you like working at your company?” Be authentic. Don’t plagiarize your company’s careers page. And give details. For example, I typically say some variation of “I love working at Centric. The people are authentic and encouraging. The company emphasizes work/life balance, which is important to me as a working mom. For instance, we have a self-managed PTO policy that gives me flexibility to be both a good employee and mom.”
  1. Answer the question, “What kind of people are your company looking for?” This is not the time to talk about specific job openings. And definitely not the time to rattle off an alphabet of required certification abbreviations. Instead, talk in broad terms of the type of people you hire, both in job families and personality traits. Example: “Acme Corp generally hires Widget Engineers, as well as Support Personnel. Employees that are successful here tend to be entrepreneurial, self-motivated and quick learners.”
  1. Answer the question, “How do candidates apply?” Close the deal. Encourage them to apply. Even better, let them know you will short cut their application process. This will make them feel special. Everyone wants to be special. YES: “You definitely should consider applying. I will give you my business card. Forward me your resume and I will make sure it hits the right desk.” NO: “I guess if you are interested you could send your resume to someone or maybe apply on the website or something.”
  1. Above all else, be enthusiastic. If you cannot give your recruiting stump speech without a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye, don’t give it.  (And, I would add, you may want to reconsider working for Acme Corp. in general). Genuine enthusiasm is the single best way to deliver a message people want to hear, whether they are stuck in an elevator with you or not.

As with all things, practice makes perfect. I don’t advocate rushing over to the closest high-rise building and stalking the elevator landings, forcing people to listen to you practice. Your co-workers, however, are suitable practice companions. They know your company and can provide insight into things you may have missed. Try to practice with a variety of co-workers, of all experience levels and professions. Each will look for something different in your speech, making you more comfortable tailoring your speech for different audiences. With practice, you will feel confident and ready to deliver a concise and persuasive speech on your next recruiting encounter – be it in an interview or elevator.