I was genuinely surprised when I came across today's speech. It is an example put forth by the University of Georgia demonstrating how students should pitch themselves to recruiters at job fairs. Why was a I surprised? Frankly, this example video will lead its viewers down a very bad path. Because this video is being put forth as a model of a successful pitch, and because this video was produced by professional career services staff (who are paid for the sole purpose of assisting their students to get jobs) and because getting a first job is so very difficult these days, I'm going to be a bit more aggressive in this review than in previous evaluations.
Before viewing the video, I took a quick look at Wikipedia's definition of a sales pitch, just to remind myself of what we would be looking for. A sales pitch is a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone of something. In this case, a one sentence version should look something like this: "hire me for a job, because your organization will benefit from it". Simple. Who wouldn't want to hire someone who would benefit his organization? What a sales pitch is not is your life story.
Did we get a sales pitch?
From 6 seconds to 34 seconds and again from 66 seconds to 90 seconds we heard about he changed majors from economics to accounting and back to economics. A total of 52 seconds (42% of his very lengthy pitch) is devoted to taking about how he couldn't pick a major. Most maddeningly of all, it makes the speaker sound like a "flip flopper" who is unable to pick a course of action and stick to it. Do companies seek out people who can't pick a major? Is this a valuable trait? A few sentences such as the following would have been much more efficient and effective: "Not only do I have a strong background in economics, but I have taken many accounting classes and even worked for an accounting organization. I have a firm understanding of accounting rules and regulations - allowing me to read accounting documents, and I also have the knowledge to apply economic principles to understand them". Suddenly, we can start thinking about how his "flip flopping" is an asset, rather than a black mark (and we've saved a good deal of speaking time to boot).
What else? Have you ever walked into a car dealership? You should certainly consider it, if you haven't. You'll see the same thing every time. The cars being sold are immaculate and the salesmen are all dressed in nice looking suits. Appearances do matter, and while the stereotypical computer science major can probably get away with the belief that one does not need to be a slave to fashion, I find it highly dubious that economics majors who are looking for client-facing consulting jobs can do the same. Consider putting on a suit, getting a hair cut and getting rid of the five o'clock shadow. For customer facing roles, one must look professional in order to be considered professional.
Third, don't highlight your negatives and try to spin them in a positive light. At 47 seconds in, he says "And I realized that I didn't care so much for the day to day accounting work that I was doing in the office, I very, very much enjoyed the face to face time". As a potential employer, this would be a huge red flag. When I hear that, I imagine a person who isn't willing to do the routine work that all business have to do but wants to only focus on the "fun" activities without performing any of the preliminaries. It's as if he's saying that he wants to be a baseball player, but doesn't really want to do all that tedious training. He just wants to do the interviews at the end when he wins the world series. Again, his sentences could be rephrased to sound a bit better: "While some of my classmates liked studying economics as much as I did, I saw that they shied away from working with customers. I found this odd, as it was one of my most enjoyable tasks when I worked at the accounting firm.". Much better, as there is nothing negative about the speaker in that version. He's offering "a free bonus", not pointing out a limitation or implied refusal to do necessary work.
It can be very difficult to rewrite another person's career pitch, as I don't know a lot of relevant facts, desires or interests. That being said, I took the few actual pieces of information from the speaker's pitch and tried to rework it, while adding as little information as possible.
Hi, I'm John. I saw that you're looking to hire consultants for your company, and I think I'd be the perfect fit. Not only did I major in economics, but I also minored in accounting, so I can both read and understand financial documents from multiple viewpoints. More than that, I have plenty of experience helping customers solve complex problems. While I was working at an accounting firm, I spent the majority of my time helping customers understand problems with income statements, realign their business priorities and perform forensic accounting. I'd love to start working for your company, so when can I start?
Some will probably take issue with the last sentence - it shows a bit of hubris, sure, but I think a small amount is a necessary feature for anyone in sales and consulting. Still, look at the difference between my version (written as a stream of consciousness without further editing) and the version that the University of Georgia spent time being paid to create. My version is shorter (by roughly 72%), uses specifics and focused on what the speaker can offer an employer.
My recommendation to the University of Georgia: please try again. You owe it to your students.