How to make a lasting impression in the first minute

Lynn Elsey
Lynn Elsey
Team GradAustralia

Whether it is the first few minutes of an interview or meeting an employer at a career fair, coming up with a quick and effective personal pitch helps pave the way to a positive and lasting impression.

Your personal pitch

Knowing how to pitch your achievements and career goals at interviews, assessment centres and careers fairs is a great confidence-booster and could be crucial in landing yourself a graduate job.

A personal pitch is simply a succinct introduction to you and your background. Introducing yourself might sound straighforward, but it is easy to get flustered under pressure. Imagine getting into an elevator and bumping into an influential person who could change your fortunes drastically. How would you sell yourself in the 60 seconds it takes for the lift to reach the ground floor?

One minute to change your fortunes

While the elevator pitch is the sort of exercise that often appears at assessment centres, here we're talking basics: being ready when an interviewer kicks-off the meeting by asking you to “tell us a little bit about yourself”.

The first step is knowing that the interviewer isn’t looking for a total recall of your life, your favourite band or your obsession with the Collingwood football club. The question is generally asked as an icebreaker, a chance to get a brief overview of your academic and work background and more insight into why you want to work for that employer.

Preparing your pitch for an interview

Set aside some time to prepare your pitch in advance. Consider your top three or five experiences at work, university or in your personal life. Think about the themes, personality traits and skills that come across through your experiences and focus on the ones that recruiters or other key people in a company would find important. Next, select one or two experiences and themes that match the selection criteria for the job; these should become the basis of your pitch.

As a general rule, most of your pitch should focus on a quick run through your academic and work history, highlighting the experiences, themes and skills you have already outlined. Finish off your pitch by explaining why you want to work for the company, including career goals that you could achieve through the position.

The process of creating a personal pitch also will help you determine what employers are looking for, allowing you to focus on information that effectively demonstrates how you meet their requirements.

Practice your pitch

Practice makes perfect. Practicing your pitch on a willing volunteer also provides you with a crucial second opinion on key aspects of your approach, such as any nervous habits you might want to downplay, odd phrases that need fixing or any achievements that you missed that you should consider including.

Strike a balance between being well practised and still sounding natural. You don't want to sound like a parrot. You should always be prepared to ad lib, should the occasion demand it.

Top tips for an effective pitch

  • Keep it short and snappy
  • Be natural, breathe, smile and be yourself
  • Avoid gimmicks, your pitch should reflect your professionalism
  • Rehearse, practice makes perfect
  • Adapt your pitch for different audiences and occasions.