Our Top 5 Tips for Crafting a Persuasive Pitch
BY SARAH GOLDBERG, UNDERGRADUATE CAREER DEVELOPMENT
In part one of this post, we tackled the rhetorical foundations of persuasion and your persuasive goals, as a candidate, when appealing to an employer.
As we saw, this all came down to identification, or showcasing common ground between you and the employer—where what you offer and what you want align with their needs and goals.
Now we’re applying that to applications, networking pitches, and interviews.
Creating Your Persuasive Pitch
Remember: an application is a persuasive document: your goal is to convince the employer to interview you by showing them that you can provide what they’re looking for.
Tip #1: Establish Your Credibility Through Attention to Detail
One key to persuading the employer is by demonstrating your ethos, or credibility. Ensuring that your application documents are well-written and mistake-free is crucial in establishing that what you say is worth reading.
Tip #2: Bolster Your Claims Through Examples and Stories
The science is clear: stories are powerful tools for connecting with other people. Thoughtfully selected and well-communicated stories not only show that you’re truly interested in the position, but also actually activate the listener’s brain!
Brainstorm examples of when you’ve done similar projects, used relevant transferable skills, built or used relevant knowledge, or demonstrated qualities the employer values. Use these examples in the body paragraphs of your cover letter and to answer interview questions—especially the behavioral ones that ask you to “Give me an example of when …” or “Tell me about a time you …”
By telling these stories about how you successfully solved a problem or completed a task, you’ll help the employer envision how you could do something similar for them.
Tip #3: Show (Don’t tell) Your Soft Skills and Qualities
Research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers consistently shows that soft skills are among the most sought after by employers.
When creating application materials and interview stories, remember to show rather than just tell (see tip #2). Look for opportunities to weave desired soft skills into your examples: “I collaborated with two other interns to …” (teamwork!) or “… reporting out to the lead researcher in weekly meetings” (communication and time-management!).
Also, remember that your application and interview are opportunities to showcase your communication skills in action. We’re happy to meet with you one-on-one to practice.
Tip #4: Start and End Strong
First and last impressions matter!
In an interview, think of “Tell me about yourself” as your chance to introduce your main qualifications for the role. By the end of your 1–2 minute opening gambit, you want the interviewer to have a sense of the main strengths and areas of knowledge you bring from your past experiences to this opportunity, and why you’re genuinely interested in this as your next step. You can apply this tip to networking introductions as well—just set up your introduction to make it clear why you’re interested in chatting with and learning from the person you’ve met.
At the end of an interview, the interviewer will often ask a question like “Why should we hire you?” or “Why are you the best candidate for the position?” Don’t miss the chance to recap the main reasons you’d be an asset to them! You want them to leave the conversation with your key points fresh in their mind.
In your application materials, you can make a strong impression by ensuring that the most important information is easy for the reader to find. This will require carefully selecting, organizing, and formatting your content.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do the sections and descriptions on my resume help the reader see my most relevant experiences easily and quickly?
- Have I started my cover letter with a salutation (to an actual person if possible)?
- Does my cover letter introduction state what I’m applying to and how I learned about it? If I’ve engaged with the company before, have I mentioned it?
- By the end of my cover letter introduction, will the reader know the main reasons I’m qualified for the role?
Tip #5: Persuasion is a two-way street
Don’t forget, the employer also wants to persuade great candidates to consider working for them!
In fact, interviewers are often instructed to spend time sharing information about the company to convince you that it’s a fantastic place to work and launch your career.
So, take advantage of the interview to evaluate whether you’d like this job. Prepare thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview, based on research and reflection about your interests, strengths, and values. This will showcase your genuine interest in the company and position. Finally, be sure to reflect afterward.
Our Humanities Skills for the Job Search series
If you missed our previous installment of Humanities for the Job Search, read on for tips on how to use close reading to analyze a job description.