The MicroTrain Blog

Pitch Perfect!

by Mary Toomey on August 18th, 2014

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Early one morning on my way to work the booth for a Job Fair in Chicago, I stepped into a quiet, but crowded elevator with a bunch of suited-up-job seekers.   We were on our way up to the 25th floor. Slowly creeping upward (stopping at every floor), the friendly Midwest girl in me soon decides to break the deafening silence, ‘What’s everyone’s elevator speech?’ All eyes hit the floor in the perfect she-couldn’t-be-talking-to-me synchronicity.

 ‘Seriously’, I continued, ‘let’s rehearse our elevator pitches; after all, we’ll be giving this 1,000 times today.’ I threw my pitch out to the crowd… still nothing but dead air. There were blank stares all around me, people couldn’t wait to get off the elevator; one minute felt like an eternity.

Everyone on the elevator was a job seeker with resumes in hand; yet, no one on the elevator would or could tell me what they were seeking and why I should be interested.

What is an Elevator Pitch?  My explanation is that an elevator pitch/speech is a short statement which should be used quickly and simply to define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.  Your pitch should get people interested to learn more about you.  Everyone needs an elevator pitch, whether you are employed or unemployed; it is something that can be used on a daily basis.

Your opening pitch should get people interested. It shouldn't be delivered without value nor should you try to shove all your information into 30 seconds. The goal should be to get others as excited as you are about what you do and to start a conversation.   You know if your elevator pitch is working if the person you are communicating with is asking you a question.  If they don’t ask a question, you don’t have a good pitch.

Here are three things to shoot for when developing your elevator pitch:

Make it Concise An elevator pitch should be brief and to the point.  You want to come out of the box with something clear and easy to comprehend that doesn't sound like an advertisement.

Know your Audience   Aim your pitch to the person you are talking to at the time. (Yes, not every pitch will be the same.) Gear your pitch to be all about them and how you can help them.  Everything you say about your product or service should be directed around how it can help them. You will lose a listener if you start talking about the awards you received or your success – no one cares – it is all about what is in it for them!

Convey your Passion   Be passionate and show people that you care. (How is someone going to care about what you do if you don’t care first?) Speak from your heart, not from a manual, as to why you believe in your product or service and why they should care about it. You will stand out from the crowd if you convey passion.


Project Manager
Hi, my name is Johnny Torrio, Certified Project Manager and Operations Specialist. I’ve managed successful projects for companies like Kellog’s, IBM and CDW. I help companies in the IT and Management industries keep projects within budget, scope and lead cross functional teams in delivering superior results. I thrive in leadership positions where I can act as a liaison between different project teams, clients and executives to help bring projects to a successful completion.

Network Administrator

Hi, my name is Alisa Thompson and I’m a Network Administrator. I've worked with clients such as Google, Motorola and T-Mobile. I help organize IT service delivery, manage help desk associates, monitor systems, and have experience in Microsoft and Unix Server configuration. I have always been able to adapt to different situations and I find Information Technology to be a special challenge to this natural ability. With new technologies and different issues always emerging, the IT environment is both dynamic and exciting to someone like me.

Help Desk Associate
Hello, my name is Al Harrington and I’m an End User Support Specialist. I’ve worked with companies like McDonald's Corporate, Red Box and Schneider trucking, helping them with various IT needs. While providing superior customer service, I can help diagnose and cure various issues with software, routers, systems, and desktop, and ultimately increase your end user's availability. I’ve always been a great technical problem solver, and IT provides me with the ability to put this skill to use on a daily basis in a way that helps companies grow. I like that.

Need help creating your own Elevator Pitch?  Here is a great tool to help you craft your own pitch-perfect Elevator Pitch: Elevator Pitch Generator.

Finally, always be prepared. You never know where you might need your pitch. Practice, Practice, Practice!  Rehearse in front of a mirror, in front of friends and family.  First impressions happen only ONCE!    Don’t wing it; if you wing it, people will know. Arm yourself with answers to the toughest questions that might be thrown at you following your pitch. If you are prepared, you will be confident and ready to wow potential employers.  

7 Bad Resume Tips

by Jeffrey Lareau on August 14th, 2014

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Anyone who has received job search advice from multiple sources knows about the perils and frustrations of subjectivity.  One resume expert will tell you one thing, and another resume expert will tell you the opposite.  You’ll spend hours customizing your resume based on the suggestions of a career expert, only to hear another career expert tell you that you’re doing everything wrong.  Frustrations are inevitable.

Recently, I’ve heard a people mention bad career advice that they’ve heard from other sources (networking events, job fairs, support groups, etc.).  In most cases, the reason why the advice is bad is simply because it’s antiquated.  At some point in recent history, these suggestions were once considered excellent.  Unfortunately, mullets were also considered good advice once.  Time has a way of changing things from good to bad and vice versa.  My aim with this article is to shave your metaphorical job search mullet, and obliterate some of the antiquated advice that is still inexplicably circling the aforementioned networking events and job fairs.

1. The white-font-keyword strategy

“If you put a slew of keywords in small white font all over your resume, you’ll have a much better chance at beating an applicant tracking system.”

I probably hear this advice about once per week.  It’s a very clever idea, and it sounds like a great cheat code to get passed the ever-frustrating applicant tracking systems that hound all job seekers.  This advice worked really well about ten years ago, but applicant tracking systems got wise, and this trick no longer works.  Not only that, but using this trick nowadays will make your resume look like a jumbled mess after it’s submitted.  This is because applicant tracking systems automatically turn all fonts black when you submit your resume, so your keywords will go from hidden secret to illegible muck. 

2. The professional resume writer

“I paid a guy $100 to write my resume for me.  I barely had to do anything, and now I have a terrific resume that makes me look great.”

This one isn’t necessarily a bad idea all the time.  There are many variations of this, but it’s usually the same concept:  I want someone else to write my resume.  Writing a resume is a pain, and I understand that, but having someone else write a document that chronicles your professional life might not yield the best results.  No one knows you better than you.  Professional resume writers tend to stuff resumes full of fluffy and nondescript vagueries, which will only do you a disservice.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use career counselors and employment specialists.  On the contrary, I think you should use these professionals as much as you possibly can.  However, don’t blindly rely on a career specialist to write your resume for you.  Who says the career specialist is any better at writing than you are?  After all, writing sloppily about yourself is much easier to polish than writing vaguely about someone else.  I see the merit in having a qualified professional write your resume, but use caution.  Whatever you decide to do, don’t spend your own money on revamping your resume if money is tight.  There are tons of free services that will help you craft your resume. 

3. Fancy graphics, lines, boxes, etc.

“I differentiate myself from the pack by have a flashy resume.  It grabs the reader’s attention and forces their interest.”

I actually don’t have a problem with this method as long as two conditions are fulfilled:

A)   A)   This is a resume that is intended to be used in person and not online

B)   B)   It’s not over-the-top with fancy graphics, etc. 

Fancy lines, graphics, tables, t-charts, and logos will confuse an applicant tracking system, which will result in your resume getting binned before a human can look at it.  Optimistically, certain applicant tracking systems will automatically strip out any fanciness before pushing your resume to the hiring manager.  That neon blue font will be turned black.  That pie graph will be removed.  Your previous company’s logo will be deleted.  If you spend three weeks bedazzling your resume, there’s a good chance an applicant tracking system will instantly turn it back into a normal readable document.  If you insist on bedazzling your resume for job fairs, networking events, and interviews, make sure you don’t over-do it.  Otherwise, your resume will seem too desperate in its attempt to shout, “Please look at me!”

4. Using anything other than .doc, .docx, and .rtf formats

“In order for your resume to retain its intended format, make it a PDF document before you submit it online.  This way nothing will mess it up when you upload it.”

Anyone who has attended my Resume/Interview Workshop knows my story about PDF files.  Submitting PDF files instead of .doc or .rft used to be terrific advice.  Nowadays, PDFs only trip up the applicant tracking systems.  The reasoning behind this is quite boring (before, the systems decoded the PDF resume and turned the letters into text, but now the systems only look for text, which PDF doesn’t use), so just remember to use .rtf, .doc, or .docx.  

5. References upon request

“Instead of putting your references on your resume, just write ‘references available on request’ at the bottom.  This way, you’ll save that resume real estate for more important information.”

This is great advice, so much so that resume trends have taken it a step further.  Don’t even write “references upon request” on your resume.  Leave any reference to references off you resume completely.  When hiring managers see this on a resume, they instantly know the applicant hasn’t kept up with resume trends over the last decade.  It’s only a small leap in logic for a hiring manager to then think, “This person just doesn’t keep up.  Period.”

6. Functional resumes

“If you have a gap in your employment, just use a functional resume instead of a chronological one.  Instead of showing your skills by date, this will highlight your relevant experience.”

The problem with functional resumes is that they raise a red flag.  Since the financial crisis happened, many applicants have started using functional resumes to gloss over employment gaps.  It’s become so prevalent that many hiring managers now equate functional resumes with unemployed applicants, which is bad news.  Another issue is that applicant tracking systems normally ask you to fill out your information in chronological order anyway, forcing you to organize your resume in the format that most people use.  Basically, if you’re applying for jobs online, you’ll need to have some kind of chronological format for your work history.  The big benefit of functional resumes is that they highlight relevant work experience and professional highlights, but this can be accomplished on a good chronological resume by having a solid summary, details, and core competencies.

7. Objectives vs. Summaries

“Your resume should start with an objective.  What are you looking for?  What’s your goal?”

This worked wonders in the employee’s market of the 90s.  However, the employee’s market of the 90s followed MC Hammer into oblivion, leaving us with the employer’s market of today.  What this means is that most employers don’t care much about your goals.  They care about their goals and objectives, and a solid summary of your skills and experience will explain how you can help them save time and/or money.


There’s a lot of misinformation out there.  Most people at job fairs and networking events are trying to help you, but they might be giving you advice that’s outdated.  If you hear job search advice that sounds too good to be true, you should research it.  Look it up on Google, ask a career specialist, and do whatever else you can to verify that the new resume trick you heard is valid.  Otherwise you may end up hurting your job search.

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