College of Business Hosts Elevator Speech Competition

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2009) -- Carmen Perez won $1,000 after spending a Saturday morning riding elevators downtown. She wasn’t joy-riding, though; she and two dozen other students from the College of Business were riding with area hiring managers as part of an exercise to learn how to sell themselves and present a positive, professional first impression.

The students had one minute to give an “elevator speech” describing their education, skills, and aspirations. Perez, a transfer student and finance major, won the competition. Ryan Mogged and David Beardsley came in second and third, with Steven Schertzer and Woodley Saint-Juste rounding out the top five.

The elevator competition — actually held in an elevator — was a great way to help students practice such skills because while it’s one thing to practice with a timer with a friend, it’s another to literally step into an elevator with a hiring manager with one minute to establish a conversation and try to snag a job interview, said Bob Forsythe, dean of the USF College of Business.

“Hiring managers often say they can tell how well an interview will go within the first minute or two,” he said, noting that students need to learn how to sell themselves from the moment they meet someone. That, he said, was at the heart of the competition. To educate students about the so-called “soft” skills that really matter, the College of Business offered participants free workshops about body language, public speaking, professional dress, and business etiquette.

Hiring managers from companies such as Melitta, Regions Bank, USF, and Dillards judged the students on their ability to communicate, share information about their education, skills, and abilities, professional appearance, confidence, and overall first impression.

“It was a great practice for those first few minutes of a job interview,” said Perez, laughing as she described her reasons for entering the competition. “I’m a pretty outgoing person and my friends are always surprised when I say I don’t really know how to network or work a job fair,” said Perez. “I feel awkward when approaching recruiters and don’t know what to say,” she said, describing the way she typically felt at career fairs or corporate info sessions. “This competition helped me figure out a smooth opening, how to establish rapport, sell myself, and how to actually ask about job openings.”

You can read more about the competition in this St. Petersburg Times feature story. The College of Business elevator competition will be held annually, beginning next fall.