A dozen years or so ago, a popular trend in the job-search world was the idea of a career portfolio – a physical, tangible set of artifacts, often in a binder, showing skills, experience, strengths, and more. The job-seeker, armed with the portfolio, would look for opportunities to present parts of it in interviews.
Portfolios aren’t talked about as much these days, but that doesn’t mean that visual representations of your employability aren’t still a good idea. But just like the fat books of software documentation that have shrunk down to a single card, portfolios have become more streamlined – as pitch decks. After all, even the most compelling career portfolios have likely been allotted only a small amount of time in interviews; a visual that can be covered much more quickly makes greater sense.
Employers also understand the pitch-deck concept more than they do portfolios, and some employers even request that candidates conduct interviews in presentation style or bring a pitch deck with them.
What are the basics of pitch decks for careerists?
• A pitch deck has 10-20 slides.
• It should be very visual and contain very little text; you will provide the narration.
• It should provide a platform for storytelling.
• It’s the perfect medium for showing measurable performance – graphs, charts, and tables showing sales, profits, growth, successes in cost-cutting, and more.
• It should be customized for each interview and showcase research you’ve done on the prospective employer. Consider even using some of the organization’s branding – colors and fonts – which has the psychological effect of making it seem as though you already work there.
What slides should you include?
In the world of pitching venture capitalists with startup ideas, slides describing the Problem/Opportunity and the Value Proposition/Solution are a given. With strong research and tailoring, you can create a pitch deck that targets the specific problem the employer would be trying to solve in hiring you and an overview how you would solve it (you don’t want to give too much away). The “Underlying Magic slide,” recommended by gurus such as Guy Kawasaki, describes why you are a better bet than the competition to solve the employer’s problem. It’s your “secret sauce,” your differentiator, your competitive edge.
If your work is project-driven, you can then include 2-3 slides with project highlights. The slides should show what the project looked like, what it accomplished, and how much it moved the metrics. If collaboration will be an important part of your next job, be sure to show how you worked cross-departmentally or across branches of the company. A pitch deck for investors always includes a slide showing the startup team; if relevant to the next job, you can include a slide showing who and how many report to you, as well as the overall team structure.
You can also include a slide that includes your job target – the job you are interviewing for. This slide is obviously very specifically tailored and shows how you are a fit for that organization.
Testimonials can be part of your pitch deck, especially if they are concise and punchy.
Introducing the portfolio
The ideal tool for presenting your deck is a tablet, but a slim laptop will work, as will printing your deck.
If the employer has not asked you to give a presentation in the interview, listen for opportunities to bring your deck into the interview. Any question to which you would likely respond with an example or story is one that you can consider answering using your pitch deck. Behavioral questions, based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, typically offer the best opportunities to integrate the deck into your response. Say the question is, for example, “Tell me about a time when you had a very short timeline to meet your goals. How did ensure you would meet the deadline?” If you have an appropriate example in your deck, you can respond with, “Sure, let me show you the results I got on a software implementation that had a tight timeline.”
Tell your stories and show the illustrative slides in your deck using the formula Problem (or Challenge or Situation) –> Action –> Results.
Don’t forget about the option of using your pitch deck as an online artifact. You may need to create a version with more text to explain the images. You can then convert to PDF and make it available on your own website or LinkedIn profile. Or add a voiceover and make a video of it.
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