Okay, hotshot. You’ve got 30 seconds to make the impression that’s going to get you the job. And…go!
What, you stopped to think about it? Bzzzzzt. The moment is gone, and you can sense your opportunity window closing while the interviewer awkwardly shifts and looks at the clock. If only you’d had an elevator pitch ready to go.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
The “elevator pitch” is just a buzzword-y way of saying “snapshot of important points, stated briefly and to the point.” An elevator ride is typically short, so that’s why it makes a good namesake. In a career context, it means a quick overview your best points and your goals. But in general, it can really be about anything you’re trying to sell to the listener. For example, here are elevator pitches you could use to convince someone to watch a TV show:
Game of Thrones is a fantasy-sci-fi drama that follows several different political factions jockeying for power in the kingdom of Westeros. In addition to the political machinations, there are ice zombies threatening from the North. Oh, and there are dragons! It has something for everybody.
Basically, the elevator pitch is a brief, snappy couple of sentences that tell the listener what they need to know—or, more specifically, what you want them to know. The goal isn’t to be a dry source of facts, but rather offer a few curated points that show the highlights.
When Will You Need an Elevator Pitch?
Although the elevator pitch is a perfect fit for our 140-characters-or-fewer society, you may not be asked to give your spiel in every job interview. However, it’s a great resource to have when you’re unexpectedly on the spot—like at a job fair, a networking event, or a social event where you just happen to be making small talk with a hiring manager at a company where you’d love to get your foot in the door. Though if you are at a social event, pick your timing wisely. Your new acquaintance may just want to talk about last night’s game or that hilarious viral video making the rounds, instead of talking shop.
The elevator pitch is also an excellent answer to have on hand for the dreaded “tell me a little about yourself” question in an interview. Because you’ll already have some of your brightest talking points ready to go (more on that in a bit), you won’t have to spend precious interview time thinking about how to distill your professional self down to the essence. That question often comes at the beginning of the interview, so having your elevator pitch at the ready can help set a smooth, prepared, and confident tone for the rest of the interview.
10 Tips for Your Elevator Pitch
If you don’t know where to start, we have you covered—use the following 10 tips as a guide on crafting an ideal pitch that gets results.
1. Keep it short.
Remember, the elevator pitch is so named because it’s meant to last about as long as an elevator ride—about 30 seconds, and definitely less than 60 seconds. (We’re not talking about the Empire State Building elevator here.) That means you should have a few go-to sentences you can use. And while you’re writing, time yourself. If you find yourself creeping up on the minute mark, it’s time to revise and simplify.
2. Be persuasive.
That means being direct about your accomplishments and qualities, and leaving out qualifiers like “I guess,” “I think.” No time for modesty—make bold, declarative statements.
3. Be concise.
There are times when you will have a chance to expound on your resume, your experience, or your point of view. When asked for an elevator pitch, make sure you’re including only a few main points, and keep the sentences short and straightforward.
4. Know your audience.
It really depends on who you’re talking to, and what the context is. If you’re at a professional mixer with people who know your industry inside and out, feel free to use a little jargon. If you’re talking to a recruiter or someone who may not know your professional world as well, keep your wording more general.
5. Keep the tone professional.
An elevator pitch is a confidence thing—you’re making a straightforward statement about yourself. However, it’s important not to be overconfident or too braggy. You want your accomplishments and goals to speak for themselves. You don’t want to turn off your listener just as you’re getting started. Similarly, using wit and humor is fine too—but always keep jokes fairly mild and professional.
6. Mention your top skills.
Your resume is where you can really break down your skill set, but in your elevator pitch, that is the time to mention that you’re a great communicator, or that you’ve got amazing organizational skills. Focus on the kinds of skills that add value to an organization, like leadership, teamwork, or attention to detail. Here’s your chance to brag a little about your top skills, but again, be careful of using a boastful tone.
7. Include (some of) your goals.
This doesn’t need to be a detailed life plan, or your five-year professional plan. Remember, this is a highlight reel, so you’ll want to focus on your main professional goal, or what you’re seeking in this interview/conversation/etc. If you’re talking to an interviewer or recruiter, you don’t need to say something like “seeking a job as an accountant”…they already know that. Instead, go with something like, “looking to take my financial skills and experience to the next level.”
8. Answer big questions.
When writing your elevator pitch, think about some overarching questions like:
- What’s the most important aspect of my background?
- What accomplishments do I have?
- What are my best skills?
- What do I want to get out of this pitch?
- What’s my biggest strength?
- What drives me the most?
- What would I like to achieve?
- Why did I choose my career?
- What do I like best about my job/career?
- What do I value the most?
You don’t need to cram all of those Big Ideas into your elevator pitch, but you can mix and match them depending on the setting, and to whom you’re speaking.
9. Be ready to follow up.
If you’re giving your pitch to someone you’ve never met before and may not be talking to five minutes from now, have a business card on hand that you can pass along. If you’re in an interview, be ready to answer follow-up questions about anything you just said—examples that show your skills, or anecdotes about why you love your career.
10. Practice like crazy.
Do this in front of the mirror, your cat, or a trusted loved one. In the moment, you don’t want to appear stumbling or unprepared, but you also don’t want it to come off like a bored, rehearsed monologue. You want your elevator pitch to sound smooth and confident. This can help you modify things like speed (many of us talk too fast, especially when we’re trying to get through a set of lines), eye contact, and timing.
Example Elevator Pitches
Let’s look at some samples you can use while thinking about your own elevator pitch.
I’m a graduate student in Communications, with a passion for working with special needs students. After completing my thesis in advanced language strategies for children with cognitive impairments, my goal is to work for an agency that specializes in implementing everyday educational programs that help students improve their reading and writing outcomes.
After five years of working in corporate marketing and social media, I’ve decided to embrace my inner entrepreneur and start my own company. My company’s mission is providing no-nonsense, data-driven metrics that our clients can take and use right away in their day-to-day business. I want to provide big company expertise for small business owners.
My passion is “design with a conscience.” I design products that have a minimal impact on the environment, while maximizing sustainability. My background is in both design and environmental science, and I believe that we can make consumer products that combine convenience and responsibility.
I’m the data guy. I look at complex metrics, and turn them into a big picture plan. And I love working as part of a team, where diverse ideas and perspectives can lead to better ways of doing things. I firmly believe that the status quo can always be improved.
I’m a nurse-practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in patient care. With the challenges of working in healthcare, I know that patients often feel ignored or hustled through, so I’ve made it a priority in my career to make sure that every patient is heard, and gets the highest standards of care.
I’m a recent grad, and although I don’t yet have years of experience in the field, I do have the organizational and people skills to take my career to the next level. I was just named the Volunteer of the Year, and I bring a high level of care and focus to everything I do.
So what do you think? Are you ready to go forth and make a bold statement about who you are, in 30 seconds or less?