Editor’s Note: I am not a personal finance or mental health expert. Please seek professional advice if needed.
If you’re actively looking for employment, you’re probably familiar with the standard resumes and cover letters. You’ve probably even gone on a few interviews and have some strong answers in your back pocket ready to go.
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But there’s one major job search tool you might be neglecting, and it can make a big difference when it comes to landing a job: the elevator pitch. You may have heard the term before, but you may not know how it can help you in the job market.
What Is An Elevator Pitch?
In essence, an elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is a quick summary of your professional background. It got its name because it’s designed to be short enough to deliver in the time that a typical elevator ride takes. Think of it as a quick run-through of the highlights and key points of your educational and professional experience, skills and accomplishments. It’s a way to introduce yourself and quickly give an interviewer or a hiring manager a sense of what you might bring to a role.
Have you ever watched the TV shows Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den? If so, you are already familiar with what a pitch is. But unlike the show, you are not pitching a business idea: You are pitching yourself. A well-crafted and polished pitch can be a great way to make a strong first impression and create interest in a short amount of time. A perfect elevator pitch will persuade interviewers that you’re the best candidate for the job.
How To Create Your Own Elevator Pitch
The best way to start crafting your elevator speech is to comb through your resume and pick out the highlights of your professional career. It should answer:
- What are some key job skills and accomplishments that you think could sell you to potential employers?
- What are the strengths that make you stand out?
- What should a recruiter remember about you?
- What makes you the right fit for the position?
1. Tailor Your Pitch
You’ll want to tailor your pitch to your specific industry or career path. Don’t worry about highlighting skills or experiences that aren’t relevant to a job or company. Focus on the important information you know an interviewer will be looking for.
Ultimately, your pitch should be relevant to the position you’re applying for or the company you’re interested in. If you’re crafting a pitch for a job interview, carefully read over the job posting. The specific skills, experience and qualifications a company needs will help you decide what to highlight.
Remember, you have a limited amount of time to show the hiring team that you’re the best person for the job. If a position is more sales-oriented, for example, choose anecdotes that highlight your sales experience and accomplishments. Even if you have many years of experience with a particular skill, if that skill is in no way related to the job, you can avoid incorporating it into your pitch.
2. Your Professional Experience
Start your pitch by summarizing your professional, work-related experience. Think of this as condensing every relevant position you’ve had into a few short sentences. You don’t need to go through every individual job title you’ve held, and you don’t want to simply rehash your resume or cover letter.
This can seem overwhelming if you have an extensive work history, but this is where thoroughly knowing the job description comes in handy. Look for keywords or phrases in the description and summarize your experience as it relates to them.
If you’re planning to use your pitch at a career fair, research the companies you’re interested in and find out more about their mission. Look for job postings in their company and try to get a sense of what they’re looking for. Essentially, you’re attempting to answer the question, “What are you all about?”
3. Your Skills and Accomplishments
Once you’ve summarized your experience, add in some key accomplishments and skills. Just like with your experience, you’ll want to focus on what is most relevant to the position you’re interviewing for. If you have several years of experience as a mechanic, that won’t necessarily apply to a role in sales.
Pick a key accomplishment to include. This is your chance to show them what sort of value you could bring to their organization or what sort of problem you could solve for them. If you’re new to the job market, you may need to think outside the box. Do you have experiences from college that you can mention to demonstrate certain skills? Are there any achievements from school or your personal life that might demonstrate leadership or a commitment to growth?
4. Your Professional Goals
Close your pitch by briefly mentioning what you’re seeking professionally. Maybe you’re seeking to advance to a position with more responsibilities. Or you might be changing careers entirely. Regardless, explain why you’re seeking the position and what you can bring to it. This is sort of like an objective statement on resumes.
A key mistake to avoid is focusing on what the company can do for you. Instead, focus on what you can do for the company. In what ways can your skills and experience help the company grow and become more profitable?
Above all, a good elevator speech should be brief. Your pitch should run between about 30 seconds and one minute. Anything shorter might give the impression that you don’t have much experience; anything longer and you run the risk of boring the interviewer.
When To Use an Elevator Pitch
It’s important to use an elevator speech strategically. The best time to deploy your pitch is at networking events and job fairs where you’ll be meeting with many recruiters face-to-face and have a short amount of time to make an impression. It’s also useful in a job interview if you’re asked to tell the interviewer about yourself.
Outside of that, you can use it in more casual environments when meeting new people. Maybe you’re at a company party and the manager of a department you’re interested in transferring to asks you about yourself. You should always have your pitch ready to go.
How To Use Your Pitch
As with any other tool in your job searching toolbox, you’ll want to use your pitch selectively and strategically. When meeting someone new, don’t immediately launch into your pitch. To make a memorable first impression, common courtesy goes a long way. Start by introducing yourself by name, ask them theirs, and then naturally work your pitch into the conversation.
Remember to “read the room” when using your pitch. There may be situations where a condensed version of your speech is more appropriate. It’s a good idea to have a one-sentence version of your elevator pitch prepared that answers, “What do you do for a living?” to use in casual settings.
You may not be asked to talk about yourself during an interview, and you don’t want to forcibly inject your pitch into a conversation. But you can always pull the major bullet points from your pitch in your answers to questions or use some version of it when communicating with recruiters during the hiring process.
Tips to Keep in Mind
1. Be Concise and Professional
Generally speaking, you’ll want to avoid including personal details or anecdotes in your elevator pitch. After all, when a potential employer asks the common interview question “Tell me about yourself,” they aren’t necessarily interested in your childhood and what you love to do in your free time.
2. Emphasize What’s Relevant
Having said that, some things might be helpful to mention if they’re relevant to the job or company you’re interested in. Volunteer experience and extracurricular activities are good ways to demonstrate leadership and community service while also demonstrating that you have some experience in a given field. This is especially true if you’re a recent graduate or don’t yet have much work experience.
3. Speak Clearly
Pitching is not just about knowing what to say, but also how to say it, so try not to speak too quickly. This is easier said than done when nervous, but you should take your time and speak clearly and slowly. Remember, you are not trying to cram your answer to every interview question into your 30-second pitch.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, you should always practice your speech out loud. This will not only help you get a sense of whether your speech is too short or too long, but it will also make you more comfortable and confident with your pitch’s content and delivery. You don’t want your pitch to sound too robotic or rehearsed, so practice sounding natural while making sure you hit all your points.
5. Include a Call to Action
Including a call to action or plans for your next steps is a great way to end your elevator pitch. Think about what you want to happen next. Will you simply exchange business cards? Set up a follow-up meeting? Send them a copy of your resume? Connect over LinkedIn? Ask for a referral to the right person? Apply for the job opening?
6. Be Polite
Not every new connection you make is going to be successful. Some people won’t be interested in hearing your pitch, or it might not be the right time. Be respectful, thank them for their time, and if appropriate, ask them if you can reconnect at another time.
Three Elevator Pitch Examples
Here’s a look at a few examples of effective elevator speeches that job seekers can use. They’re brief, persuasive and relevant.
“I’m a recent college graduate with a degree in marketing. I was President of the college’s marketing club and interned with a major marketing firm assisting with the development of materials for a major marketing campaign. I’m looking for a position in the nonprofit sector that will utilize my communication skills and experience. I would love to know more about the marketing needs of your company.”
“I’m an attorney who specializes in labor and employment law. I have seven years of experience consulting with government organizations and helped grow the clientele at my most recent firm by 15%. I’m looking to put my experience to work in the private sector and would like to know more about potential opportunities within your firm.”
“I’m a graphic artist who specializes in branded content. I’ve worked for a variety of clients in the non-profit sector, and my last for-profit client reported that their sales jumped by 7% after launching their marketing campaign using my designs. Here’s my card with a link to my portfolio if you are looking for help.”
Ultimately, there is no magic formula and no one-size-fits-all elevator pitch. If you are looking for a new job, take the time to create a pitch that will impress a recruiter, show your enthusiasm, and sell yourself as a viable job candidate. Memorize it, rehearse it and be ready to tailor your pitch to any recruiter or professional connection you come across.
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