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Elevator Pitches and Job Searching

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an elevator pitch and why do I need one?

An elevator pitch (for job seekers) is a short speech meant to pique the interest of a prospective employer. The idea is that it’s a short introduction speech that could be delivered on your way up an elevator with a stranger you’re trying to make an impression on.

You will need one in order to quickly introduce yourself in order to get a business card from someone on the inside.

How long is an elevator pitch?

The length of an ideal elevator pitch depends. Are you going up 2 floors or 20? Are you trying to get a business card or schedule lunch? Are there other people waiting in line behind you waiting for you to finish?

While many will say “around 30 seconds” I recommend timing it based on your surroundings and the attention span of the person you’re talking to. However, make sure you don’t talk continuously for more than a minute–that’s a long time!

Do elevator pitches work for job seekers?

A successful elevator pitch can get you a business card or allow you to make a favorable first impression, which is all it’s really meant to do. With this first impression and brief access to someone on the inside, you now have a competitive edge over the other job seekers who are blindly applying for a position.

When will you use an elevator pitch in job seeking?

At a job fair, over the phone, or even for the first few minutes of your interview to make an impression. Elevator pitches will come up constantly for job seekers. Think of it as a quick way to introduce yourself to strangers.

Advice for delivering a better elevator pitch

Listen before speaking

While it may seem like you don’t have a lot of time, the single biggest mistake I see people make is by just launching into an elevator pitch that is completely irrelevant to me and my position. Furthermore, when you waste my time with an irrelevant pitch (even if it didn’t take that long), I’m less likely to want to help you.

Don’t overthink this–a simple question such as: “what are you hiring for?” or “what do you do for XYZ company” is enough to give you information to help you deliver a better pitch.

Make eye contact, smile, shake hands

Focus on the basics here. You’re trying to impress them but even more important is leaving them with a positive impression. Make consistent eye contact (if you’re able to) and watch for signs of disengagement, like looking away. If they do disengage from your pitch, stop and ask about them instead of talking at them.

It’s important to realize that most people don’t like strangers by default. You’ll be seeking to tell them about yourself (briefly) and identify yourself as not a threat.

Crafting your pitch based on audience

Your elevator pitch is not static. You’ll need to change it not only based on how much time you have but also who you’re talking to.

Potential subordinates: if you’re talking to someone that could report to you someday, your # 1 goal is to show them that you’re not a jerk. The more that you can make yourself “likable,” the more likely they are to help you. Identify who you are and what you do, politely ask them how to be considered for the role, and then focus your time on building personal rapport.

Recruiters: recruiters are looking to check all their boxes and quickly pass along resumes for close fit candidates. You can get ahead with recruiters by asking who they’re looking for and then seeking to check their boxes. If appropriate for your experience-level, you can get ahead by presenting yourself as a subject matter expert so that they’ll go back to the office and tell their boss “guess who I just met!”

Peers/lateral connections: 75% of all jobs are filled via networking so it is critical that you make friends with your potential future co-workers. Similar to pitching to subordinates, focus less on impressing them and more on making a friend. Ask them about their day and identify with their struggles. Make sure to add them on LinkedIn and send them a friendly follow up email. Lateral connections will then go on to keep you in mind for this job and others like it if they like you.

Bosses: when talking to your potential future boss, it’s important to present yourself as being able to solve. Focus on how you add value to the organization and their department. These are the people you’re looking to wow and impress so keep it professional.

Practicing and Delivering your Elevator Pitch

Now that we’ve talked about how to craft your elevator pitch and tailor it to the audience, let’s talk about how to actually compose one.

1) Put it on paper.

Write down everything you would like a prospective employer to know about your skills, accomplishments, and work experiences that are relevant to your target position. Now edit until you have just a few key bullet points or sentences. The goal is to interest the listener in learning more, not to tell your whole life story. Shoot for 75-150 words.

As you’re writing this, think about how it will change based on your audience.

2) Format it.

A good pitch should answer three questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What are you looking for?

Don’t get bogged down in the details!

3) Read your pitch out loud.

The best editing you can do is to hear how it sounds out loud.

4) Practice, practice, practice (then ask for feedback).

Rehearse your pitch in front of a mirror or use the recording capabilities of your mobile device, so you can see and hear how you sound. Continue to fine tune your pitch until it no longer sounds rehearsed. When you are satisfied with your pitch, try it out on a few friends and ask for honest and constructive feedback.

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