What is an elevator pitch?

Imagine bumping into a busy executive in the elevator. You know she’s hiring for your dream job, and for the next 30 seconds, you have her all to yourself. You need to explain why you’d be a perfect fit for the position before those elevator doors slide open again.

That’s an elevator pitch.

Elevator pitches are used in a number of scenarios, but no matter the situation, the overall purpose is to spark interest. You won’t have time to drill into details or hammer out elaborate arguments. Your goal is to convince your listener that you’re worth a future conversation.

In a job interview, the elevator pitch acts more as a jumping-off point for the rest of the interview. (Your resume already convinced the interviewer that you’re worth sitting down with.) By sprinkling the right details into your pitch, you may be able to influence the direction of the conversation.

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How to prepare an elevator pitch

It’s best to write out your pitch in advance. This is not something you should risk improvising.

Start by defining your target audience and work backward. If you’re preparing an elevator pitch for a job interview, list out:

  1. The company’s mission and values.
  2. The responsibilities of the role you’re applying for (check out the original job listing for details).
  3. Your top achievements from past jobs.

Then, choose which of your experiences, achievements and goals best align with what the company is looking for. By adding these elements to your pitch, it’s more likely that your interviewer will ask follow-up questions on those topics.

The length of your interview elevator pitch will vary, but career counselors recommend a range of one to two minutes.

How to answer, “Tell me about yourself”

It’s a broad question, and you could easily fill a book with your response. But remember: This should be short and snappy.

First, career counselors recommend you consider who it is you’re speaking to. Your goal is to strategically whittle down your life story to highlight only the parts your listener wants to hear. When interviewers ask you this question, they’re trying to determine whether you are the right person for the job. They need to find a candidate capable of thriving in the role they’re filling.

Your elevator pitch should prove you are that candidate.

But this is about more than simply recapping your resume and job history. While there is some overlap, people who do a lot of hiring suggest your pitch should put extra emphasis on how your goals align with the company’s goals. It’s also an opportunity to let your creativity and passion shine through.

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What to say in an elevator pitch

Make your pitch pack a powerful punch by dividing it into three sections:

  1. Who you are. Give your name, industry and job title or company. If you’re a student, share your school and major.
  2. What you offer. This is your opportunity to spark interest. List out your most relevant skills, achievements, qualifications and experiences. Emphasize why you’re unique — what makes you stand out.
  3. Why you’re here. Show hiring managers that you know exactly what you want. Explain why you’re interested in their company and how your goals align with theirs.

It’s important to be strategic. Everything you include in your pitch should either confirm alignment with the company, prove your abilities, spark curiosity or make you memorable. If a sentence doesn’t do any of those things, remove it.

Also remember that your pitch should sound warm and natural, so don’t use words you wouldn’t say in an everyday conversation. Your interviewer wants to hire a human, not a robot.

Not sure your resume is ready?

ZipRecruiter can tell you whether you look like a strong candidate so you can decide where and when to apply.

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How to level up your elevator pitch

After you’ve cranked out a rough draft, here are a few ways to optimize your pitch:

  • Ooze passion and sincerity. Some employers value drive and enthusiasm over work history. This is extra important in an elevator pitch for a student who doesn’t have job experience.
  • Show the immediate value you can add. Training a new hire takes time and money. Show how the skills you already have can bring immediate value to the company.
  • Provide evidence. Don’t just list out your strengths — back them up with examples and proof.
  • Finish with a bang. People are more likely to remember the end of your interaction, so don’t fizzle out. End with a strong, memorable sentence.
  • Practice out loud. Practice your pitch in front of a mirror, paying special attention to your body language. You want to look and sound as natural as possible.
  • Get feedback. Share your elevator pitch with colleagues, career counselors or mentors. They may see red flags that you overlooked.

You only get one first impression. Make every second in that elevator count.

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About the Author

Mitchell Glass

Mitchell Glass

Freelance Contributor

Mitchell is a freelance contributor to MoneyWise.com.

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