What is an Elevator Pitch? Examples for Students and Job Seekers
You never know when you’ll find yourself in a networking situation, so it’s good to be prepared wherever you go. You can do this by developing an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a brief overview of your professional and educational accomplishments and information relevant to your skills and career goals. You use it when you introduce yourself to people in networking situations and career fairs or answer the interview question, “tell me about yourself.” It’s also your professional summary on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
In essence, an elevator pitch is a 30-60 second “commercial” about you, according to Sonja Moffett, a career engagement partner at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
"Your elevator pitch demonstrates your experiences, capabilities and expertise," she said. "In an interview, it tells the story of why you are the solution to (a) business problem or the best fit for the job. It is an icebreaker that should lead the listener to ask more questions because they want to learn more about you."
This introduction will likely be the first impression you’ll make on a potential employer, so it’s crucial to have an idea of what you’d like to say and be aware of how you present yourself. By writing and practicing an elevator pitch, you can do both.
How to Write an Elevator Pitch
No two elevator pitches are alike since everyone has different backgrounds and experiences to bring to the plate. While the content varies, they all share similar elements.
As you begin to construct your pitch, Moffett advises that you keep it focused and positive. Consider including your:
The person you’re talking to should know your name, especially if you expect them to remember you. Unless you are in an interview or introduced by someone, you should always lead with your first and last name, even if you’re already wearing a name tag.
2. Educational Background
Mentioning the degrees you have will show employers what your qualifications are, and often, they are looking for candidates with specific credentials. If you’re still working on your program, that’s fine too. You can share what you're studying and when you expect to complete your degree.
3. Professional Experiences
Be sure to include your contributions to the professional landscape as well. Whether you’ve been working in the same industry for a couple of decades or coming right out of college with an internship or two under your belt, including your current job title and applicable professional accomplishments will let employers know you have work experience.
4. Your Value
A strong elevator pitch will communicate how you can be beneficial to an organization. You can do this if you review the job description that interests you and determine how your skills and experiences apply to the position.
Some of the questions Moffett recommends asking yourself are:
- How are you trying to connect with that person?
- What is the meaning of the relationship that you are trying to establish?
- Can you help that person?
“You want to focus on things that are going to be of value for the listener,” she said.
What is an Example of an Elevator Pitch?
While earning a bachelor's degree in an accelerated program, Isabelle MacGilvary '21 gave her pitch at a campus Elevator Pitch Competition hosted by the Professional Sales Association. At the competition, professionals scored students on their delivery, content and closing, and offered feedback and tips to improve.
Earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in professional sales, MacGilvary took advantage of the opportunity to practice in an encouraging environment, although she said she was nervous.
Before the competition, she took videos of herself to practice her pitch. This method helped her nail down the information she wanted to say and showed her how she was presenting herself.
“I just wanted to see what I was like and how I could improve,” she said. McGilvary noticed she often played with her hair or ring, and once she identified this, she stopped both habits.
In her minute-long pitch, she gave an overview of herself, touching on her educational accomplishments and professional experiences, in addition to her passion, skills and career goals.
When she constructed her pitch, her focus was to relate some of the skills needed for her career goals to her experiences in school and work. “I want to work internationally, so I thought of the different skills I have that would be important for an international job,” she said.
MacGilvary was sure to conclude her pitch politely and with confidence: “Thank you so much for your time today and if any positions open up in your sales department, I hope you think of me,” she said.
What to Avoid in an Elevator Pitch
When done well, your elevator pitch should help you make a positive first impression and stand out to employers. To do this, you should avoid cliches, jargon and anything too personal. Here are a few interview tips to avoid:
Ryan Chapman, a career advisor at SNHU, suggests against using cliche words such as “hardworking” and “personable.”
“Everyone uses those words,” he said. “Think a little bit more deeply about what you’re saying to make them (employers) more interested.”
Jargon exists in many industries, but you don’t want to use too much of it in your elevator pitch. To determine how much you should include, Moffett said you should consider your audience.
Are you talking to a recruiter or someone from human resources? If so, exercise limited jargon because they may not share your vocabulary; use just enough to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry. If you’re talking to someone in the same field as you, you can be more granular. “It all goes back to considering your audience,” Moffett said.
You should also avoid anything too personal in your pitch. You want to stay professional, so Chapman recommends avoiding hobbies and interests.
Other Helpful Elevator Pitch Tips
Now that you have an idea of what you should and should not include in your elevator pitch, you're ready to think about the actual delivery.
Make Your Pitch Adaptable
The content you include in your pitch and your goals for delivering it should vary by situation. "Your elevator pitch is going to evolve depending on the setting and your purpose for using it," Moffett said.
For example, you may meet someone from a company you're interested in working for at a professional networking event. Though that person may not be a hiring manager, you can still deliver an elevator pitch, Moffett said. "Using your elevator pitch in that situation can allow you to establish rapport and build a longer term relationship, which could lead to a professional referral in the future," she said.
You should also try to tailor your pitch to the employer, when possible, which means it will likely be different every time. “I think your elevator pitch holds more substance after you’ve done research of the organization’s mission and values,” Chapman said.
For example, if you know the organization focuses on corporate social responsibility, you should highlight pertinent information about yourself that supports this. You might say, "My team worked collaboratively with local nonprofits to provide internships for vulnerable populations. I love the work your company does to improve the lives of others, too, and could see myself working on projects with your team."
Just remember that your elevator pitch is an overview of your experiences. So, as you advance in the professional world, so should your elevator pitch.
Pay Attention to the Nonverbals
Your body language is an essential component of an elevator pitch. A positive attitude and nonverbal communication will make you look confident and comfortable, which will strengthen your presentation, according to Jason Whitney, an associate director at the Career and Professional Development Center at SNHU.
“It’s not just what you say; it’s the energy with which you approach folks,” he said.
There are several tips Whitney and Chapman recommend when meeting and giving your elevator pitch to a potential employer:
- Don’t cross your arms
- Don’t stand too close (or too far away)
- Don’t smoke beforehand
- Dress professionally
- Lean forward slightly
- Maintain eye contact, and don’t forget to blink
- Offer a strong, firm handshake
In addition to these tips, make sure you look approachable. Even if you’re nervous, try your best to relax because your nonverbal communication skills may convey your emotions without you even realizing it.
Practice Makes Perfect
Chapman suggests jotting down a few bullet points of information you'd like to cover in your pitch. You'll sound more natural if you've only memorized the points.
“Let it flow,” Whitney said. “You have to be able to just be in the conversation and just let it happen (naturally).” If you're too rehearsed, you might lose your train of thought if the person you're speaking to interrupts with a question.
In an interview setting, you might give your whole pitch at once, but it won’t always be like that. It may turn into a conversation in which you learn about the employer or company while they learn about you.
You can practice what you’d like to say in your pitch to smooth out the details and boost your confidence. Moffett recommends practicing in front of a mirror or recording yourself so you can hear yourself and see how your body language comes across. This will enable you to make the necessary adjustments in advance.
You can also work with a career advisor to build, tweak and fine-tune your pitch. Practicing with a friend or family member will give you additional experience saying it out loud, and it might just give you the confidence you need.
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Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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