How to pitch yourself in 60 seconds or less

Photo: Michael Dam

How would you pitch yourself to potential employers if you were only given one minute…or less?

If you muttered the words “Umm…” and started to panic upon hearing this question, you aren’t alone. The thought of explaining who we are to a potential stranger or HR representative can be daunting, but knowing how to effectively sell yourself concisely is a skill everyone should know. There may come a day when you will need to know how to answer this question – and you better be prepared.

Perhaps you may find yourself fortuitously in a scenario you didn’t plan for. Maybe you strike up a conversation in an elevator with someone who could give you your next big opportunity. Perhaps you are at a networking event and strike up a conversation with the CEO of your dream company. And all of a sudden…you have to give the pitch.

There are many ways to successfully sell yourself in a minute or less to score your dream job or promotion, but the elevator pitch – if done properly – can be the most effective way to leave a lasting impression.

Answer the initial question

The initial intro to your 60-second pitch should be answering the question initially asked, which is: “Tell me about yourself.” Within the first few moments of your opening speech, you should include who you are and what you do. The key is to keep this part concise; don’t make the mistake of dragging on about every extracurricular you did in college and the spelling award you won in fifth grade. Rather, start with an introduction of your current job position and a bit about what that entails. This is the basis for the rest of your pitch.

“There’s a reason the phrase ‘elevator pitch’ exists,” said  Career Contessa Founder & CEO Lauren McGoodwin in an article for Man Repeller. “When I was a recruiter, people would take 30 minutes to answer the question, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ That’s way too long. You need to be short, concise and specific.”

Time to Shine

During this part of the pitch, there are two key objectives you must achieve: communicating your goals, as well as your skills. Be sure to choose a goal that isn’t extremely specific, since you will most likely use your pitch to different branches within your field.

However, you should mention what you would like to do. For example, if you want to gain industry in the field of journalism with a goal of working in broadcast, you could say you would like “a producer role” or “an opportunity to use my writing skills for television news.” While it may not be your ultimate dream job, it can help you get in the door to your industry and advance your skills along the way.

After mentioning your objectives, it’s important to mention why you would be qualified for one of these positions. Do you possess the skills needed to benefit their company? If possible, tailor the skills towards the job you want or what the company would need. By the end of this section of the pitch, they should have a firm understanding of your capabilities and whether or not you can contribute to the company.

Wrap it Up

Always find a way to keep in touch with the person you pitched yourself to. Have a business card in your pocket or hand them your resume if you have it. Sometimes the person you pitched to will ask you to reach out to them. In this instance, they may hand you their business card, phone number or email. Always send a follow-up note thanking the person for their time and refer to what the next steps would be.

Although these steps can help you craft your pitch, the key to being successful is the trite yet truthful motto: “Practice makes perfect”.

Creating a clear outline of what you want to get across in your brief introduction will help you think clearer when speaking. Instead of scrambling for words, write out your pitch and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. “Oftentimes people will just write out their pitch instead of saying it out loud,” McGoodwin said. “You need to get comfortable hearing the words come out of your mouth so when you’re sitting in the actual interview, you’ll sound fluid instead of overly rehearsed.”

While many are intimidated by the thought of condensing their life’s-worth of achievements and goals into a pithy 30-second chat, selling yourself is not as difficult as it seems. With the right language, confident (yet not cocky) attitude and a clear-cut guideline of what message you need to convey, you’ll be moving up the corporate latter in no time.

And the next time you hear someone say, “So, tell me about yourself…”, you will be able to do just that.