The ultimate guide to crafting your elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a 30- to 60-second statement composed of your job experience, aspirations and what you can do for a company. It’s not easy to distill both your best traits and how you can help a future workplace into a short pitch, which is why it’s important to work on.

Photo: Travis Wise

You just arrived at the office of your dream job for an interview. The elevator dings and you get in, only to see the CEO of said company is already in the elevator. You only have a few floors to go. You’ve got 30 seconds to tell him who you are, what your experience is and why you deserve the job you’re interviewing for.

Sounds tough, right? While you probably won’t be in this exact situation, (although you never know!) it’s important to craft a personal elevator pitch so you can prove yourself while you have someone’s full attention in that tiny metal box.

An elevator pitch is a 30- to 60-second statement composed of your job experience, aspirations and what you can do for a company. It’s not easy to distill both your best traits and how you can help a future workplace into a short pitch, which is why it’s important to work on.

No, it’s not always done in an elevator: You could meet someone of importance at a cocktail bar, conference or job fair and need to pitch them. The whole point of crafting this little speech is that, if you found yourself on a short elevator ride with an important employer, you could easily tell them why you’re right for a job.

Not sure where to start? Here’s how to craft a compelling elevator pitch.

Nail the basics

Your elevator pitch needs to answer three basic questions:

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

At a bare minimum, these questions should be answered. Depending on your situation and the amount of time you have to pitch yourself, you could elaborate on other things, such as what your best accomplishment was at your last workplace or an interesting, attention-grabbing fact about yourself.

It’s also helpful to address what problem you solve. Is there a need you see in the company that your acquired skills can help? What can you do for the team you would be working with? Depending on the position and amount of time you have, the more questions you’re able to answer the better!

Know your audience

You have to know who you’re talking to, which is also why it’s important to have multiple pitches (see below). You’d probably have different things to say to the CEO in an elevator versus running into the hiring manager at a networking happy hour event.

Knowing the audience also helps you use the right language. In general, your pitch should be understandable by the average person. Don’t use technical terms or industry jargon, unless you’re talking to someone you know will understand it.

Craft multiple pitches

Just like it’s important to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for, you need to prepare different elevator pitches. The difference could be based on industry, who your audience is or what the setting is.

It’s helpful to have both short and long versions of your elevator pitch — sometimes you only have a brief 30 seconds, while other times you’ll have a few minutes. Be prepared to elaborate on your elevator pitch if asked follow-up questions.

Practice, practice, practice

I can’t stress this one enough — you have to practice your pitch(es)! You don’t want to sound like a monotone robot, or come off as impersonal. You also don’t want to be stumbling over words because, let’s face it, you’ll probably be a little nervous in the first place.

Practicing should help you build the necessary confidence to appear cool and collected even if you’re freaking out on the inside.

Always leave them with a business card

This step is small, but important. Whether you have a business card with your current company, or make your own personal ones between jobs, you have to give the other party your card. If you run into them in public, or at some type of event, they need a way to contact you if they want to follow up. You could have had the best elevator pitch in the world, but if you didn’t leave them with a form of contact, they won’t be able to reach out.

4 things NOT to do

Now that we’ve covered what you need to know for an elevator pitch, here’s what you should avoid.

Don’t:

  • Ramble or talk too fast
  • Forget to say your name
  • Use the same elevator pitch for every company, job or person you come across
  • Sound like an infomercial

It’s not always easy to talk about yourself, especially when face-to-face with a potential employer. Writing a solid elevator pitch can help you to overcome that obstacle, and be able to talk about yourself and career skills with ease. For even more guidance, take a look at these elevator pitch examples. (Note: elevator pitches can also be a helpful tool for entrepreneurs looking to pitch their product or service).

If you’re between jobs and looking to use your elevator pitch as a way to get your foot in the door, take your best elements from it and use it for your cover letter. You could also pick up a few work-at-home side jobs to supplement your income — bonus, you’ll have more time to job search and practice those elevator pitches!

Jacquelyn Pica is a writer at The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that helps you make smart money decisions. Find her on Twitter @JacquelynTPH.