Job Hunting

How to Craft an Effective Elevator Pitch

Two male students having a discussion

“So, tell me about yourself.” 

It’s one of the most common interview questions, and likely the first one you hear upon meeting a potential boss in your first interview at a new company.

You could take that question and run with it in many different directions, but you’ll the most out of your answer if you’ve taken the time to prepare and rehearse a 90-second summary that highlights your skills and experience. This is called an "elevator pitch." 

What Is Your Elevator Pitch? 

An elevator pitch is your introduction, or “resume walk.” It’s meant to be concise (90 seconds max or 3 sentences long) with a beginning, middle, and end. 

As you’re on the job hunt, you are going to be telling your story so many times. That’s why it’s important that you can tell it, and tell it well. It’s worth putting the time into it now so that you can feel confident when you’re sitting in front of a hiring manager. 

Why You Need to Be Able to Tell Your Story Quickly

Your elevator pitch is your gate to a job opportunities spanning your entire career, not just your next job. In order to create more job opportunities for yourself, you will need to be able to capture interest quickly. 

By having a well-rehearsed elevator pitch you have the chance to advance to the next step in the hiring process, create a broader network, and demonstrate effective communication to hiring managers and colleagues. 

4 Principles for Pitches

Knowing the importance of having an elevator pitch, here are four principles to keep in mind when developing yours: 

  1. Traits trump work experience - Your work experience should be secondary to your traits and characteristics. Demonstrate the traits hiring managers are looking for in your pitch. These traits might include: curiosity, persistency, collaboration and self-motivation. Try to show examples of each of these traits as you develop your story. 
  1. Positive framing - Any experience you have, good or bad, you can frame positively, you simply have to rely on positive framing. For example, if your past work experience is 100% retail and you’re trying to break into the tech industry, you can frame this one of two ways. The negative frame would be that you have no relevant job experience for the position you are interviewing for. The positive frame would be that you’ve mastered the art of identifying customer’s problems by working with them face-to-face on a daily basis.  
  1. Show, don’t tell - Use stories and evidence to illustrate that you possess the traits the hiring manager is looking for. Think about which is more powerful in the following example: “I’m a team player,” versus “I took on an extra role and split the time between sales and marketing when the company lost an employee unexpectedly.” 
  1. Lean into your difference - Hiring managers are looking for the difference factor in each candidate. If you have a unique educational background, lean into that. Share why you’re proud of your background and how it makes you different from all the other candidates through storytelling and powerful, real-life examples. 

How to Start Building Your Pitch

1) Make a list of your key experiences and accomplishments in the past 2-4 years. 

2) Choose 2-3 of the experiences that you think exemplify the desired traits:  curiosity, persistency, collaboration, and self motivation. 

3) Put those experiences into a pitch template and begin practicing.  

The Pitch Template

Thinking about what you have collected at this point, it’s time to write out your pitch and start practicing. 

1) Introduction

Say, “Hi” and tell the hiring manager who you are. 

For example, “Hi, I’m Jeff. I spent the last couple years teaching 8th grade language arts in Memphis.” Whatever you decide to add in your introduction, make it unique to you, honest, short, and concise. 

2) Body

Walk through 2-3 specific examples in recent years that best exemplify the desired traits. Remember, show, don’t tell. 

For example, “In my first year teaching, I had 150 students. My students on average were reading and writing on a 5th grade level, which presented a lot of challenges. I implemented a writing program and incentive structure which led to an 84% proficiency on our writing test. But the big moment for me came during my second year teaching when we were mandated to teach a new curriculum but didn’t have the resources we needed to do it. I worked closely with two other teachers to build the resources we needed and to also identify technologies we could to help us teach the new curriculum. We shared our resources with more than 50 teachers all over the district.”

3) Ending

Bring it home by connecting your past experiences to this moment. How did you end up in front of this hiring manager interviewing for this job? Why are you excited about the opportunity? 

For example, “My experience in the education industry has made me really excited about the potential for technology to impact education and learning in general, and that’s what brings me here today.” 

Your elevator pitch should be unique to you and help you stand out from the other candidates. By really focusing on showing hiring managers, and others you want to bring into your network, that you have traits that would benefit them, you will be creating more opportunities for yourself in your career. 

Jeff Henriod is creating more job opportunities and partnerships for students at Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly known as Lambda School).