Participating in a job interview without an elevator pitch is like watching or reading an ad without words.
It’s like a dog with no bark or bite.
It’s like standing in an elevator with no buttons to push.
When I decided it was time to find a new job while living in the San Diego area in 2004, learning the importance of an elevator pitch was the single best bit of advice I received from an Irvine, CA-based executive search firm. Everything else they threw at me was smoke and mirrors (in other words, their expertise in helping executives land jobs turned out to mostly be a sham considering the fee they charged and promises they made).
But having an elevator pitch. Wow. This turned out to be absolute gold to me and in advancing my career.
In essence, an elevator pitch summarizes what makes you tick. It touts you and your skill set, and (should) brilliantly and memorably answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” (Which is typically hiding in the question you’re most likely to be asked, “Tell me about yourself.”) Ideally, after it’s delivered it should leave the recipient (i.e., hiring decision maker) awestruck. You know you’ve succeeded when the interviewer is holding up his/her phone with the light on, encoring you to say more.
However, having an elevator pitch is night and day from honing an elevator pitch. Here’s how to hone it…
5 Tips for Nailing Your Elevator Pitch
- Write it for the ear. This is what radio ad copywriters do. It has to be easily digestible and comprehensible as it’s heard. After you write it out, read it out loud. Record it and listen to it. Does it flow? Is it easy to understand? Does it make sense?
- Attention-getting beginning. Jump right into it. Definitely no starting with, “So, umm…” Who wants to hire a “so, umm…” person? Boring! After introducing yourself, perhaps start with your top skill and how it can help this particular position. I start mine by sharing my top three qualities, followed by briefly describing my passions, work history, a few more skills, education, and then wrapping up with re-emphasizing my top three qualities.
- Customized – Once it’s written, make some minor tweaks so that it at least touches on some of the characters and traits mentioned in the position’s job description.
- Memorized – Rehearse your elevator pitch over and over until you know it like the lyrics to your favorite song. Once you have it super-memorized, reciting it will sound natural and not memorized.
- Convey confidence – Sit slightly forward in your chair. Look at the interviewer(s) in the eye, but take some natural breaks so you’re not having a stare-down contest. Smile. Be relaxed but maintain a sense of urgency and enthusiasm. Have some natural pauses to emphasize your most important points, instead of rushing through it like you’re being chased by a runaway train. Video yourself giving it to make sure you look and sound polished.
How long should your elevator pitch be? My favorite answer whenever I’m asked how long any promotion should be is “Long enough to be effective.” Maybe 30 seconds is long enough (especially if you’re actually delivering it in an elevator!). But generally, about 1-2 minutes should suffice.
1 Bonus Tip
What do you do if the interviewer just launches right into asking you questions? What if you’re not asked, “Tell me about yourself” at the beginning of the interview?
This is where YOU need to TAKE CONTROL of your interview temporarily. You HAVE to get your elevator pitch in at the beginning of the interview because it can help set a positive tone for the rest of the interview and boost your first impression rating.
If you’re not given a clear path to deliver your elevator pitch, then here’s what you do: Instead of answering the first question you’re asked, ever so kindly — yet assertively — state, “I would love to answer that question, but do you mind if I first take a minute to tell you about myself?” I can’t imagine anyone ever denying you the opportunity to do so. If they do, then you probably don’t want to work for this person or company.
I have the most incredible success story to share about how my freshly learned skill at delivering a killer elevator pitch landed me my one of my favorite jobs ever in 2004. I’ll share that in a future blog post.