Creating the perfect elevator pitch: What is your story?

Application tips

14 Sep 2018
When somebody asks you what you are doing for a living, what do you say? And suppose you would have 3 sentences to describe yourself, your wishes and ambitions to talk yourself into the company of your dreams. What would this sound like?

In this article, you will discover 4 important features of a good ‘elevator pitch’ that will make sure that the right people will think and talk about you at the right time: when they need you!

3 Sentences and 30 seconds. Ready set go!

With the advent of the internet, email and social media, we often pay (too) little attention to the power of the spoken word. However, when you are looking for a new job (or if you want to consider opportunities at a later point in time) it is important that you can articulate who you are, what you can do and what you are looking for in a brief, concise and enthusiastic manner. Anytime and anyplace!

This ‘short resume’ is often called a ‘career narrative’, a ’30 seconds pitch’ or an ‘elevator pitch’. If you know what you want and if you can articulate your message in a powerful way, others will remember you and talk about you when they need you. A good elevator pitch is usually easier to remember than a long resume.

personal branding4 Key characteristics of a good elevator pitch

What does a good elevator pitch look like? Imagine the following situation: you are on your way to a job interview and you are waiting in front of an elevator in a large office building. A senior employee approaches and asks you what you are doing, and who and what you are looking for.

At that moment, the door of the elevator opens and you have exactly 5 floors to tell your story before the senior leaves the elevator.

At this moment (and any other moment in time), the ideal elevator pitch would be:

  • Short, clear and easy to retell

Make sure you can deliver your elevator pitch fluently and make sure that everyone can remember and retell your story easily when others are in need of your knowledge and experience. Craft a short, clear and simple story. Try to aim for 2 to 3 sentences and 30 seconds at most.

Cater your elevator pitch to the specific situation you are in and the company you are pitching to. If you are pitching for a tech company, don’t go talking about the knitting competition you won last year…

Don’t tell them everything relevant at once, if they’re interested in your story, they will ask for more explanation. Throw the ‘bait’ and see if they’ll bite… If they show verbal or nonverbal signs of interest, tell them more. If you are lucky, you can turn your elevator pitch into an elevator conversation!

  • A bridge between your past and your future

Based on your background, knowledge and experience, describe your ambitions and added value for your ideal job and employer. Think from the employer’s perspective. Clearly state the added value you can offer and support this statement with knowledge and experience from the past.

  • Honest and personal

Confidence is good but it should never turn into arrogance. An elevator pitch is about the added value you will bring to the company thanks to your previous successes, but don’t go overboard. This also goes the other way around: a lack of confidence will get you nowhere. Believe in yourself! If you don’t believe in yourself then why would others?

  • Not carved in stone

Adjust your elevator pitch to your discussion partner, just like you adjust your motivation letter and resume to each application. Always be honest and personal, but make sure you focus on the right things to connect with the experiences and needs of your discussion partner.

Write your elevator pitch down first

Although you could be a gifted speaker, bringing a concise and cohesive story is never easy. People tend to jump back and forth in time and bring up the best memories but these are maybe not the most relevant. So, it is a good idea to write your elevator pitch down and then start practicing.

Deciding on what kind of work you want and knowing your audience is important. Before you can write down that speech, you need to know the goal and who you will be talking to. If you would like to be a backend developer (you’re taking classes after hours) but you are currently working in retail and you are pitching to a web agency for a new job, then focus more on your school or side projects and less on your shop responsibilities. (Of course, soft skills are essential in any job.)

It goes without saying that the person you are talking to, needs to understand what you are saying, so do your research and find out who will be on the other side of the table or virtual meeting. Save the complex jargon for the experts.

Focusing on your added value means describing the goal of your job e.g. You are a Customer Happiness expert, say that you communicate with customers and that you keep them happy throughout their customer journey (experiences with your brand). Here, you could include details or numbers. I’ve helped x numbers of customers, for a total worth of x…

A good alternative to the elevator pitch, if you are ever in a situation where you need a good fallback, is talking about what you do on a daily basis. What does a normal working day look like for you? So, if you are having a hard time writing your elevator speech, think about this and use the elements that are important.

The ultimate goal of your elevator pitch is being asked for more information. So try turning your elevator pitch into an elevator conversation by maybe asking a question. Let’s say you are an SEO-expert, try asking them: When you type in a google search, which links do you click? “Oh, the first ones?” “Well, it is my job to get a website to that first spot by using several techniques”. This explanation is very relatable and opens the door for more questions like how do you do this and why is that important…

Then practice, practice, practice!

A good elevator pitch should roll off your tongue. Every time, everywhere and for everyone. So make sure you thoroughly practice your elevator pitch with friends & family and get comfortable with the feeling of promoting yourself.

What should you try not to do during your elevator pitch?

  • Try not to sound like a computer just repeating the words you practiced a thousand times. You could get hung up on a different choice of words, keep it natural.
  • Don’t make your elevator pitch complex. If you have a job that is difficult to explain, try making it easier by using a practical, relatable example or maybe even comparisons. E.g. I am a Process Engineer for a pharmaceutical company – I help create and build production lines for eye drops.
  • Don’t leave out your personal passions and side projects, if they are relevant!
  • Don’t oversell (‘too salesy’) or undersell yourself, be honest but don’t be too modest about your accomplishments. You can, of course, mention that you are proud of them.
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