It doesn’t really often happen in an actual elevator (although it conceivably could). It’s that 30 second period when, out of the blue, you suddenly have the opportunity to sell yourself to someone you wouldn’t normally run across. Maybe you’re at an after work event and find yourself face-to-face with the head of marketing of a company you’re dying to work for. Or you’re at a conference and right there beside you is the HR manager of a business that interests you. What do you say?
Rule number one: don’t waste time babbling about the weather!
What an elevator pitch is – and what it isn’t
An elevator pitch is a short speech that summarizes who you are, what you do and why you’d be a perfect candidate for (that person’s) company. It should spark curiosity, be interesting and memorable, and last about 30 seconds (the length of an average elevator ride, hence the name). You should be able to use your elevator pitch at a job interview, a seminar, or a cocktail party… in fact, just about any time you find yourself in the company of someone who might be able to help you land a position.
However, a great elevator pitch should not be set in stone: even though you’ll be working from a basic mental script, you should always be able to vary the way you introduce yourself and the tone of your speech to fit your audience and circumstances. Because this pitch is not only about you. It’s about capturing – and holding – the attention of the listener.
Another thing that an elevator pitch isn’t is a bunch of boring industry jargon that no one wants to hear (“I facilitate meaningful interactions by leveraging enterprise empowerment”).
How to craft an elevator pitch people will listen to
When done right, a well-designed elevator pitch can be your secret weapon, and it can open the door for additional communication. You can use your CV or your LinkedIn profile as a starting point.
Begin by writing everything down. First, describe the type of job you’re looking for. (Nobody can help you until you do that.) Next, list all your skills, accomplishments and work experiences that are relevant to your target position. Then delete everything that’s not critical to your pitch. Keep editing until you’ve got your speech down to a few sentences. And make sure your pitch sounds like a story, not an oral power point presentation! Your goal is to keep the listener interested, not put them into a coma.
Now read what you’ve written aloud. If someone came up to you and said those words, would you be interested? You wouldn’t, would you? What’s missing? Have you talked about what you can do for your audience?
When developing an elevator pitch, it’s crucial to consider how you want others to perceive you. It’s important to clearly communicate what you do, what your strengths are and why you are great at what you do, but the ultimate goal is to ensure that your audience sees what’s in it for them, so be sure to focus your message on their needs.
Here’s a hypothetical example. Imagine you said “Hi. I’m a human resources professional with 10 years experience working for consumer products companies.” This pitch would be far more powerful if you said “I’m a human resources professional with a strong track record in helping to identify and recruit top-level talent into management.”
When you put the focus on the benefit for your listener, you’re showing them that you have more than just experience: you have business savvy and a unique skill set to offer their company. That’s the way an elevator pitch gives your job search a lift.