Your elevator pitch (also called an “elevator speech”) is a very important tool in your job search toolbox! Your elevator pitch tells people who you are, what you do, that you are good at it, and what you are looking for.
The pitch should be very short, lasting only as long as a ride in a fast elevator for one or two stories — typically 30 seconds or less. Not much time!
Be prepared and confident. Know your pitch well enough to say it without hesitating, but don’t say it so quickly that it can’t be understood.
[Before an event, increase your confidence in less than 5 minutes with Dr. Amy Cuddy’s Power Poses.]
Successful Job Search Elevator Pitches
You often use your elevator pitch when meeting someone for the first time, hopefully in response to the what-do-you-do question. Sometimes, you use it as an introduction. We can also use written versions of our elevator pitches in social media and email and also in cover letters.
Even if you aren’t in a job search, having a good elevator pitch ready can be very handy. This is what your elevator pitch should cover:
1. Your name.
If the person doesn’t already know your name, tell them. Use the professional version of your name in business situations. If family or old friends call you “Beth,” but your coworkers know you as “Elizabeth,” introduce yourself as “Elizabeth.”
My name is Elizabeth Miller.
Your business cards, resumes, LinkedIn Profile, and other professional visibility should also use the professional version of your name, so your elevator pitch connects to your business card and professional image.
2. Your current or target job title and industry.
Be prepared and be focused on the future.
My name is Elizabeth Miller. I am a customer services, or member services, representative in the medical industry.
3. What you do.
Next, describe what you do in terms related to what you want to do next. So, if you are Elizabeth Miller, a medical insurance company member services rep, you would describe yourself like this:
My name is Elizabeth Miller. I am a customer services, or member services, representative in the medical industry. I handle customer questions about medical insurance coverage and also their problems understanding their bills. I help customers with claims processing, and handle other inbound calls from customers with issues or concerns. I also help the appropriate departments or providers fix errors in claims processing.
Use plain, everyday language that “normal” people can understand without a translator.
4. Your relevant achievements or strengths.
You need only one or two achievements or strengths that are relevant to your goal.
- Quantify (if possible) improvements made at work, school, or in your volunteering as the result of your actions, like reducing costs 10% or increasing profitability 5%.
- Think about compliments consistently paid you about your work or your approach to situations (perhaps mentioned in performance reviews at work).
- Consider any awards you may have won, like employee of the month or best thank you note or whatever is relevant.
So, Elizabeth Miller would add:
I’ve received the Exceptional Customer Service award from Big Hospital, one of the major providers of medical care for our members, and I have a lower customer dissatisfaction rate than other representatives at my last two employers.
5. What you are looking for.
Briefly, but clearly, describe what you want next. Yes, you need to know what you want next or you are wasting an opportunity. People won’t believe that you can “do anything.”
Continuing the Elizabeth Miller example:
I am looking for opportunities to continue my work in this field. I really enjoy helping people resolve their problems. So, I am hoping to continue in the same field in a hospital, healthcare center, or insurance company.
6. Ask a question for the other person.
Since networking works best as a two-way process, invite the other person (or people) to contribute their pitch(es). So, if you haven’t already heard the other person’s elevator pitch, when you’ve finished your pitch, add:
What about you?
Look for a way you can help the other person (or people) with their goals.
7. Finish with your business/networking card.
If the other person (or people) are good networking contacts for you, exchange business cards so they have your contact information for the future. And, then you have their information, too.
Elevator Pitches for Specific Groups
Some situations require focus in different parts of the pitch. For example:
Pitches for Career Changers
Focus on your future direction. Include your current job title, if closely aligned with your target. Do give your target job title, and your accomplishments to show you are qualified and capable of your new goal.
Pitches When You Are Unemployed
No particular need to mention that you are unemployed or how long you have been unemployed, and no need for apologies or explanations. Focus on your goals and accomplishments. If you don’t feel very confident, fake it till you make it with Dr. Cuddy’s help.
Pitches for Baby Boomers
If you are a Boomer in job search, perhaps, after you give your target job title, explain (in the what you are looking for part) that you:
- Want to “downsize” your career from middle management to contributor, or
- Are bored in retirement and looking for a part-time job so you can continue to be active, or
- Are ready for a change in location or career direction.
Or, whatever is appropriate for you and your situation and goals.
Use your elevator pitch to share some of your previous successes (described in the relevant achievements part of your pitch), making it clear why you would be a key contributor to the success of an organization
Pitches for Veterans/Transitioning Military
You have had experience on a scale that is very impressive in the civilian world, from the number of people you have led or managed to the dollar values of the equipment or supplies you controlled.
Since few civilians understand the military, translate military terms for civilians. Remember, for example, that a “division” is part of a “company’ in the civilian world. Not the reverse.
Pitches for New Grads
Be sure to have a target job title and industry. Don’t be vague — “anything” is not a memorable goal.
Then, pull achievements from your school and any work experience including your GPA, major or concentration, papers, projects, publications, internships, and anything else you’ve done while you were in school that is relevant to what you are looking for.
Pitches for Students
Introduce yourself and then add your year in school, e.g, senior. If possible, have a target job title or professional field and industry. Then, pull achievements from your school and/or work experiences.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost, AOL Jobs, and LinkedIn. Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.