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How to Write An Elevator Pitch For Interviews

        posted by , April 25, 2013

Tell me about yourself.

It's the most common interview question. It has many variations (e.g. what's your story?).

Employers who ask an open ended question about you aren't asking for your life story — they're asking for your pitch.

What's an Elevator Pitch?

Your elevator pitch is your 3 minute sales pitch. It can be used in a job interview as a pitch for a job. It can also be used to introduce yourself in business situations.

Elevator pitches are also commonly used to sell products, business plans and ideas.

Why Do I Need An Elevator Pitch?

It's always a good idea to imagine your competition before each interview.

Imagine the candidate who answers "what's your story?" with a dry historical account of his/her life.

Now image a candidate who has developed a competent, compelling, candid pitch that captures their abilities and drive in 180 seconds.

Who would you prefer to compete against?

Preparing a solid elevator pitch is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances at your next interview.

How To Develop An Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch usually takes a few days to write. It's a process of refinement that takes several iterations. These techniques may help.

  • Don't fall in love. Love is blind. An elevator pitch needs to be hardened. It's weakened by wishful thinking and strengthened with constructive criticism.

  • Be direct. The objective of your elevator pitch isn't to fit as many self glorifying adjectives as possible into a few sentences. People automatically filter that fluff out anyway. Get to your genuine value directly without decoration.

  • Develop a Storyline. Three minutes is a surprisingly long time to listen to bare facts that have no storyline. You don't need to tell an actual story. Just relate things enough that everything flows together.

  • Build Suspense. Craft your pitch to build momentum and end on a high note.

  • Solve problems. Your elevator pitch isn't about you. It's about how you're going to solve problems for your perspective employer. If you are too self-focused you may come off as someone with a sense of entitlement (e.g. I'm experienced so you owe me this job ...).

    Example: Elevator Pitch (Commercial Aviation Salesperson Asia-Pacific)

    I think I can safety say I've been obsessed with aviation since I was a kid.

    I graduated with a Finance degree from the University of AAAA but got special permission to take a few Aerospace Engineering classes on the side.

    I started my career in the marketing department of BBBB where I worked under some of the greats in aerospace marketing such as John Doe.

    Within a few years I made it into sales where I closed $202 million in deals in my first year.

    Over the past five years I've improved on that number each year. I've worked hard to make connections in the industry. My strategy is to connect with a wide variety of decision influencers at each customer. My network is particularly strong in Asia where I have relationships with 42 major customers.

    I've found it's critical to understand the product and the local culture to close deals. The first thing I'd do in this role is to establish strong relationships with your sales engineers to better understand your product line. In terms of understanding the local culture I've studied both Japanese and Mandarin for over 4 years. I'm not fluent yet but I find it helps.

    Last year I exceeded my sales quota by a significant margin closing $987 million in deals.

  • Be specific. Whenever you get the urge to use an adjective — replace it with a number. Instead of saying you delivered a big project say you delivered a $9.1 million dollar project. When you can't use numbers use the most specific words possible to describe your accomplishments and abilities.

  • Deliver It. The great thing about an elevator pitch is that you can rehearse it until it's highly polished. It's the safest part of any interview. It's often the only part anyone remembers. There's no excuse for neglecting it. Practice and polish it. Deliver it with everything you've got.

How To Test Your Elevator Pitch

Deliver your elevator pitch to anyone who will listen and ask for constructive criticism. Use the criticism to edit ruthlessly. Continue until your pitch is hardened.

Ensure that your pitch satisfies these basic sanity checks.

  1. Balanced
    You strongly emphasize your value without overselling yourself.

  2. Candid
    Your pitch comes off a authentic and candid (e.g. doesn't BS).

  3. Likable
    Your pitch makes you seem likable. Employers often hire the most likable candidate.

  4. Credible
    You give evidence to support your claims (e.g. names of notable people you've worked with).

  5. Enthusiastic
    You demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and for your career.

  6. Entertaining
    It doesn't hurt to make your pitch entertaining or at least interesting.

  7. Substantial
    Your pitch has substance. Avoid flowery adjectives and empty self-praise.

  8. Remarkable
    Does your pitch show how you stand out as the top candidate?

  9. Focused
    Is your pitch relevant to the job?

  10. Short
    Three minutes is a guideline. In the case of job interviews you can usually take a few more minutes if you like. However, the three minute target ensures your pitch gets to the point.

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