Developing your Job Search Elevator Pitch

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had the potential to help you land a better job and felt that they didn't get what's unique about you and what would make you a great catch?

If you're going about your job search the right way, you're not confining yourself to the Internet. Instead, you use the Internet to get job leads but also venture out into the real world, talk to people, go to networking events, etc. One of the most critical things about effective networking is being able to succinctly communicate why someone should be interested in you. Especially in social settings, peoples' brains tend to be on the low power setting so a long and complicated explanation about your profession and specialty won't work. It's for this reason that something called an "Elevator Pitch" was invented.

An Elevator Pitch is a concise, tailored, benefit-focused description of your career background. Elevator Pitches are used most often by entrepreneurs looking to raise venture capital to fund a new business. Venture capitalists are busy people and they receive countless business plans, many of which they never get a chance to read. Smart entrepreneurs recognize this logjam and that their best chance of getting an investor interested may be to summarize their complex business into a short, conversational speech.

Another way to think of an Elevator Pitch is that it's like a TV commercial for why an employer should buy you, but in a conversational format that someone would enjoy listening to. What if you ran into the president of GE, IBM, or some other company you wanted to work for in an elevator and they casually asked what you did? Having an elevator pitch ready is the key to getting someone like this interested in you.

Although the elevator pitch should be designed to fit within 15 to 60 seconds' speaking time, you should be able to continue talking if the person does not stop you. The goal of an elevator pitch is generally to get the person to agree to let you follow up with them (or their assistant). You might close an elevator pitch by asking if you can follow up with the person about potential job opportunities and exchanging business cards.

Effective public speakers often use the tactic of telling the audience what they're about to tell them, and then telling them in more detail. Starting out an elevator pitch by providing some context and telling them what you're about to tell them will generate interest and curiosity and make the person want to hear what you have to say. Here's an example of how a conversation could start off:

Potential Employer: So what is it you do?

You: I'd love to tell you about how I've saved money for my employer in my job as a cost accountant because I think you'll find this interesting.

By starting out your pitch this way, you've given the listener a couple of reasons to pay attention. One is because you've said you're going to entertain them, which people enjoy - especially in social situations. Another is because you've told them you're going to give them some potentially valuable information. One caveat here: you should talk about the most important benefits to the employer towards the beginning of the elevator pitch just in case you run out of time.

Another tactic good public speakers recommend is using motion in descriptions. For example, saying "When I walked in and told my boss we saved a million dollars in the previous quarter" will create more of an image in the listener's mind than saying "we saved a million dollars in a quarter." If a listener is not able to visualize what you're saying, there's more of a chance they will lose interest.

People like and remember stories and anecdotes. Telling a story about a customer's reaction to a new product you developed is more memorable than just saying it.

Your elevator pitch should not get into minute details. Rather, it should address the primary concerns a potential employer would have:

- What have you done in the past that demonstrates your value?
- How would you benefit my company specifically?
- Why would I want to choose you instead of other candidates?

The beginning of your elevator pitch should give a summary and say what your competency is. Next, it should clarify who you want to work for. Then explain why you are a good fit for the job and employer. Next, talk about your background and experience, highlighting the benefits you brought to previous employers. If you still have time after that, you can talk about how you will achieve what you said you can do for the potential employer. This last part should focus on the results that the employer would see rather than the mechanics of what you'll do.

About the Author

Scott Brown is the author of the Job Search Handbook ( As editor of the weekly newsletter on job searching, Scott has written many articles on the subject. He wrote the Job Search Handbook to provide job seekers with a complete yet easy to use guide to finding a job effectively.