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“Welcome to the job fair Jill, I’m Bob with XYZ company.”

“Hi Bob, nice to meet you.”

“What do you do Jill?”

Uh oh! What do you say next?  Think hard because what you say in these next 15 -30 seconds may make all the difference between landing an interview and not landing an interview, finding a job and not finding a job.

You need an “elevator” pitch (or speech). Here’s a little-known secret.  You already have one. That’s right, you do.  Every time someone asks you at a party, a job fair, or when you are speaking with a recruiter, “What do you do?”, whatever comes out of your mouth is your elevator pitch.

The problem is, of course, you have no idea what’s going to come out of your mouth.  It’s probably different every time, and often in hindsight, it isn’t what you would have wanted to say. Even so, what the other person hears in these critical seconds will define you in their mind.

As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. That impression is defined by your elevator pitch.

What’s an elevator pitch?

It’s the way you describe who you are and what you do. Usually, you will include something interesting about your accomplishments. You deliver an elevator pitch to get the person you are speaking with to take an interest in you.

The terms “elevator pitch” and “elevator speech” are synonymous and they typically last between 15 seconds and 2 minutes, about the time it would take to ride an elevator from the lobby to the top of a building.

Elevator pitches can also be used to pitch ideas and find investors and donors. Every startup founder has one at the ready. When job or work-related, the elevator pitch allows you to share your credentials and expertise, and some interesting tidbit about yourself.

Why is an elevator pitch important?

Almost every job search scenario you can think of will require it. Even if your resume and cover letter got you an interview, at some point you will be sitting in an interview room where the first question someone will ask will be;”Well Bob, tell me about yourself.”

They might skip this particular question, but at some point in the initial rounds of meeting with a prospective company, you are going to have to briefly describe who you are, what you do, and why they should be interested in you.

I learned how to create an elevator pitch 15 years ago.  At the time, I had no idea how often I’d use it.  If you are networking, you may use it 5-10 times at a cocktail party and likely many more times at a job fair. It’s critical you are prepared because that preparation will give you confidence.

When can you use an elevator pitch?

Here is a list of when and where you will need to use your elevator pitch.

How to create the perfect elevator pitch

The perfect elevator pitch is one that you can deliver comfortably in a casual conversation.  It won’t always come out the same. It shouldn’t.  It should be natural and conversational, not stilted nor sound rehearsed.

Multiple Versions and Length

  • You need two versions; a short one and a longer one.  The reality is, you will find yourself in situations, based on the attention span of the other person or the setting, where you know whether the time you have will (or won’t be) rushed.  Having two versions ensures you are prepared for both scenarios.
  • One should be approximately 15-seconds long and one should be about 30-seconds long. And, anything longer appears rehearsed and isn’t only uncomfortable for you but offputting to the person with whom you are speaking.
  • You will be surprised how much you can say in 30 seconds.  If you create interest, a conversation will open up and you will have the opportunity to say more.  If not, it wasn’t meant to be.
  • You might need additional versions that vary in content. Let’s say you are interested in two possible jobs and they aren’t the same.  One is a social marketing opportunity and the other is a communication opportunity.  You are qualified for both and would be happy with either job.  You can see why it would be to your advantage to prepare two different versions.

The Formula for a Perfect Elevator Pitch

Before you begin crafting your elevator pitch(s) ask yourself, “What do I need it for?” If your goal is to get a job interview, what you say will be different than if you are hoping to land an internship. Therefore, you will need to modify this to suit your needs.

These are key elements of an elevator pitch.

  1. Your name
  2. What you do
  3. Who you work for
  4. Specific skills
  5. Accomplishments
  6. The ask

The basic structure is this:

I’m [INSERT NAME] Bob and I’m a [WHAT YOU DO] project manager [WHO YOU WORK FOR IF APPROPRIATE] for IBM. Over the last few years [INSERT SPECIFIC SKILLS AND UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION (USP)] I’ve become somewhat of a subject matter expert on hybrid Agile methodologies. The last two projects I led [INSERT ONE OR TWO VERY BREIF ACCOMPLISHMENTS] have come in ahead of schedule and under budget. Do you happen to have [INSERT THE ASK] any opening for someone with my expertise?

Like snowflakes, there are no two alike.  Remember that you should feel comfortable delivering yours.  Try to avoid words that leave your tongue tied in knots.

15-second version

“Nice to meet you. I’m Bob and I’m a consultant for IBM. I oversee technology implementations and my area of expertise is Agile development. I’m planning to make a move this year to a CIO role.  Do you happen to know of anyone that might be looking for a new CIO?”

30-second version

“Nice to meet you. I’m Bob Baird and I’m a consultant for IBM. I oversee large scale technology implementations, specifically software. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on hybrid Agile development and I’ve had some great success. In fact, the last 2 projects I managed came in ahead of budget and schedule.

I’m considering making a move this year as I’ld like to become a CIO for a growth oriented company.  Do you happen to know of anyone that might be interested in someone with my skills?”

The Resume Exchange

If they indicate they have an interest in you when you are finished offer them your resume.  Unless it’s a job fair, it would be awkward to have it in your hands. Instead, you will want to say; “I’d love to send you my resume, do you have a business card?”  And, if they give you their card, say; “Terrific, I’ll send it to you as soon as I get back to St. Louis. And, if you don’t mind, after you’ve had a chance to review it, I’d like to give you a quick call to see what you think.”


As mentioned earlier, you must memorize your pitch(s) so well that it haunts you in your sleep. This may be hard to believe given how short it is, but you will make countless revisions as you rehearse. So, practicing has two benefits, improving what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.

Here are three tips.

Tip number 1: Rehearse in front of a mirror and speak out loud.  You need to see the body language you are projecting. Appear open, not closed with arms crossed or on your hips.  Smile. Make sure your body provides the right inflections at the appropriate times.  Listen to how you sound and make sure you aren’t rushing; it should be relaxed and conversational.

Tip number 2: The mirror helps, but rehearse in front of friends and family.  Ask them to tell you if you appear stiff, unhappy, disinterested, etc.

Tip number 3: After you can give your pitch flawlessly with great body language, ask them to interrupt you.  Yes, right after you give your name or where you work, have them ask you a question out of the blue.  Maybe something like, “I see that you went to University of Michigan, what was that like?”

Imagine you are delivering your pitch to a recruiter at a job fair.  He’s listening to you and scanning your resume at the same time.  There’s an excellent chance he’s going to ask you a question while you are in mid-sentence.  Be prepared for this.

So how do you find the confidence to be this flexible?  By memorizing and rehearsing your elevator pitch so many times that it’s second nature. If you do this, you can free up your brain to focus on the other person. If the conversation is going in the right direction don’t be afraid to abort your elevator pitch.

Final Thoughts

No longer do you need to worry about what will come out of your mouth when someone asks you; “What do you do?”  You should feel much more confident and certain that your first impression will be a great one. Here are some helpful tips.
  • Practice out loud in front of a mirror and friends
  • Have them throw you some curve balls
  • Practice remaining flexible
  • Don’t forget the ask
  • Examples you provide may create conversation. Be prepared to elaborate.

Take care till next week,



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