Traditionally, elevator pitches are used to persuade listeners to watch a film, read a book, or take some other action. Anyone can use an elevator pitch to sell a product or tout the benefits of a specific item.
Students can also use elevator pitches to briefly and conversationally describe their professional and educational background to a potential employer, recruiter, or manager. These types of pitches are meant to tell why the student would be a good asset for their business or organization. Elevator pitches—or elevator speeche—are so named because the goal is to finish the statement in about as long as an average elevator ride. That usually means around 30 seconds.
You start by introducing yourself, along with a pertinent credential or job title. Then, you describe your recent work experience and educational background as you deem necessary. Focus on making active statements that showcase your career-oriented skills, experience, and ambition. Think of it as a personal sales pitch that makes your audience want to learn more about you and have a longer conversation about your ideas and perspectives.
Where can you use elevator pitches? Besides during an actual elevator ride, you might use them in the following situations:
- Job interviews. An elevator pitch is a great way to briefly describe yourself during a job interview.
- Career fairs. Giving your pitch to someone staffing a booth at a career fair could help you make a lasting impression.
- Networking events. In addition to in-person events, you might consider using an elevator pitch on social media channels like LinkedIn.
- Cover letters. Writing out a pitch on a cover letter can help you grab an employer’s attention.
- Email introductions. A straightforward elevator pitch at the beginning of an email to an employer may help you stand out.
- Personal portfolios or websites. Including a pitch in your portfolio or on your own website can help readers learn about your background.
- Business cards. In some cases, a short pitch on a business card can make it more memorable.
Elevator speeches come in handy in professional settings but can also be used in casual conversations. They’re especially beneficial if you’re looking for a new job or are between jobs.
Here's a breakdown of the elements of a successful elevator pitch:
- Introduction. Think of the introduction as a casual ice breaker and lead-in to the meat of your elevator pitch. State your name and, if possible, a relevant title or credential.
- Specific career goal or interest. You should be able to succinctly explain your career aspirations, measurable goals, or key research interests, especially if you have a meaningful personal reason for being in the field.
- How you’ve demonstrated that interest. This is your chance to explain what you’ve done to further your career goals, both professionally and on your own.
- Reasons you’re qualified. Provide specific examples of measurable success in past professional roles. If you are a student or recent graduate, you can give an example of a relevant project that supports your qualification for the job.
- A question or request for assistance. Finish your pitch with a proactive statement or question that encourages your audience to respond. It helps to have researched the person or organization you are communicating with so that your request is specific and aligns with their values, and even their current projects, in addition to your own. Don’t just ask them for a favor; make yourself an asset and a part of the conversation. Have a business card ready so that they have your contact details as well as a reason to reach out.
Whenever possible, try to summarize both your professional and educational background to convey your drive, commitment, and diversity of experience.
Your elevator pitch could change depending on the context you use it in. For example, you might focus more on on-the-job experience when looking to advance your role in a company. Or you may opt to share more specific info about your education if you’re hoping to intern. It’s common to use an elevator pitch in the following scenarios:
Applying for an Internship
- To secure an internship, remember to speak to your educational background and, if possible, previous internship experience.
- An elevator pitch for an internship might look like this: “I'm Jane Doe, a linguistics major at UVA and head editor for the college magazine. During my Globes internship, I used my research and editing talents to promote the company's community participation initiative. As the communications director's assistant at Media Company, I will exercise my reporting, interdepartmental liaison, and audience awareness experience to enhance public relations.”
- This stand-alone presentation can be used for multiple purposes, including job interviews.
- Here’s what a pitch for an open letter could look like: “I graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s in business. I interned at Cali Dreams for two years and am now their development assistant. I've successfully helped them enhance operating procedures and create prospects for profitable fundraising. I have a few exciting ideas for creating prospect materials that may help your company more easily support existing agency contacts. In a business developer role, I would start off by creating dynamic and strategic calendars.”
- Elevator pitches are still great to use even if you have limited professional experience or haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree.
- Example: “I'm a student at USF with an interest in IT innovations. I'm excited to apply my knowledge of mobile apps to a position at Applied Informatics. My experience in information sharing and online cooperation would make me a valuable mobile app developer intern at your organization.”
Note that these elevator pitch examples focus on what the individual has accomplished. Potential employers would rather hear what you’ve done and what you’ve learned rather than what you haven’t.
Just because an elevator pitch is short and concise doesn’t always mean it’s easy to create one. In fact, it’s often because of their brevity that some people can make these common mistakes:
- Rambling. Being too wordy or unfocused will lessen the impact of your elevator pitch. Remember to get to the point quickly.
- Talking too fast. Be careful not to rush. Use simple words, speak deliberately, and place emphasis where it matters most. Show interest in the other person’s responses and ideas.
- Being too generic. Avoid relying on a basic or vague template for your elevator pitch. Don’t use generic jargon or buzzwords where specific synonyms would work better. Try to be conversational and natural.
- Using unconfident language. Be sure not to use phrases that show a lack of confidence like “I think I could fit the role” or “I hope you’ll give me a chance.” Be direct and express yourself positively.
- Delivering in a stiff or stuffy way. Keep in mind that elevator pitches are usually spoken, and even if they’re written, they should sound inviting, not stuffy. Try not to use phrases like “to whom it may concern” or “I await your response.”
A lot of work goes into preparing for and attaining a fulfilling job. A good elevator pitch is one of your most important assets in doing so. Think of it as a supportive multi-tool you can pull out of your back pocket and use in many different circumstances. If you prepare, practice, and update an elevator pitch as needed, you will increase your social and networking skills. You might also find the career role you’re looking for faster.
If you highlight your strengths and keep your pitch attention grabbing, you should expect to see success over time. No matter what degree you’re pursuing or what career field you’re hoping to enter, a great elevator pitch can be an invaluable aid.
WGU offers extensive professional development resources designed to keep you cutting-edge within your field and help you prepare for job interviews, write résumés and cover letters, network with peers, find jobs, and more.