The Elevator Pitch: How to Make Yours Pitch Perfect

You’ve got 30 seconds to sum up who you are professionally, what you’ve accomplished, and why you are a great – make that outstanding – candidate. Oh, and somewhere in that 30 seconds mention your career gap without it sounding like a negative.

Gulp. 

Welcome to the elevator pitch. As daunting as it may seem to introduce yourself, engage the listener, and include an “ask” in such a short amount of time, it’s totally doable. So let’s get started!

Keep it short and sweet.

Imagine you’re sharing an elevator with the CEO of a company you’d love to work for. You need to get her attention quickly before the doors open and she steps off. What will you say?

Keep it simple and avoid jargon. An elevator pitch is your story. It’s a short story.

Variations of your pitch can be used when you’re talking to a neighbor, when reaching out to people on LinkedIn, when responding to open-ended questions such as “tell me about yourself,” and when riding an elevator with the CEO.

The elevator pitch, broken down.

  • Introduce yourself. This may seem obvious, but if you’re a bit nervous you may forget.
  • State what your experience is in an interesting and engaging way.
  • Mention your career gap without dwelling on it.
  • Express your enthusiasm to get back to work and what you bring to the table.
  • Finally, don’t walk away without asking for what you want to happen next, whether it’s a meeting, a recommendation, or an interview. And be sure to thank them for their time and get their contact information.

Write out your elevator speech so you’re sure you’ve covered the points above. Some people find it helpful to write their pitch down with just bulleted points, others prefer full sentences. 

Now let’s cross that work gap.

So you took time off to care for your kids, your parents, a partner, or yourself. They’re all legitimate reasons for having a gap in your resume. But how should you address that in a 30 second elevator pitch?

Briefly.

“Hi, I’m Margaret! There are a lot of moving pieces to bringing a product to market. I know from having been a product manager for ten years at XYZ before taking a pause to raise my twins. Now that they’ve started kindergarten, I’m eager to get back to introducing the next “Smart Pops” which was one of the most successful launches that I led at my former company. I’d love to tell you more about it. Can we set up a time to chat?”

Here’s another example: 

“Hi, I’m Allen. It’s a pleasure to meet you and share my background in market research where I helped a major cruise line increase bookings 43% by taking a deep dive into their data and tapping into a younger audience. I took a break to care for my partner. Fortunately, now he’s back on his feet and I can’t wait to build on my past successes and help your company advance its business goals. I would love if you could set aside some time to talk next week.”

 And this:

“Hi, I’m Nikki. I’m an IT specialist and a military spouse who has lived in five locations over the past seven years. So I’m pretty good at quickly adapting to new situations. I’m eager to get back to my career and apply some of the new skills I picked up during my work pause by taking online courses, including certification in CSX-P. Oh, and if you need someone who’s fluent in Japanese, I’m your person. Would you be willing to share your email with me?”

You may need more than one pitch.

Just like you may have more than one resume depending on the job you’re applying to, you’ll need a few different pitches tailored to your audience. 

When making a connection on LinkedIn, for example, adapt your pitch so it includes what you have in common – an alma mater or a former shared workplace. At a networking event, make adjustments based on who you’re speaking to, whether that person’s a contact with a similar work background to yours, a friendly job seeker to share tips and ideas with, or a potential mentor.

Pay attention to how you end your pitch – you’ll want to state what you want to have happen next.

“I’d love to meet up for coffee and learn more about what you do and your company.”

“Can I email you my resume so that you can share it with other team members?”

“A former co-worker mentioned there may be a management analyst position opening up. Would it be okay if I called your office to get on your calendar to discuss my experience in more depth?”

Practice often.

Once you’ve set the elements of your elevator pitch, practice is key. With repetition, you’ll be able to deliver your story fluently, concisely, engagingly, and without hesitation.

Practice – in front of a mirror, a friend, or your dog, whatever works best for you. You want to sound conversational and approachable rather than robotic, even if you’ve practiced a zillion times.  

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Your elevator pitch is a great way to open a door. The more doors you open, the greater your chances of finding a job you love.

Going up? We thought so.