5 steps to a memorable elevator pitch

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“So, what do you do?”

Five simple words that can cause panic. I distinctly remember the first time I was asked this question at a job fair In Manitoba. My mind raced, flooded with past achievements, job titles, and projects. I didn’t know where to begin or which accomplishment would leave a lasting impression. In my nervousness, I mumbled something vague about being in the communications field.

I felt like I wasted a perfectly good opportunity because I did not have an elevator pitch ready.

What’s an elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch or speech is a concise summary of your skills and interests. Its purpose is to quickly convey who you are, what you do, and the value you bring. A good elevator pitch should be your personal brand identity – direct, brief, and memorable, lasting anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds depending on the context.

An elevator pitch serves multiple purposes:

Professional summary on your resume: Instead of writing an “Objective” section, use your summarized elevator pitch. You’ll have a great professional summary that captures the essence of your qualifications.

Networking introduction: Whether you’re at a formal event or simply striking up small talk with someone new, an elevator pitch can facilitate meaningful connections and conversations.

Job interview answer: One of the most common interview questions is, “Tell me about yourself.” Your elevator pitch is the perfect response that sets a positive tone for the interview.

Cover letter content: When aligned with the job description, your elevator pitch can serve as an engaging introduction in your cover letter that could capture the hiring manager’s attention.

Personal branding and career goals: Crafting an elevator pitch is a good exercise in career planning. It pushes you to refine and articulate your personal brand and career objectives.

How to make an elevator pitch:

  1. Start with your goal:

    Clarify your main purpose. Are you a student trying to get into an internship program? Are you a professional selling a project, service, or product? Are you trying to get a job? When your goal is clear, you’ll be able to format your pitch better.

  2. Write It Down:

    Start organizing your thoughts. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re writing this pitch for an audience, not for yourself. Craft your message to focus on what your audience needs to know and what all your skills and achievements mean for them. Write down:

    • Who you are
    • What you bring to the table
    • Why you are passionate about your work
    • What makes you unique (your unique selling proposition)

    Avoid industry jargon and resist the urge to share your entire life story. Keep it focused and succinct.

  3. End with a call to action or a question:

    What’s the next step you’d like the listener to take or what do you want to ask of them?

  4. Refine and rehearse:

    Ensure that your pitch can be delivered in under 25 seconds. It should be clear and natural, not a robotic recitation. Consider the interests of your audience and mention information that would answer the question “what’s in it for them?”

  5. Adapt to the situation:

    Read the situation and modify your elevator pitch as appropriate. For example, use the shortest summary of your pitch as an introduction to a new acquaintance. Reserve the full version for a job interview. Also, in addition to a call to action, it would be ideal to provide a business card or a copy of your resume when you’re in a job fair.

Example elevator pitch for an accountant:

Who I am: I’m an experienced accountant with a proven track record in financial management and analysis.
What I bring to the table: I bring a keen eye for detail, a passion for numbers, and a commitment to helping businesses thrive through sound financial practices.
Why I’m passionate about my work: I’m passionate about accounting because I believe that sound financial management is the backbone of any successful business. I enjoy solving financial puzzles and helping organizations make informed decisions.
What makes me unique: What sets me apart is my ability to translate complex financial data into practical insights that drive growth. I also have a unique knack for simplifying financial concepts for those who may not have an accounting background.
Call to Action: I’d love the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to your business’s financial success. Whether you’re looking for expert financial guidance or considering new accounting services, let’s schedule a meeting to explore the possibilities.

Adapt to the situation:

  • Small talk:
    In a casual setting, you might say, “I’m an accountant with a proven track record in financial management and analysis. I love helping businesses thrive through sound financial practices. What about you? What interests you?”
  • Answering “Tell me about yourself” in an interview:
    “I’m an accountant who has a keen eye for detail, a passion for numbers, and a commitment to helping businesses thrive through sound financial practices. I love accounting because I believe that sound financial management is the backbone of any successful business. I enjoy solving financial puzzles and helping organizations make informed decisions. What sets me apart is my ability to translate complex financial data into practical insights that drive growth. I also have a unique knack for simplifying financial concepts for those who may not have an accounting background. I’m excited about the opportunity to contribute my skills and expertise to your team.”
  • During a presentation:
    “I’m an accountant who turns financial chaos into clarity. I specialize in simplifying complex numbers, finding hidden savings, and ensuring your business thrives financially. Let’s transform your financial worries into strategic decisions together.”

Having a compelling elevator pitch enhances your professional and networking experiences. It helps you make a memorable impression when you can clearly communicate who you are and what you can contribute. So, the next time someone asks you, “What do you do?” you’ll be well-prepared to respond with confidence and clarity.
 
Sources: The perfect elevator pitch to land a job, Nancy Collamer, Forbes; 13 (really) good elevator pitch examples & templates (+how to write yours), Kristen McCormick, Wordstream; How to create an elevator pitch with examples, Alison Doyle, Harvard. Accessed October 23, 2023.

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