Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder writer
Do you have an “elevator pitch”? An elevator pitch is the 30- or 60-second speech that summarises who you are, what you do and what makes you unique. Whether you realise it or not, you are probably already using some form of an elevator pitch in your everyday life — from the answer you give when someone asks, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself” to the short summary you provide on Facebook, to the opening paragraph of your cover letter. But a truly thought-out, well-crafted elevator pitch can set you apart from other job applicants and grab the attention of hiring managers.
Equally as important as having a good elevator pitch, however, is ensuring it you customise it based on context. For instance, the pitch you give to someone at a cocktail party will be slightly less formal in tone from the one you give in a job interview, and that may differ in tone from what you post on social media. Read on to learn about the different ways your elevator pitch should vary based on where you are presenting it.
In your resume/cover letter: You may not think of including an elevator pitch on your resume, but many job search experts recommend providing one at the top (where it’s often called an “executive summary”). The elevator pitch for your resume should be just two to three sentences explaining why you are a good fit for the job in question.
An example of an effective executive summary on a resume might read something like this:
“Seasoned marketing manager with 5+ years of agency experience and knowledge of digital content strategy, email marketing, social media and advertising. Strict attention to detail and proven ability to finish projects from concept to completion. Creative problem-solver with ability to juggle multiple projects at once and work both independently and as part of a team.”
Your cover letter is your chance to take what you wrote in your resume and expand on it. For example, if you mentioned that you are a “creative problem-solver,” try to include a quick (one- or two-sentence) summary of how you used creativity to solve a problem in a previous role. Don’t simply list bullet points; write as if you are speaking to the hiring manager one on one.
On social media: Social media can be a powerful platform by which to highlight your personal brand and sell yourself to potential employers. By its very nature, social media enables you to be a little more conversational and (because you are speaking to a wider audience) be more general about your goals than you might be on your resume.
When crafting your elevator pitch on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, avoid using corporate language or industry jargon (you want to come across sounding like a human being); use SEO-friendly keywords where it makes sense (as search engine algorithms place importance on social media bios); and keep your pitch as short and sweet as possible. You can always include a link to your other social media pages or online portfolio, where people can learn more about you and your work.
At networking events: When you’re at a networking event (or any social event where you’re meeting new people), you will inevitably get the question, “So what do you do?” Here’s where you’ve put what you’ve written on cover letters and social media into real, live practice. The trick to giving your elevator pitch in person is to sound conversational – not as if you’ve memorised a speech. To achieve this, practice your elevator pitch out loud in front of friends and ask for their feedback. Keep practicing until your speech sounds smooth and natural, yet polished.
To give your elevator pitch some staying power at networking events, have your business cards at the ready to give your new connections. While they may seem like a relic from the days of yore, business cards can be powerful direct marketing tools in today’s digitally-focused environment.
At the job interview: Almost all job interviews start with one question: “Tell me about yourself.” This question can catch a lot of people off guard; therefore, being ready to answer this question with your elevator pitch can make you a stand out candidate from the start of the interview. Again, make sure your elevator pitch sounds natural, yet polished. For the job interview, you should customise your pitch to speak to why you would make a great fit for the position in question (unlike at networking events, where your elevator pitch might be more general in terms of the type of work or industry you’re interested in).
When crafting your elevator pitch for different audiences, keep in mind that while your message should differ slightly by platform, it should always be consistent. No matter whom you are speaking to, your elevator pitch should always answer the same three questions: Who are you? What do you do (that no one else does)? What are you looking for?