While standing in line to board her flight, Elizabeth Burgos received a compliment from another passenger about her T-shirt that read: I am Woman, Hear Me Code.
“She did not know what I did for a living, or who I was,” said Burgos, who is a talent acquisition manager for tech teams at Walmart.
The passenger gave a friendly, approachable elevator pitch, in which she told Burgos her name and that she was a Java engineer. She followed up with what she contributed at her current company and her goal of landing a role at a large-scale company, then asked Burgos if they could connect.
Burgos told the passenger that she worked at Walmart and the two exchanged contact information. That conversation led to a job interview where she was hired.
“This is why elevator pitches are so beneficial. You never know who you can network with and every conversation is a chance to connect,” Burgos told Built In.
What is an elevator pitch?
Why You Need an Elevator Pitch
“As a tech candidate, you’re probably getting contacted all the time by recruiters, right? With that being said, you still need to stand out. So having a good elevator pitch is really a great best practice to have,” said Sasa Ferrari, vice president of talent acquisition for San Mateo, California-based AI company Momentive, formerly known as SurveyMonkey.
Make an elevator pitch to keep in your pocket because even though your inbox may be flooded with messages from recruiters, how many of the recruiters that you meet are from your dream company or dream opportunity, asked Biron Clark, founder of Texas-based career coaching and recruiting firm CareerSidekick.
Break the Ice
Sometimes an opportunity comes to you, where a person takes the initiative to introduce themselves to you and eventually asks, “so, what do you do?” That opens the door for your elevator pitch.
Other times, you may intentionally approach another person with the goal of giving your elevator pitch, similar to the passenger that Burgos met. In this situation, how do you break the ice so you can deliver your pitch?
Icebreakers can range from commenting on a cool T-shirt to asking a question or sharing observations with another conference attendee.
“You can ask me a question about the technology we’re using and that’s a good conversation starter,” said Igor Grinkin, a DevOps manager at Newfront Insurance, based in San Francisco.
But more important than your opening line is how you come across when giving your elevator pitch.
“I would say personality goes a long way. You want to work with nice people. If you have a great personality and can handle yourself, then the opening line doesn’t really matter so much,” Grinkin said.
Indeed. Arrogance can plunge an elevator pitch.
“You’d be surprised by how many people I’ve met that come up to me and say, ‘This is what I’ve done, what do you have for me?’ without introducing themselves properly,” Drake Ong, head of tech recruiting at social media company Reddit in San Francisco, told Built In.
What Makes a Good Elevator Pitch?
It’s important to approach a person with the mindset of having a conversation with them versus giving them a pitch.
Important Elements for Your 1-Minute Elevator Pitch
- Don’t talk fast, even though you have approximately 1 minute for pitch
- Be concise, don’t ramble
- Provide your full name
- Note your job title
- Confidently, enthusiastically, explain the impact you’ve had as a result of your work
- Mention your career goals
- Unless volunteered, close with an ask: exchange business cards, connect to their network, knowledge of job openings, ability to forward your resume
- Practice your elevator pitch, many, many… many times
“If you pique someone’s interest and show that you’re curious and hardworking, and you have certain things that drive you, then it’s very likely that they’ll say, ‘let me know if I can introduce you to anyone in my network, or let me know if you’d like me to let you know if there’s a role that opens up that fits your interests,” said Paige Costello, product lead for San Francisco-based work-management tools maker Asana.
Hiring managers and recruiters find the ‘what’ is far more interesting, such as what makes you passionate about this type of work or what impact have you had with the work that you do, Costello noted.
“Providing context with the ‘why’ you do it and that purpose and passion will be much more memorable to the people you’re talking with than the names of the companies you mention,” she advised.
Creating a memorable experience with your elevator pitch when talking to hiring managers and recruiters may lead to a job down the line.
That was the case for Ong, who met a potential candidate five years ago at a technology conference and was impressed with their passion and excitement when talking about a visual AI and predictive analytics project.
“Unfortunately, we did not have a role that was specific to their area of focus at the time, but I have always kept them on the radar for future opportunities,” he noted.
An Elevator Pitch for Random Introductions
“In a lot of social gatherings, I’ve asked somebody what they do and I basically get a one line response. With that, I don’t walk away very impressed or excited to want to set up an interview for the individual, because they haven’t said anything really to pique my curiosity and get me really excited,” Ferrari said.
Also, be prepared to deliver your elevator pitch in settings where there are a number of distractions, such as, at a party, a conference, a noisy trade show or other crowded settings.
The pitch needs to grab their attention and offer them tidbits of information that they can latch onto and ask you questions or offer you advice.
“Your goal is to get them to engage with your content, not to just shake your hand and say it was lovely meeting you,” Costello said.
Off-Chance Elevator Pitch
You’re at a hackathon and after the event concludes, you find yourself standing next to a talent acquisition manager while you both contemplate which sandwiches look tasty. The recruiter asks, “So, what do you do?”
Don’t Do This: “I’m John Doe, lead UX designer on the iWatch. What do you have for me?”
Do This: “I’m John Doe, lead UX designer on the iWatch. Nice to meet you. I noticed you’re not wearing a watch but have a phone. It was my passion to marry the technologies to make them more personal, as well as accessible. That desire catapulted iWatch sales by three-fold. What design challenges does your company face and would you need someone with my skills to address them?”
Your Elevator Pitch for a Specific Target
If you attend a particular conference with the hope of meeting specific people as part of your job hunt, your elevator pitch should be revised to reflect the particular individuals you plan to meet.
“Know your audience and pivot,” Burgos said.
This calls for you to do your research before attending the event and approaching the hiring manager or in-house recruiter.
Start an icebreaker citing something you read about the company that inspired you or resonated with you, such as the company’s values.
“You’re actually starting a conversation with this person and it’s a two-way conversation rather than just a monologue,” Ferrari said, noting from there you can launch your pitch and it will feel more authentic and genuine.
Follow up your elevator pitch with a request to exchange business cards and then email them the next day with your resume, Grinkin advised.
“When I’m receiving the resume, I can picture the person who it’s coming from and it helps a lot. It’s much better than receiving a cold call email that I would probably ignore,” Grinkin said.
Targeted Elevator Pitch
You attend a small business software conference in hope of meeting hiring managers for some of the software vendors. During one of the conference parties, a vendor’s CTO asks you “what do you do for a living?”
Don’t Do This: “I’m John Doe and I’m a software engineer at Acme Corp that serves small businesses. I’ve also held a similar position at Company X and Company Y for the past 10 years building small business tools.”
Do This: “I’m John Doe and I’m a software engineer who really loves working on software that helps small businesses. I grew up in a family full of small business owners. So, when I helped create a tool last year for my employer Acme Corp. that cut payroll processing time by half for small businesses, it was such a great feeling. I not only helped the small business industry with my seasoned experience, but also my family members. I’d like to stay in touch with you and can we connect or share business cards?”
How to Create Your Elevator Pitch for a Job Interview
Begin by researching the company, then with some reverse engineering you’ll be able to tweak your elevator pitch for your job interview.
“You need to really understand what problems they’re solving, why they’re hiring this person in the first place and, then, kind of reverse engineer your story to be the perfect match,” Costello said. “What you’re trying to do is to create a matchmaking moment.”
Bring your superpower to your elevator pitch — and do it in a concise fashion.
“Your superpower should be a defining characteristic or soundbite that will differentiate you from others,” Ong said.
Your elevator pitch should articulate what you are passionate about, your area of expertise and the impact your passion and expertise has had on your work, Ong said. He added sharing personal and unique anecdotes will help leave a lasting impression during the job interview.
Both Ong and Costello said a job interview elevator pitch can run a little longer than a typical elevator pitch and easily go for a couple minutes.
“Remember to pick a story or two that aligns with your superpower and practice telling your story. Make it concise and sincere,” Ong said. “Lastly, humility goes a long way, don’t be afraid to call out the areas that you’re working on, it will show your ability to self-reflect and learn as you grow.”
Elevator Pitch for a Job Interview
You have a UX job interview at e-retailer Acme company that’s struggling to enhance its visual design and layout before the holiday shopping season. The hiring manager says, “tell me about yourself.”
Don’t Do This: “I’m a UX designer and I’ve worked at Company X for the past five years, where I improved their retail site by adding interactive features. On the weekends, I love hitting the trails on my mountain bike.
Do This: “I’m a UX designer at Company X and have had an opportunity to do amazing work there during the past five years. I introduced an interactive feature that allows customers to virtually wear the clothes they’re considering buying and that helped increase sales by 70 percent. Although I’ve had a good ride at this company, I love excitement and challenges, which may explain my love for mountain biking on the weekends, which is why I am interested in the opportunities at Acme.”