How to Develop Your Personal Elevator Pitch

Many structured interviews, particularly those at large companies, start with a question like "tell me about yourself." The interviewer doesn't really want you to go back to grade school and talk about your childhood. This is a specific question with a specific answer; in two minutes or so, the interviewer wants to get you to relax and loosen out your vocal cords, understand your background, your accomplishments, why you want to work at XYZ company, and what your future goals are. This is called an elevator pitch. If you learn how to address this open-ended question smoothly and effectively, your interview will start off on a great note.


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    Spend about 1-2 hours writing down your top five work or personal experiences. These experiences should follow this format - situation/task, action, result (STAR). What was the situation, what did you do, and what happened?
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    Narrow each down to a paragraph. Think about the STAR format on a 100 point scoring pie: Only about 15-20 points should go to the "situation" with about 40 points going to your actions and 30-35 points on the results.
  3. Image titled Develop Your Personal Elevator Pitch Step 3
    Think about the themes that come across. Are you all about growth, customer focus, sales excellence, product innovation, etc. and how do the themes come through? How do your experiences reflect a recurring theme?
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    Pick your top themes. What are the top 1-2 things you want the interviewer to remember about you? When you have finished answering the question, the interviewer should know clearly what these top 2 things are.
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    Put it together. A good way to finalize this is to use the word-count feature on your word processor. At 150 words per minute, you should not use much more than 350 words for your pitch. You'll generally want to start with undergrad, unless that was a very long time ago. Quickly move past undergrad and launch into your work history, keeping in mind that you want to highlight your top 3-5 experiences and not every last thing you did in each job. Keep your undergrad and work history to 75% of your time. Save the last moments for why XYZ company and what your future goals are. These goals should match the new position and/or the opportunities at this company.


  • Even though you've prepared and practiced, keep it natural. Remember to breathe and smile.
  • Rehearse it, but make sure it doesn't LOOK rehearsed
  • At the interview opening, "So, tell us a little about yourself," 2-3 minutes may be fine, as long as you see you are keeping their attention. But most people stop listening at 45-60 seconds. After all, there's that last interview the interviewer is thinking about and the next interview he has scheduled but isn't here yet, and the argument the interviewer had with their spouse going out the door this morning, and the boss who wants that report by COB (close of business) today. TV commercials are only 30 - 60 seconds long because it's been proven that if they're longer, we will change channels or "tune out." So, if you see the interviewer "tuning out", the only way to bring him or her back is by asking a related question. When you ask someone a question, their mind automatically re-engages in the conversation in order to come up with an answer. So, your pitch must be more conversational than rehearsed, 30-60 seconds, and end with a key question such as "Do you have any friends or connections I should talk to in this job search?"
    • First, ending a well-planned Elevator Pitch with a well-planned question not only allows you to stop talking and open a conversation, it also closes the Elevator Pitch and gets you the contact, referral, or information you want.
    • Second, most interviewers are poor interviewers. They are just people. And, most people would rather talk than listen, would rather express their opinions than ask questions. The interviewer also wants to know if you are interested in the job he has to offer and interested in his company. Therefore, with your STAR structured Elevator Pitch and your STAR structured resume clearly in mind (something the interviewer does not have), you can keep their attention and focus on the interview by asking them "key questions."
    • "Key questions" are those which move the conversation through a process or pre-planned area of concern, or from one intended job related topic to another. Key questions also boost your credibility. Examples include: "Does your company do this?", or "Does the job include this or that task?" or, "Do you use this or that tool?" When you ask a key question, the other person is led to believe you must know about and have some experience and expertise in the task, activity or tool you're asking about.
    • Example: Ask your interviewer "Does your company or your department do gap analysis?" "Do you use "predicted" or "assessed" values to compare to the target or requirement?" And, "to determine your "predicted" values, do you have good historical data or do you use credible reference data?" By asking those "key questions," the interviewer automatically perceives that you have considerable expertise in "gap analysis" and that you understand various ways of doing it. You learn more about their company and how solid they are in gap analysis and they are probably thinking, "we should hire this guy because he knows this stuff." By asking the questions, your credibility has gone up! On the other hand, had you simply spouted off what you know about gap analysis, the interviewer may have taken issue with one of your statements, disagreed, or justified their way of doing it and your credibility (in their eyes) went down. "Key questions" can be more powerful than statements to build your credibility.
  • Once you have your personal elevator pitch, practice it in front of the mirror. If possible, try to video or audiotape yourself, and watch it in fast forward. You'll be amazed at your nervous habits!

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