Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch

A good elevator pitch is vital to help you make a good first impression. Here’s how you can do it.
The gradsingapore Team

Meeting someone new – at interviews, networking sessions, or any other occasions – almost always invites questions along a similar line: “So what do you do?”, “Tell us a bit about yourself”, and maybe even “What’s your background like?”.

With only less than 30 seconds to make the world’s best impression, what exactly should you say in order to promote yourself effectively to the other party?

An elevator pitch exists precisely for such an occasion. Also commonly referred to as a personal pitch, an elevator pitch is a condensed overview of yourself and your background.

In formal events such as interviews and career fairs, having an elevator pitch prepared can be immensely effective, because it presents you as a focused candidate and lets you outline how you can specifically meet recruiters’ requirements.

60 seconds to change your fortunes

The term “elevator pitch” plays on the idea of you bumping into an influential person within an elevator. You’ll need to effectively promote yourself to them in the limited amount of time that it takes to arrive at their floor… and possibly be invited to a second meeting!

A good elevator pitch rarely exceeds 60 seconds – and in some cases, maybe even as limited as 30 seconds. It should be concise enough that you shouldn’t have to rush your way through just so you can cram more words in.

What this means is that you’ll have to be exceptionally selective with the information that you want to include, and it has to be simple and “bite-sized” enough that your listener can digest the details quickly.

This isn’t a sales pitch of yourself and your achievements, but about how your skills can contribute to the recruiting company. Be sure to take time to tailor your response according to the needs of the company instead of just formulating a one-size-fits-all pitch.

Some recruiters may even include this practice as a part of an assessment centre, and you’ll have to be more detailed and rigorous then – a 5-minute impromptu introduction is the most common format.

How to sum yourself up

You’d think that this would be a no-brainer because it’s all about you, and who knows you better than yourself, right? Not quite. You’d be surprised at how often candidates falter when thrust into the limelight and asked to talk about themselves.

Let’s start with this: When recruiters say “tell us about yourself”, they don’t want to hear about your hobbies, your first major fight with your family because of your ambition, or your favourite food(s). Rather, what they want to hear is a quick recap of your academic and work experience, as well as your reason for applying to them.

That said, avoid meshing all your points into a vague statement that doesn’t display your individuality. Don’t just go with the trite “I studied at X University in Y course, and did my internship in Z Company”.

Bring up a few choice experiences or anecdotes – whether professional or personal – that will only tell your listener more about you and your professional skills and interests. 

It is crucial to pick a theme for your pitch. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in corporate sales, then your theme should revolve around customer-facing and communication abilities.

Talk about your intent to apply for a corporate sales role, why you’re interested in this position, and the past experiences you’ve had that make you a shoo-in for this kind of job.

Be brief about your pitch, but not too flippant. You’re not trying to tell your listener everything about yourself in 60 seconds – you’re setting the stage to pique their interest. Save talk about your awesome skills for a later conversation.

As a general rule, spend about 75% of the pitch for the introduction of your education and work experience, and divide it proportionately between the two of them.

To end your pitch, focus on your call to action. Emphasise your goals and be clear about what you’re aiming for and can offer in return. This implies a forward-looking and a clear-minded attitude.

Practice your pitch

A big part of a successful elevator pitch is attributed to the amount of practice that you put into it. A good candidate will make it a point to practise until he or she can articulate their pitch without stammering or hesitating.

Find yourself a willing volunteer and practise your pitch on them. Ask them to point out if you sound awkward or nervous, as well as how you can improve on it.

Are you forgetting any key achievements or talking points? Should you put more emphasis on another skill set instead of the ones that you’re currently highlighting?

Practise your elevator pitch to the point that you sound natural instead of rehearsed. Make sure that if the situation calls for it, you can improvise without forgetting your lines.

In short, here are some key elements of a successful elevator pitch:

  • Keep it brief, but detailed enough to be a teaser
  • Be clear about who you are and what you’re looking for
  • Be natural
  • No gimmicks or clichés
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
  • Adapt it according to your audience and occasion