Take a Ride in the Elevator Before You Interview

by Safani, Barbara Thursday, May 13, 2010
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Everyone needs an elevator pitch which is a quick overview of who you are and the value you can bring to an organization. This overview of your competencies was coined the elevator pitch because the message should be succinct enough to deliver to an important decision maker if you had the chance to ride up in an elevator with him or her.

The elevator pitch is also the perfect response to many interview questions including:

Tell me about yourself.

Walk me through your background.

Why should I hire you?

What can you do that the other 50 candidates cannot?


A strategically crafted elevator pitch will help you answer any of these questions. You should always be ready to deliver your elevator pitch in an exciting and memorable way. Ultimately, you want to be able to recite a message that is clear, targeted, and easy for anyone to understand. When the pitch is presented in this way, you are more likely to create an advocate for your candidacy who can refer your qualifications on to the next appropriate person in the hiring chain. Below are the five key components of an effective elevator pitch.

Create a professional identity.

Select an identity that best relates to your past experiences or future career direction. For some, professional identity is clear cut. For others it is harder to label. If your identity doesn’t exactly match a known profession, create an overall statement of the value you bring to an organization.

Showcase three strengths.

Highlight three areas of competency that show your value add and differentiate you from the competition. Chose traits that can easily be coupled with examples of how you have helped the organizations you have supported make money, save money, save time, maintain the business, or grow the business. For example, being proficient in Microsoft Project can position a project manager as a candidate that gets the job done expeditiously and in turn saves time, money, and resources.

Use accomplishment-focused, metrics-driven examples to support your strengths.

Just like the resume, the pitch must include proof that you have successfully completed job relevant tasks. A good strategy is to marry a strength with a specific example to prove that you are accomplished at what you do. Quantify accomplishments using numbers, percentages, and dollars whenever possible.

Discuss your background as it relates to the target function or industry.

Draw on your past experiences from several positions to solidify the scope of your skill set, show career progression, and build the business case for your candidacy. Also include relevant education such as a job-related or advanced degree, industry certifications, advanced technologies, or leadership roles within a professional organization to showcase the diversity of your experiences and position you as a unique contributor.

Make a match between your experience and the skills needed for a particular job function or industry.

Bring the conversation full circle by relating your traits back to the needs of the employer or the needs of a particular industry. By doing so you prove relevancy and demonstrate why your skills are a good fit for a certain type of position.

Try to craft one pitch that is under a minute and another that is more like a quick tagline. After all, you never know if your decision maker is taking a ride up to the 50th floor or the 5th floor.