What is an elevator pitch?

A personal elevator pitch is a quick summary of yourself. It is named for the amount of time it should take to deliver it—the duration of a short elevator ride (roughly 30 to 60 seconds or 75 words). Elevator pitches are sometimes thought to be specific to an idea or a product, but you can also use it to market yourself as a professional.

Why are they important?

A good elevator pitch is important because it is an effective way to demonstrate your professional aptitude, strengths and skills. If possible, you should always have some talking points about yourself prepared (so you are ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunities), but an elevator pitch is particularly helpful during a job search. The elevator pitch can be a good framework as you are planning your answer to the popular interview question “tell me about yourself”.

A polished elevator pitch is useful at career fairs where your time to interact with employers is often limited to just a few minutes. In this instance, use your pitch to quickly make a good first impression and stand out from other candidates. When you introduce yourself to an employer at a career fair, lead with your elevator pitch but try not to jump into it immediately. First, exchange names and greetings, then the employer will likely reply with, “Tell me about yourself.” If they do not, then you could say, “I would love to tell you about myself—would that be ok?” Then begin your pitch.

How to write and deliver an elevator pitch:

Your elevator pitch should answer the following questions:
  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What do you want?

1. Start by introducing yourself

As you approach someone to pitch to at an event, interview or anything in between, start off with an introduction. Start your pitch by giving your full name, smile, and add a pleasantry like, “It is nice to meet you!”

2. Summarize what you do

This is where you will give a brief summary of your background. Include the most relevant information such as your education, work experience and/or any key specialties or strengths.

3. Explain what you want

This step will depend on how you are using the pitch. The “ask” of your pitch could be a consideration for a job opportunity, internship, or simply to get contact information. This is a good opportunity to explain the value you will bring, why you are a good fit for a job, or generally what your audience has to gain from your interaction.

4. Finish with a “call to action”

You should end your elevator pitch by stating what you would like to happen next. Examples can include asking for a meeting, expressing interest in a job, or asking someone to be your mentor.

If they agree to your request, be sure to thank them for their time and get their contact information. End the conversation with a concise and action-oriented farewell, such as, “Thank you for your time, I will send you a follow-up email tonight. If they do not agree to your request, gracefully end the conversation with a polite, “I understand, thank you for your time! If it is all right, I will send you a follow-up email and see if there might be a better time for us to connect.”