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What is an elevator pitch? Examples and templates for students and jobseekers

At a glance

  • An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is a 30- to 60-second summary of yourself or an idea that you share with a certain audience, typically a boss or interviewer.
  • These pitches are useful for networking and interviewing as well as building an interest around your own ideas.
  • There are three main questions to answer with an elevator pitch: “Who am I?,” “What do I do?” and “What’s my ask?”
  • Career Services at University of Phoenix can help you develop your pitch, as well as other skills to enhance your career.

It’s a fast-moving world out there and getting you and your ideas in front of the right audience can be difficult. It can seem like everyone is short on time and patience. So, making the most of an opportunity becomes more important than ever, particularly in business where being first is often the coveted position.

That's where the elevator pitch comes in. This handy career skillset can help you sell yourself or your ideas in a succinct and interesting way. While that may sound easy, it can take time and training to nail your pitch. If you're looking to improve your salesmanship read on for tips and examples from a University of Phoenix certified career advisor. 

What is an elevator pitch?

The elevator pitch or elevator speech, so named for the average time of a quick elevator ride, is a 30- to 60-second summary of yourself or an idea. You can imagine the scene: An employee pitches a new project to an executive on the first floor then steps into an elevator. And, by the time the elevator has reached the top floor, the executive is interested and convinced of the project’s merit.

That situation in an elevator is potentially unrealistic and specific to the name. But there are a number of scenarios in the business would where an elevator pitch may come in handy. Read on to learn when and where to use yours. 

When and how to use an elevator pitch

Interviews

In an interview, you’ve probably been prompted, “So, tell me a bit about yourself.”

Having a pitch committed to memory, one that you know gets the main points across quickly, can make it easy to deliver your story succinctly and put your best self forward as a candidate.

An elevator pitch can also be part of your resumé, according to University of Phoenix career advisor Ricklyn Woods. Woods often describes the “summary” at the top of a resumé as a written version of your pitch.

“It includes everything except the ask,” she says. “But the thought process is the same and it is usually the part of the resumé that is most difficult for people to write.”

Need help writing an effective resumé? Download our free step-by-step guide.

Networking

While a job fair or a networking event has a captive audience to talk to, they don’t have all day. Potential employers, investors or collaborators can be very important for enhancing your career. That first interaction can be the jumping-off point for a job, a business venture or an invention.

An elevator pitch opens up the dialogue between you and others that can spark interest and leave a positive impression that lingers long after the conversation is over.

Brainstorming

By forcing you to summarize yourself or an idea in a short period of time, a pitch can help you clarify — for yourself and others — the main reasons why you or your idea is worth another’s investment.

Following this line of thinking, an elevator pitch can also reveal potential obstacles or opportunities facing you or your idea. It may spur further inspiration or development of the idea.

How do you write an elevator pitch?

Writing an elevator pitch first starts with having an idea. As Woods stated, approach your pitch similar to how you would write the summary section of a resumé. Remember to keep it short and to the point and only include the most interesting and critical details.

If you still need help, check out our blog article on how to write an effective resume, which includes 5 steps from a certified UOPX career advisor. The article also includes a step-by-step downloadable guide and video covering each step and section of the resume. Click here to read the article. 

When you do sit down to start writing your elevator pitch, there are three main questions you may want to consider, and they are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I do?
  3. What’s my ask?

Now that you know where to start, let’s break down these questions!

Who am I?

There are two ways of thinking about this question, one more literal than another.

It is, in fact, literally important for a potential employer or investor to know who you are. This means introducing yourself in a friendly, professional manner. A handshake, along with a “Hello, my name is” can break the ice and get the conversation started.

It may seem obvious but jumping right into the meat of your pitch won’t be nearly as effective if you don’t take the time to introduce yourself.

The other, less literal way of thinking about this question is to consider the impression you want to leave on the person you’re talking to. They may not remember every detail of your pitch. That being said, getting across the things that motivate you, the things that really define you, can leave a lasting impression.

What do I do?

After introductions, it’s time to convey what you bring to the table. Of course, you won’t have time for the most detailed summary. This is the place, however, where you can get across the work experience and educational background that make you stand out. You’ll have to keep it short and limited to just the experience relevant to the situation, but this is the opportunity to communicate the cold, hard facts about your experience.

It’s also important here to speak about your strengths. Have you succeeded under pressure? Do you have a unique talent that distinguishes you? Including these in your elevator pitch can express the type of candidate, business partner or collaborator you are.

This is also a great opportunity to pose questions to the person you’re speaking with. It helps carry the conversation along, and their answers can give you an opportunity to relate your experience back to theirs.

For example, you can ask a potential employer about where they see their company growing in the next few years. They might mention that they are looking to get more aggressive with their marketing strategy. This would be a great opportunity to relate your marketing experience and any examples of your work.

This information can help a potential employer see what you’re bringing to the table as it relates to their specific needs.  

What's my ask?

There are a few reasons to develop an elevator pitch. You may want to be ready to impress recruiters at a job fair. You may just be looking to share a business card. Regardless, the point of your pitch is to persuade someone to consider you for that internship, business meeting or opportunity.

This is your ask, and it will determine many aspects of how you present yourself in an elevator pitch. You’ll need to demonstrate the value you plan to bring to whatever position or opportunity you’re pitching for. This is why it’s so important to get what you do across, so that you can align your experiences with the opportunity in front of you.

Consider what you can uniquely bring to the table. Center what makes you or your idea distinct from others. Especially when it comes to very competitive positions, you’ll need to demonstrate your specific value compared to other candidates. Successfully doing so can mean you nail that dream job, get funding for your project or build a connection that can help you in your career.

Finally, be direct about your ask. This doesn’t have to be a huge deal; it might just be a request for a follow-up. They may say yes. They may say no. Regardless, it’s important to be clear and direct. There should be no doubt by the end of your pitch as to what you want to do moving forward.

What to avoid in an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a great opportunity to sell yourself or your idea. Some things, however, can sink your pitch. Here are a few:

  • ·Talking too fast
  • Getting off topic
  • Wasting time on unrelated subjects
  • Trying to sound “smart” rather than being direct

In addition, it’s important to not get lost in the details while delivering your pitch. You have limited time, and though your idea may be complex, it’s crucial to clarify the main points and stick to them. If you do this right, you’ll have plenty of time to dive into those details in a later conversation.

Looking for more resources to help you on your job search? University of Phoenix Career Services offers one-on-one coaching, sample resumés and more!

Elevator pitch examples

Sometimes, the best way to learn is by example. Here are a few helpful examples of how to deliver pitches that can help you craft yours!

Elevator pitch examples for students

Here’s a scenario in which a student is seeking an internship with a potential employer:

“Hello! Nice to meet you. My name is Michelle. I’m a student at University of Phoenix, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. In that time, I’ve developed the groundwork for my dream of running a business. That includes everything from communication and leadership skills to the nitty-gritty of management and finance. That said, I have a lot to learn and would appreciate the opportunity to explore internship opportunities at your company so I can further develop those skills. Here’s my card!”

Elevator pitch examples for a job interview

“Hi, my name is Patrick, and I’m really excited to be speaking with you today about the position. A little bit about me: I graduated in 2019 with a degree in health administration. That degree prepared me with many of the management, leadership and financial skills I’ve used in my post-college work. That includes two years at a local hospital, where I helped manage patient records and ensured quality healthcare administration. That was a great experience, but I’m looking to grow more in this field. That’s why I’m excited to talk with you today about this position. Can you tell me a bit more about what you’re looking for in a potential candidate?”

Now you should have a solid understanding of the definition of an elevator pitch and how a pitch about yourself can help you achieve your goals.

Not sure what your career goals are? You can find out what employers are likely to be looking for in years to come. Check out our post on the top five growing fields!.