The secrets of a good elevator pitch

Ana Herranz. Director Careers Services. Alumni. IE Business School

23 June 2014

How do you get a business angel interested in your project in the time it takes to complete the average elevator ride? Here you have the keys to getting it right.

One of the resources that you can and should use to obtain new job opportunities is a well-prepared description designed to sell yourself, otherwise known as an elevator pitch.

The term emerged during the startup boom in Silicon Valley, where securing funding was key, and people had to leverage every opportunity they could to sell their idea. Hence, if you found yourself in an elevator with a business angel, for example, you had to convey your idea quickly and effectively in such a way that the potential investor would be willing to continue the conversation in more detail.

The idea has now been extended to the search for job opportunities. So how do you, quickly and effectively, make a possible recruiter listen to you?

Effectiveness depends basically on the content of your pitch being of interest to the listener. Either you tell them something interesting or they are not going to waste their time on you. This seems obvious but the reality is that not many people actually do that.

What are the key features of a good pitch when you are seeking to secure a job? We could say that there are four: Brevity, clarityfocus and uniqueness.

The first two are related to the format, and the last two are related to content. You have to keep it brief, it must not last more than a minute, with 30 seconds as the optimum length. You have to be capable of conveying your value in a clear and direct way, and then you have to have focus and uniqueness to capture someone’s interest.  

The focus of your message should depend on the extent to which you understand the problem that the listener needs to address, and you should pitch your message as the solution to the problem he or she has. By uniqueness I mean that you have to create a personalized message that reflects your personality, what you are about, what makes you different, and it must not sound like something you have copied from somewhere.

By way of example, imagine you are seeking opportunities in sales or business development. The pitch could go something like this: “I’ve been working for five years and I’m passionate about finding arguments that succeed in persuading my clients that my product is the best and will achieve excellent sales results. I’ve known and used your product since I was a child and am a loyal customer. I’d like to convince everyone who doesn’t know it yet how good it is.”

In a very concise way, you are saying that not only do you have sales skills and a capacity for persuasion, but also that you love to sell and are passionate about your listener’s product.  

Companies are looking for people who are not only good, but who are also motivated. But the difficult thing is not reeling off the pitch, but rather in having a clear idea of your value proposal and the solution you can offer to the listener. The first step of your career development strategy should therefore be to think about your strengths, and identify the problems that you can help organizations solve. 

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