• Estimated read time: 7 mins
  • Date posted:28/10/2019
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Searching for a new executive role? Then it’s time to craft an A-grade executive elevator pitch that summarises who you are, what you do and why you’d be a great fit for the role. Essentially, you’re pitching yourself to the hiring manager, proving why you are the best candidate for the position, with the results to prove it.

Coming up with this short introduction about yourself can be difficult to perfect; too long and you risk your audience losing interest, but too short and your talent won’t be able to shine.

What is an elevator pitch?

As the name suggests, an elevator pitch is a concise introduction that can be articulated in the time that it takes to travel multiple floors in an elevator. It’s a short speech designed to explain to a new contact who you are and what you do in a time-pressed or chance meeting scenario, whether that be a job interview or networking event.

As an executive, your elevator pitch should be approximately 30 seconds or less and 45-70 words in total. An elevator pitch is worth practising so that it can be recited in every situation and allows you to make a strong first impression in the mind of the hiring manager.

There are a number of variations of an elevator pitch suitable for different scenarios:

  • Job search elevator pitch: This involves marketing yourself to the hiring manager. This pitch should contain information about your career background, emphasising why you are seeking a new opportunity and what makes you a great fit.
  • Networking elevator pitch: Networking is all about making connections, so this version should contain a mix of professional and personal details to engage on both levels. Your pitch should help you to foster long-term relationships as well as aid your career growth.
  • Professional elevator pitch: A professional elevator pitch is used in situations where you describe your existing organisation, product or idea to a potential client or stakeholder. You should emphasise how you can add value to others who need what you offer.

Why do you need an elevator pitch?

Your elevator pitch should be compelling and memorable, but most importantly, it should underline what makes you unique. If you are seeking executive positions, chances are you are up against the best of the best. An elevator pitch allows you to introduce yourself and deliver your value proposition.

A well-rehearsed elevator pitch can help answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question, which pops up frequently at job interviews and at networking events. This question catches out the majority of job applicants, from entry-level up to experienced executives. Talking about yourself and your achievements can seem daunting and unnatural; what do you mention and how do you discuss your achievements without sounding conceited? A lot of the time, this challenging question can cause candidates to fall into the trap of telling their entire life story, describing childhood and other unrelated issues in long, arduous tangents. What the hiring manager is really asking for is your elevator pitch.

Once you have carefully formed an elevator pitch that you can recite in a succinct manner, it can be translated into the written format to grace your CV summary, pain letter and LinkedIn summary. Of course, it’s important to add some variation in how you use your elevator pitch across job search touchpoints so that you don’t sound too repetitive. For example, the executive summary atop your CV should be written in the third-person, rather than speaking in the first-person as you would do in a face-to-face job interview. The content will stay the same for the most part, but you just need to switch around your personal pronouns.

How should I structure my elevator pitch?

Giving your elevator pitch structure and a hierarchy provides clarity to your thoughts and helps you to avoid rambling on about unimportant details. If your executive elevator pitch is too long, you may lack conviction and your words will fail to impress the hiring manager.

Include these clearly defined sections in the following order:

  • Who you are: State your name, current job title, company or employment status.
  • What you do: Identify your top three talents relevant to the role and express them succinctly.
  • What you are looking for: Describe your passion and commitment to a new role and what kind of employment opportunity you are seeking.

Here are 5 steps to take your elevator pitch to the next level:

1. Identify what you’re looking for: 

Before you do anything else, take a moment to think about what information you want to convey. An elevator pitch that’s rushed might not result in job search success. Decide what it is that you’re looking for in a new role; perhaps you’re unsatisfied with the length of commute in your current position and long for a position a bit closer to home, or you are seeking an opportunity with more responsibilities on a global scale. Try to be as specific as possible so that you can connect with the right people and go after the perfect opportunity for you. Without this information, the hiring manager will be unable to assist you in finding you a new role.

2. Take a red pen to your CV: 

It’s vital that your elevator pitch is as concise as possible, containing only information relevant to the position you are applying for. Start with your CV. If it contains any information that the hiring manager doesn’t need to know, then with a red pen, cross it out. You should aim to be left with 3-5 important points that give a snapshot of your career to date.

Alternatively, put pen to paper and write down the skills, accomplishments and experiences that you would want the hiring manager to know. Then, delete anything that isn’t crucial to your pitch or doesn’t support the message that you’re trying to convey until you’re left with 3-5 points. You can then include these points in the ‘what you do’ section of your elevator pitch.

3. Start writing: 

Once you’re happy with the points that best describe you, you can begin writing. You should aim to write approximately 45-70 words, focusing on your extensive experience, educational background, strengths in your current position and how they qualify you for this new role. Again, you should emphasise what makes you unique, so, for example, if the role you’ve applied for is based out of a foreign country, you could highlight the fact that you’re fluent in two languages.

You should start writing the oral version first, making sure that the language you use reflects how you would speak naturally. Quite often, when we write, our language is more professional and formal than how we communicate verbally. While you want to demonstrate the best version of yourself, you want to remain true to yourself. Rehearse the pitch aloud as you write; if it doesn’t sound like something that you would say, then adjust it until it flows off your tongue freely.

Once you’ve nailed the oral version of your executive elevator pitch, you can adapt this into the written statement for your job search touchpoints, such as your LinkedIn summary.

4. Get feedback: 

The best way to identify issues or mistakes with your elevator pitch is to get feedback from your trusted connections. Share your executive summary with friends, family and trusted members of your network as they might have a better understanding of what makes you tick more than you do. As mentioned earlier, writing about your achievements can seem unnatural; if you’re being too modest, however, your trusted network will be able to tell.

Ideally, deliver the oral version of your elevator pitch in person, so they can hear, see and feel how it comes across. If your pitch doesn’t convince them, then perhaps it’s worth going back to the drawing board and making the appropriate adjustments to perfect your pitch.

5. Polish:

It’s important to rehearse the final version of your elevator pitch until you can perform it confidently without hesitation. It will fall on deaf ears if it doesn’t flow off the tongue effortlessly and convincingly. You could practise in front of a mirror so that you can see your facial expressions and movement, which should help you to grow your confidence when delivering the pitch. During your elevator pitch to the hiring manager, ensure that you maintain direct eye contact at all time, expressing your sincerity and passion. Your aim is to convey that you are an excellent communicator.

In terms of your vocals, try recording yourself delivering your elevator pitch on your phone or computer so that you can hear how you sound aloud. If you’re lacking the required professionalism or you’re struggling to convince even yourself, then keep practising until you’re satisfied. Rehearse until your elevator pitch sounds as natural as saying your name.

Some final points to consider: 

  • Create oral and written variants of your elevator pitch. It can be hard to sound compelling if you simply translate your written statement into the spoken word, as you may sound too much like an infomercial. Your elevator pitch is meant to be authentic, rather than forced, so adapt your written and oral elevator pitches accordingly.
  • Tailor the pitch to your target audience, not you; focus the message on their needs and how you can help to solve their problems.
  • Use benefit-focused terminology so you can convince the interviewer that you possess the skills, experience and drive to deliver in the role.
  • Ditch the industry jargon. Don’t assume the hiring manager understands industry lingo or knows the latest trends and buzzwords. You don’t want to make yourself look smart at the expense of making them feel stupid or uninformed. Instead, keep your message and language as straightforward as possible to avoid bewilderment.
  • Deliver with confidence, making sure that your words aren’t rushed and that you maintain eye contact and smile to make the recipient feel comfortable.
  • If you’re genuinely connecting and conversation is flowing, then don’t be afraid to go off-script. An elevator pitch is there for a reason – to introduce yourself and your value proposition – but it’s only a starting point. Something in your pitch might resonate with the listener, prompting them to interrupt and ask questions; and that’s okay.

Present your highly accomplished elevator pitch to the right person, and you could find yourself riding an elevator to the top of your career.

For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…

* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.