Interview Tips: Master Your Elevator Pitch

smile_interviewThe current entrepreneur tech-culture has popularized the elevator pitch. Its usage and importance, however, pervades all aspects of business and serves as a valuable tool for the interviewing process.

An elevator pitch is a concise, well rehearsed summary. An interview may seem the wrong place to rehearse precise answers; it’s not like interviewers disclose interview questions to the applicant. I, however, have identified two elevator pitches useful in almost all traditional interviews.

Background Pitch
Some interviewers may begin an interview with a basic, open-ended question asking for an applicant’s career background. A prepared pitch to quickly and clearly explain your career background is the appropriate response. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Craft a short story around your career progression using school, promotions, and job changes. The right story should depict an increased acquirement of skills and knowledge in your particular field.
  • Explain any unusual gaps or short tenures in your resume. If I don’t know your company went out of business, or that you moved for a family reason, then I may assume the worst.
  • Spend more time on degrees and jobs closer to present time. If you went to graduate school, you should not spend longer on your college degree (I have seen this). Do not over-articulate on a job you held ten years ago.
  • Spend the greatest time on your current position (or degree), however, do not go into too much detail as I will most likely follow-up with more detailed question on your current position.

All in all, the background pitch should take no more than 2 minutes. You want to leave me with a clear understanding of your career background without boring me with too much detail. These first moments are crucial, as they formulate my opinion of you. Generally a good background pitch will correlate to a good interview and vice versa. A general rule of thumb: if an interviewer starts interrupting you with a question then you have gone too long.

Current Position Pitch
An interviewer is most interested in your current position or last full-time position if you are currently unemployed. I may ask a specific question directed at a line of your resume, or a specific experience at your last position.  Regardless of the actual question, an elevator pitch may be appropriate here. Tips are similar to above:

  • Craft a story and explain promotions. Increase detail as you move towards your most recent work.
  • Explain why you began working there. More importantly, explain why you desire a move or what would interest you in a move that your current job does not provide.
  • End your pitch on a recent project or work experience that highlights the job qualities and responsibilities required for the open position. Of all places in these two pitches, precise and specific detail is most suitable here.  But again, I will follow-up with more detailed questions so that you have the opportunity to dig deeper into the examples.

The mastering of these two pitches will not suffice for interview prep, but will give you solid footing to achieve a successful interview. The best elevator pitches, furthermore, will feature appropriate tweaks to address the specifics of the respective job requirements. Good luck in your interviews!

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