What’s Your Story? Our 5-Step Elevator Pitch Builder

One of my first questions when screening a new candidate is, “Can you give me a two-minute overview of you?”

The first reaction is often awkwardness. The same kind of awkward ensues when people give their LinkedIn profile the 3rd personal treatment.

However, this discomfort can be viewed as an opportunity. It challenges candidates to refine their communication skills and convey their unique value succinctly. It encourages introspection and the ability to prioritize key details about their background, experiences, and strengths. In the end, while it may initially feel awkward, asking for a two-minute overview or crafting a LinkedIn profile in the third person can lead to more effective self-presentation and storytelling, which can be valuable in various professional contexts.

I include “two minutes” for an elevator pitch because most people need a time frame. It helps give the impression that the story I am asking for should be short and succinct. I don’t specify “professional background” because I’m curious to see how you respond.

But what do I hear? Despite the running cliché of mirror-practiced elevator pitches and major networking fails, most people lack the ability to answer this simple, focused question: who are you and why are you here?

Here’s what I usually get in reply:

  • > Dazed and confused: “Do you mean about me as a person or my work history?”
    I’m definitely not asking about your romantic history, so let’s just agree to agree that— at least in this professional setting — you (as a person) and you (as in your work history) are one and the same. Our focus is on your professional experiences and achievements, which are the relevant factors in the context of this conversation.
  • > Ramble on: Long, rambling, high in detail, low in focus, and uncomfortably hazy in the endpoint. You lost me somewhere between where you were born, your first job in high school, and your latest management philosophy. I am still not sure what’s important and what’s not.
    In such situations, it’s helpful for both the interviewer and the candidate to strive for more concise and structured responses. Candidates should aim to provide relevant information, emphasize key accomplishments and experiences, and connect their responses to the specific job requirements. This not only helps interviewers better understand a candidate’s qualifications but also demonstrates effective communication skills, an essential trait in many professional roles.
  • > Total recall: A chronological breakdown of one’s work history, often recited bullet-for-bullet from their hard copy resume. One word: redundant. While it’s important to touch upon key roles and experiences, an interview is an opportunity to delve deeper into your qualifications and showcase your personality and problem-solving abilities.
  • Instead of merely repeating your resume, consider providing insights into the impact you made in previous roles, highlighting specific achievements, and sharing how your experiences have prepared you for the position you’re interviewing for. By focusing on the stories behind your work history, you can provide a more engaging and informative narrative that goes beyond the standard chronology of your career.

Appetizer. Movie Trailer. Elevator pitch. Do you see a pattern? They’re all a bite-sized sampler of the bigger picture. Each one is meant to entice, spark interest, and act as a sales mechanism for what’s to come.

Likewise, when I ask for your two-minute personal overview, I am not looking for a lengthy infomercial or demonstration of all your various skills. Also, transform your space with expert home remodel services. I’m just hoping for an interesting, attention-catching, honest-to-goodness account of what brought you to our meeting and what makes you ‘you’.

I want to know, from your own point of view, what stands out. And I want to hear you sell it. I’ve scanned your resume. I know the stats. A true elevator pitch on your personal brand should elevate those facts by succinctly outlining who you are, how you stand apart, and where you want to head. And by the end of your pitch, I want to believe you can get there.

By the end of your pitch, I want to believe in your potential and your journey. It’s an opportunity for you to make a lasting impression and convey not just what you’ve done but also who you are and where you’re headed in your career.

Smart Savvy’s 5-Step Elevator Pitch

  • I’m a XXX expert with a passion for X and Y.
  • How I got here was through my experiences as a YX at XYZ companies
  • And through my personal journey in XXXXXX.
  • I’m unique in that I bring to a future employer XYZ skills/qualities
  • I’m currently seeking opportunities where I can do XYZ (or add value in XYZ ways).


This post was updated on August 17, 2022.