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 on you?”

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

I include “two minute” 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 in the same.
  • > Ramble on: Long, rambling, high in detail, low in focus, and uncomfortably hazy in end point. 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.
  • > Total recall: A chronological breakdown of one’s work history, often recited bullet-for-bullet from their hard copy resume. One word: redundant.

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. 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.

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 an 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.