The Elevator Pitch: Why every international student (and professional) should craft one

“Your elevator pitch can be your answer when someone asks, “How do you plan on adjusting to a foreign company’s work culture?”

Whether applying to a company for an internship or a first job, an elevator pitch is that company’s first impression of your ability to fill a space in that organisation. This can even happen when visiting representatives at a college’s career fair or when answering the infamous first question, “Tell us about yourself.”

What is an elevator pitch? 

An elevator pitch, also known as an elevator speech, got its name from the amount of time you may spend with another individual in an elevator. On average, elevator rides last about 30 seconds or less. With your elevator pitch, you have that long to persuade someone before one of you walks off the elevator.

Think of it as the verbal version of a book summary. A book summary can be read in less than a minute and is meant to entice a person to read the entire book. In this sense, you have about 30 seconds to persuade someone to hire you or at least offer you an interview.

Why is it useful?

Even when you’re not at a career fair or in an interview, this answer could travel through your personal network to open opportunities you might not have been aware existed.

Your elevator pitch can be your answer when someone asks, “How do you plan on adjusting to a foreign company’s work culture?”

How does an international student craft his or her pitch?

When it comes to crafting an elevator pitch, there are certain things that should be included. You should reflect on their academic journey as well as your international experience when deciding what points to include in your pitch.

  • What skills did I develop most during my academic career?
  • What are the professional strengths I can bring to a company?
  • What cultural differences did I adjust to when I came to the US?
  • How can my worldly perspective make me an asset to a company?
  • What experiences (work history, internships, projects, etc.) make me stand out amongst other candidates?
  • How does my college experience play into the bigger picture with my long-term goals?

Delivering your pitch is equally as important as crafting it when it comes to overall perfection. Here are some tips to achieve an outstanding pitch delivery.

  • Write multiple pitches: Writing multiple pitches can help in the creative process of pitch delivery. Say each draft out loud a couple of times to iron out any accent or language trouble.
  • Rewrite. After you’ve decided the words you’re most comfortable saying, combine them to see if it all flows together well. You want your English to flow well so your guest can clearly understand the message.
  • Time yourself. Pitches average about 30 seconds so you should be able to deliver your pitch in this time frame at a normal talking speed. Go back to the rewriting step to shorten your pitch if you must.
  • Have a list of points. Rather than worry about memorizing your pitch verbatim, make a list to refer to when preparing. A memorized pitched may sound robotic and not envelop the passion you have for your goal.

Example Pitch

Here’s an example pitch to get students started.

“I decided to become an engineering major because the water in my hometown in China is of poor quality. I took chemistry courses to better learn about water as a chemical compound and how to treat it. For a project, I designed a portable water purifier that helped me win a grant to continue perfecting the device. I hope to use this product to launch a non-profit organization that allows me to introduce the purifier to my hometown and other areas with poor water quality.”

About the Author: Jason is the founder of Transizion, a college admissions and mentorship company that provides boot camps and tutoring on college applications, college essays, AP exams, academic subjects, and SAT prep.