Freshman year, I heard there was this thing called a career fair with a bunch of companies that I wanted to work at (/s but I had never been to one actually looking for a job). Waiting in line in the hot sun or virtually can take forever just to get to talk to the company recruiter, but then what? What do you say? What do you want them to know? Why should they choose you out of the potentially hundreds of other people they’re going to meet today? When I first thought about this I drew a blank, but I learned how to make a solid and informative elevator pitch for myself.

What is the Elevator: In essence, a 30-second to 1-minute overview of who you are, your relevant experience, what your goals are/why you think you’re a fit for the company. It seems ambitious (and it took me multiple tries to get a halfway decent one) but it makes all the difference.

Freshman year at the Viterbi Career Expo (featuring my super long hair!)

The Intro

This is the first thing you say to the recruiter. It can be after saying good morning/how are you but it’s the bare-bones description of who you are. I include my name, major (and minor for those adventurous folks), year, and what position I’m looking for. It looks something like:

I’m Cameron Cole. I’m a sophomore studying Computer Science and Business Administration and I’m really interested in Microsoft’s software engineering intern positions for this summer.

Work Experience

Usually, the next thing you get asked is “tell me about yourself.” It’s such a broad question and it’s so easy to ramble on, but talking about your interests and experiences is a good way I’ve found to stay on topic. For me it’s something like:

I recently switched my major from mechanical engineering to CS and business because I really had a passion for engineering solutions to exciting problems using computers and data. During my time at Chevron, I worked on data analysis of hundreds of oil wells to predict future production trends and developed better methods to determine which sites would best suit their production needs.

(this part gets somewhat wordy but it’s dense so most recruiters know it’s coming)

Relate It to the Company

The last and most important part is linking your goals with the company. If someone were to ask you “why do you want to work for this company?” there should be a unique answer rather than just thinking that you want any on (admittedly it’s true but we can do better). This is where you show that you’ve done a bit of research on the company. Talk about a project they’ve done or a new endeavor they have that excites you that’s related to the position you’re applying to. Most people don’t research the company at all so it’s a real leg up and makes you seem like a better fit for their company since you’re showing how you can add value. For me, it took the form of:
I’m passionate about using technology to change how we interact in the world, so Microsoft’s E+D department that works with new emerging hardware devices like Surface Duo, Neo, and Hololense really interests me.

Overall

As you think about how you want to make your elevator pitch, there are two things to keep in mind

  • Make it as interesting as you want. Recruiters are people too so it’s cool to show some personality
  • It’s ok to “go off script” since it’s pretty obvious when lines are rehearsed. Go with what feels right and trust your gut.

Elevator pitches are always a work in progress. I’m still finding which one works best for me and how I can improve it, but just having the basics is a great start to hopefully make a great impression on the recruiter to get an interview or even an offer!

Cameron Cole

Cameron Cole

MAJOR: Computer Science/Business Administration YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @cxjcole On campus, I've been involved with USC's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and our Formula SAE race car design team. Outside of Viterbi I'm a member of the USC Global Investing Society.

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