Job Search, Networking

Pitch Perfect

Professionals of Color Networking Reception

By Laura Quaglio

Crafting an elevator pitch that showcases your value in 60 seconds flat.

Some say that the elevator pitch originated in Hollywood, when screenwriters tried to sell studio execs on an idea during a quick ride between floors. Today, with American attention spans on the decline, it’s as important as ever to deliver an important message fast.

As a human resources manager for Bloomingdale’s, Rutgers alumna Sabira Mahmood SMLR’16 knows a thing or two about the subject. Her advice? “It’s important to have a standard elevator pitch ready at any point,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to speak about your work experiences off the cuff.” You might strike up a random conversation that could lead to a job interview, she explains. But that’s not likely to happen if you have to fumble to explain what you do.

Here, Mahmood shares some more insights to help you perfect your pitch:

Hit the bullet points

“When I am interviewing someone, I go over the résumé beforehand, pulling out specific things that really speak to me,” she says. Identifying the key points of your work history is also a good starting point for crafting your pitch. (This may also help identify which résumé items to keep or delete.)

Customize your message

“You want to cater your pitch to the job you’re applying for,” she says. In addition to focusing on items that relate to the work, talk about why you want to work for the company.” One example: “I really like how Bloomingdale’s is dedicated to providing exclusive merchandise to customers, and I would like to be a part of delivering that experience.”

Keep it professional

When asked what words to omit, Mahmood says “cursing is a big no,” as are “vocalized pauses” (e.g., “um” and “like”).

Make it all about you

Mahmood also doesn’t like to hear the word “we.” While she says it’s fine to mention what your “team” does, she really wants to know about your role. “I want to know specifically what you did to think outside the box,” she says. “Because I’m looking to see specifically how you can help this organization.”

Practice, practice, practice

Mahmood suggests keeping the pitch to a minute or so, which is possible only with practice. Time yourself and keep practicing until you can recite it clearly, succinctly, and confidently. Then test it out on a friend who doesn’t know your work history. “I don’t know what your day to day looks like,” Mahmood says. “I want people to really break it down for me as someone who has never been in the organization.”


“This is the first time that someone is really hearing you speak,” she notes. “I think that being really prepared shows a bit of eloquence.” Whether you’re giving your pitch at a networking event, to a potential mentor, or at the beginning of a job interview, think of what you’re saying as the beginning of a conversation, not as a rehearsed speech.

Topics to Hit in your Elevator Pitch

  • Introduce yourself using your full name and good manners (e.g., smile, shake hands).
  • Show your Rutgers pride! Say where you went to school and the degree(s) earned.
  • Hit on relevant skills, strengths, and work experience.
  • Mention why you love the company and what you would bring to the job.
  • Keep the conversation going with a question (e.g., Can I schedule a follow-up call with you for next week to discuss opportunities?).