Tips from expert recruiters: the best elevator pitch and how much time to spend networking

Posted August 28, 2017 by


Networking is part of the job search, like it or not. For entry level job seekers, it’s important to practice a simple introduction that lets people know who you are and who you want to be, so they know how to help you. I met with two recruiting experts who gave their advice for the best elevator pitch, and plenty more tips for students and grads to network and build their personal brand.

Toni Newborn, J.D., is the Diversity and Consulting Services Manager at the City of Saint Paul; and Jeff Dunn is the Campus Relations Manager at Intel. Newborn and Dunn are part of College Recruiter’s Panel of Experts.

Watch our discussion here, or read the takeaways in the blog below:

Also read: Part 1 of our conversation: How to understand networking and personal branding, where to start, and a formula for informational interviews. 

What are some visuals that help job seekers understand how to network and build a personal brand?

Jeff Dunn likes to think of a wheel. “You are at the center of the wheel and there are spokes going out to all of your connections. If you imagine that there are 20 spokes on the wheel, you have 20 connections and they all have 20 connections. That means that in your second level of connections you already have 400 people that you can reach out to.” You can reach out with your resume, you can ask for job opportunities or salary information.

To network, think of the people you know as circlesToni Newborn thinks of circles too, but in three layers.  First, she says, you have your innermost circle, a middle circle and an outer circle. Your innermost circle has people who are closest to you—your close friends and family. In your outer circle you have friends of friends. In the middle you probably have your mentors, colleagues or other associates.

With these three circles, the key to networking is to recognize the difference in your approach. What you ask them depends on the closeness of your relationship with them.


Just how much time should you be spending on networking and job searching?

“10 hours a week is a good goal,” says Dunn. And some of that time needs to be off screen. “Go to events where professionals meet. Don’t rely on online connections only.”

Looking for a job can easily become a full-time job, and when you factor in all the work you’ll be doing researching companies and applying, those hours add up fast. “You’re going to be preparing for interviews,” adds Dunn. “You’re going to be deciding where you want to reach out at networking events. On nights and weekends, you’re going to be planning and updating your resume and things like that. During business hours on Monday through Friday, you want to go out and talk to people face to face. Take them out for coffee, do informational interviews, give them your story. Because the more you can connect with people, the more you’ll hear about opportunities.”

That’s right. Finding a job you love doesn’t require just a couple of hours of browsing the Internet here and there. Dunn says to think of it like a campaign. Focus and prioritize, he says.

Networking doesn’t have to be a drain, though. Newborn points out that events often have free food. When she was in Law school, Newborn remembers going to events “so I could eat without having to spend money, and it was an opportunity for me to just meet with people.” Eating and drinking together makes it easier. At an event like that, “people are relaxed and genuinely happy.” However, Newborn stresses that you make a plan before you arrive, so you know who you want to meet and something about them or their organization.

TIP: Not sure whether to apply for that job? Look closely at the job description. Even if your previous experience doesn’t match 100%, don’t underestimate your skills in communication, problem solving, or critical thinking. College Recruiter features thousands of entry-level jobs. Start comparing job descriptions!

Best elevator pitch

The way Newborn breaks it down make an elevator pitch seem like a mini class paper. Follow this formula, she says:


Main topic


Easy, right?

Practice your elevator pitch so it rolls off naturallyDunn offers an example: “My name is Kerry, I am a Junior CS major, seeking a Software Engineering Internship. I have taken multiple programming classes and have been a class project team lead. I would appreciate learning about openings at your firm.”

The more specific you can be about what you’re looking for, the better. If you can tell a quick and concise story that is interesting—something you accomplished recently in a class or work, for example—and then conclude with what exactly you hope this person can do for you. (For example, getting your resume to a person or letting you hear about job opportunities.)

Memorize that sort of structure as a starting point, says Dunn, then of course the recruiter–or whoever you’re speaking to–will ask you questions to continue the conversation. “At least you’ve stated who you are, what you’re looking for, and something interesting about yourself.”

One important point is to practice this elevator pitch. If you don’t practice it out loud before meeting someone, it won’t come off as natural.

This structure works really well when you’re meeting with recruiters. Newborn reminds students that you should adjust your elevator pitch depending on how well you know someone (think of the concentric circles she mentioned). You can do research into someone to find able to find something in common. It’s okay to say that you looked at their LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed and saw that they, for example, are an avid runner. “Even if it’s not something that that you can relate to,” says Newborn, ask them about it. This makes your conversation  more memorable and making yourself of interest.

“People love talking about themselves,” says Newborn. Find a point of commonality with the person and then move on to what you’re interested in.

After you meet a new connection, don’t forget to follow up. “If the CEO gives you their business card or tells you to connect with them on LinkedIn, make sure you do that.” That way, you stay at the top of their mind and their experience with you is at the top of mind. You can also send a quick email to thank them for the conversation, pointing out that common interest you had. That way, “they will associate you with their interests.”

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