Image by SIMON LEE
  • antoniodellomo

Giving the elevator pitch for your UXR case study

If you’re applying to jobs, you probably already have an elevator pitch.

They go like this: imagine you only had 30 seconds with the hiring manager to make a case for yourself. Now’s not the time to tell your life story, or to detail every twist and turn of your career journey. Instead, your goal is to quickly establish where you can provide value and why.


When it comes to your portfolio, this mental model applies every bit as much.

Most case studies are too long

The sad fact is that most case studies I’ve reviewed take the opposite approach. They assume that hiring managers have the time and interest to read several detailed narratives for each candidate. Or worse, they were written as a disembodied report with little thought for the audience that would consume it.


Here’s the truth: many portfolios won’t get looked at. If they do, they’ll get only a few seconds. Hiring managers are looking at dozens, if not hundreds, of applications. They use mental heuristics and filters to make quick judgments. And if your case study doesn’t grab them right away, you’ve lost them.


Later on, in an interview, you may have a chance to speak to each case study and go deeper on the findings. But until you get there, think of your portfolio as a presentation aid. You might even consider doing what many other researchers do, and build it in slide deck format. And, no different from a slide deck, it should be both minimal and self-contained.


Identify the problem

First, you need to set the stage. Where did this project come from? At what stage did you enter the picture?


Make it crystal clear what problem you came in to help solve. Who were your stakeholders (if applicable), and what were their goals? For product teams, this might be a business initiative or KPI. If you’re working with a non-profit, this might be increasing visits, donations, or volunteers. If there were lots of potential problems to tackle, how did you choose one to focus on?


Make it concrete. What would have been the cost of not fixing it? If possible, put a number to the opportunity to save or make money.


Now put it together. A few examples:

  • The Snöber team wants to create a snow removal solution, but needs to understand how people approach this problem today. They estimate a total addressable market (TAM) of $840 million.

  • I reached out the SPCA ahead of their annual fundraising drive. Switching to a remote gala during the pandemic had significantly cut down donations.


Define the approach

Hiring managers want to know if you can apply the right method to a problem. So which methodology did you choose? If you collected data from participants, how many — and how did you select that sample size?


Provide some context to defend the decision you made or at the very least imply your reasoning. Indeed, you may be leaving a lot of details out, or even skipping over other phases of the project. That’s okay. The point is to help your audience focus on the 10,000-foot view before zooming in.


Now put it together. Continuing our examples:

  • We conducted 15 user interviews with participants matching one of three profiles: commercial property managers, home owners, and renters.

  • We tested the site’s main donation flow with 10 current and prospective donors.


Share the solution

Last, let’s talk about your impact. Whatever your background, education, or experiences, hiring managers are wondering: what can you do for our team?


Focus on presenting the insight itself. This can be phrased in a way that hints at the method: “Most participants interviewed said…” or “84% of survey participants indicated…”

Connect this to a recommendation or possible implementation, whether a design change or prototype that someone on the team made. Then, if possible, translate the value of that finding in money earned or saved. Don’t fret if the stakeholders or product team decided to go in a different direction. The key is to describe what the end result of implementing your solution would have been.


Now put it together. Concluding our examples:

  • We found that 1 in 5 people who invest time or money in snow removal end up hiring a professional. If the team can convert 25% of these people with faster, more convenient, and more reliable service, they’ll be on track to realize $42 million in revenue.

  • We recommended removing several unnecessary steps in the donation flow, including one that led 30% of participants to accidentally give to a sister organization. With these improvements in place, we expect 15% more donations over the next year: up to $450,000 based on 2021’s budget.


Put your elevator pitch together

Assemble all the elements, and you’ll end up with an elevator pitch like this case study for a Snöber, a hypothetical snow removal startup:


  • The problem: The startup team wants to create a snow removal solution, but needs to understand how people approach this problem today. They estimate a total addressable market (TAM) of $840 million.

  • Our approach: We conducted 15 user interviews with participants matching one of three profiles: commercial property managers, home owners, and renters.

  • We found that 1 in 5 people who invest time or money in snow removal end up hiring a professional.

  • The impact: If the team can convert 25% of these people with faster, more convenient, and more reliable service, they’ll be on track to see $42 million in revenue.


Next, rehearse it until it’s second nature. Be prepared to share when asked for a story about a project you’ve done. Create accompanying visuals for your portfolio. Then, when you have their attention and interest in an interview, you can go into all the rich details.





Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash