I’m posting about the entire process one has to endure to find themselves in the world of employment. Whether it be forging a new career, starting on a new venture, or just a job to tide you over, we must all try to sell ourselves! I, like most, often find this a particularly tricky issue despite being able to do this for others so easily. Having had some experience with creative CV writing for others with success, I understand the basics of what is required to grab the attention of employers and make a job application really stand out. However, when it comes to me, I often struggle to think of a single USP on the spot, despite having several filed away in there somewhere . . .
This begs the question:
“How can I sell myself successfully?”
For that is essentially what we have to do. We need to make it transparent to a potential employer why they should hire us and not someone else. What we have, that no one else does, has to be displayed like a Peacock to grab their attention. For those of you like myself; reserved, quiet, introverted, anxious, this does not come naturally! For most it is quite unnatural to think of ourselves as being better than others, in fact, quite often, it is the exact opposite. This means that sometimes the more modest of us lose out to our more flamboyant competitors.
I believe that clear and transparent communication is the key. Quite often, how we perceive what we are communicating to others is quite different from what they actually hear. It is natural to think that your interviewer knows more than you do, after all, if they are your superior, surely they must do to be hiring you? I have learned that this assumption is not always the case. Always explain fully how you demonstrate a key skill or USP through an example in detail and why it is relevant.
I’m discussing feedback for an unsuccessful interview (it happens to us all from time-to-time); the interview feedback was positive and the reason the candidate was not offered the position was because there was another candidate who had several years more experience (not much can be done about that). Constructive criticism given post-interview, was that they did not give specific enough examples when answering questions about how to demonstrate necessary skills and experience. They had rehearsed their responses and were sure they had linked relevant work experience and how those skills are transferable to the current role, with a supporting example! On paper, it all seemed flawless; but clearly this was not how the interviewers (there were three of them) perceived the responses.
This just goes to show the discrepancy between what the two parties were hearing. Also the importance of understanding exactly what it is the employers are looking for. Sometimes, it just is experience, and no matter how creative your responses are, all you can do is keep seeking more experience! Whether it’s voluntary, taking a step down or making a side-step. However, most often there are ‘buzz words‘ employers are looking for that they must hear to grab their attention.
“Where do I find these ‘buzz words?’ you may be asking. The answer is: Do your research! It may seem obvious but I have found that more often than not companies use their favourite buzz words and phrases within the first two paragraphs of their home and about section. Linking your ethos and values to this can really help to support an application and when being interviewed.
Another really important point is – keep it relevant. If you are lacking a bit in experience and don’t want to make this too obvious; when giving examples of your transferable skills, check that you have supported their relevance with a clear example that relates to the job role you are going for! The best way to do this is to read and highlight the job description/profile you have been provided with. Often employers will list the most essential skills first and quite often will indicate whether a skill is essential or desirable by marking it ‘E’ or ‘D’. Be prepared to have at least three examples rehearsed and choose whichever one is most appropriate during the interview.
If you can, support your previous successes with facts and figures where appropriate. If you improved the efficiency of the company’s CRM system by 80% then jolly well say so! Take pride in your success and of course, do keep these honest and be prepared to show evidence – don’t manipulate them as this may come back to bite you when the employer checks with your references and this won’t bode well with either party – you want to keep your referees thinking highly of you, just in case you don’t get this one.
A few ideas from my own personal experience and that of clients. I do not allege to be an expert by any means and if anyone else has anything useful they would like to share – please do so. It would be very much appreciated in the fast-paced and competitive job market of today!