If you have been reading articles or listening to news reports about the job market, it becomes obvious that the number of people currently seeking jobs outnumbers the jobs that are now available.
If you happen to be one of those job seekers, you realize that you are competing against the odds. The question is, “How can you make yourself stand out when there are so many other candidates looking at the same job?” The answer is to “focus” focus on what makes you unique.
Let’s assume that you have an outstanding resume and that you make it to the top of the stack of resumes of people to be called for an interview. You, and maybe nine or ten other equally qualified people for the position, that is.
Because companies have so many candidates to choose from, they are interviewing more people so that they can select the “best.” When you are lucky enough to be invited to an interview, it is essential that you be ready to sell yourself, to let the interviewers know what makes you unique, what added value you can bring to the position-in other words, why you are the best person for the job.
By doing some basic preparation, you can determine your uniqueness and where you should focus your attention. The first step in this process is to identify your five strengths. These strengths are the areas where you do very well.
This may take some thought on your part. What are your strengths? Think about previous performance appraisals what was said or written about you? What would your co-workers or ex-bosses say about you?
List the skills and experiences you have that would be required in the type of job you are seeking. For instance, a technical job would focus on programs, languages, and platforms, etc.
Give some thought to those skills in which you excel, those that are referred to as the “soft skills.” These skills can be viewed as transferable you can take them with you to any job you hold. Examples of these skills are your communication and people skills, or your time-management and project-management skills, or your ability to build strong relationships, or your ability to influence others.
Lastly, think of the personal traits that make you unique. Maybe you never miss deadlines, or perhaps you are willing to do above and beyond what is asked, or perhaps you have a great attitude. (Don’t dismiss these traits–many people have been fired for negative personal traits rather than for lack of knowledge).
When you have identified your five strengths, make a list of those strengths and some examples of when those strengths have helped you achieve results on the job. It will be essential that you can not only identify your strengths, but that you also have examples and stories of times when you demonstrated those strengths in the past.
The next step is to look at the job postings and ads. In fact, look at several job postings that would be of interest to you. Your goal is to find key words and phrases. For this exercise, don’t limit yourself to geographical location. Look at jobs of interest located anywhere.
When you have several postings, read each word and sentence carefully, taking notes as you do. What are they looking for? What words appear consistently in almost every posting?
Now, take a piece of paper and divide it in half. On one side of the paper write, “What they are looking for,” and on the other side, “What I have to offer.” Each time you apply for a position, it will be invaluable for you to know how you stand against what they are looking for. This exercise will help you see how close a match you are and where you should focus.
Your next step is to add your uniqueness to the “What I have to offer” list. Some postings will list additional skills required, which make it easier for you to see what is important to them. An example would be, “Must have excellent communications skills, strong organizational skills, and be a willing team player.” If these words appear in most of your posting examples, then make sure that these are a part of your focus. Can you work these words and your five strengths into the interview to demonstrate your fit and then some? Some postings will be more vague about what it takes to get the job done and will require reading between the lines to determine what other skills are necessary.
In summary, by narrowing your uniqueness to these five basic points, you can guide the conversation to include this information. By focusing on five strengths, you will be prepared with examples of times when you have used these strengths.
Whenever possible, give examples to show how you have “been there and done that,” and can do it again. It will be necessary to demonstrate that you have what it takes, and then some, to be unique in this market.
When you walk out of that interview room, your interviewers may not remember all five of your points; but if they remember even two of the points that make you unique, you will be ahead of the game!
Copyright (c) 2007 Carole Martin, The Interview Coach