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How to Land the Job

Use your unique selling proposition to stand out from the crowd.

Your stellar resume and refined job search skills have secured that elusive interview. But what will make you memorable? If you really want to stand out among the crowd, think about your unique selling proposition (USP)—your best, individualized skill sets that distinguish you from your peers. How do they benefit the employer?

You can take the time to link your specific credentials to the company’s bottom line and let them know how your USP translates into a good return on investment (ROI). Put the puzzle pieces together for your prospective boss - and you'll make it easier for the interviewer to envision you in the position.

Every hiring manager and firm looks at applicants as an investment of time and money. That doesn’t mean you’re a walking resume zombie! Your people skills are also part of your value proposition and can be highlighted during your “pitch” through examples. More on that later. By matching your USP to the job description and corporate value proposition, you’ll illustrate how you will contribute to company growth (music to any hiring manager’s ears).

You can highlight your USP and reinforce it throughout the entire interview process in fact. Jobs have been and will continue to be modified and sometimes even small departments may be restructured, based on talent that emerges in interviews. So it’s in your best interest to position yourself against the bigger picture.

Take a Cue from Classic Marketing Wisdom

A pioneer in advertising, Rosser Reeves, developed the USP more than 60 years ago and it has been used effectively ever since. Reeves believed that ads must make a proposition, “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.” The proposition must be unique and the promise must be desirable. Here are some recognizable USP ad slogans.

1. Subway: Subs with under 6 grams of fat.

2. Walmart: Save money. Live better.

3. Hallmark: When you care enough to send the very best.

Now consider the following analogous phrases you might use to communicate your USP during a job search.

1. "I was able to increase staff by 10%, but also trim extraneous costs that offset the expense. (Analogous to the above slogan of being full with fewer grams of fat.)

2. "While working at XYZ, I helped boost profits by an estimated x percent.” (The company was able to “live better.”)

3. “Under my leadership, turnover in my department was the lowest in 10 years, which solved a major challenge for the company.” (I know how to “care” for my people; also good for the employer.)

In creating your own USP, make a list of your unique qualities, then their benefits. Combine the qualities and benefits into compelling points that you can articulate concisely in the job interview. You’ll want to repeat them in thank you letters after-the-fact, as well. To help you with your list, ask yourself these questions:

• What have I excelled in during my career that came relatively easily to me?

• For which projects am I most remembered, associated with, or complimented on?

• Which abilities have I applied that have had the most impact on profitability?

• What makes me unique as others see me? (You might seek input from trusted colleagues.)

• What words would managers, co-workers, or customers use to describe my expertise?

Carefully research the company and analyze the job description at hand. Use social media and blogs to determine what’s important to the prospective employer. If a job listing requires "strong analytical skills," and you excel at sifting through complex research, then highlight that ability as part of your USP, citing key projects.

Also consider what the firm presents to the general public. If, for example, the company's advertising tag line is about service excellence, you can align your customer service USP with that mission.

Having a USP really works. I have seen and heard countless stories of candidates who, through a well-articulated USP, landed the job. In some cases, they even shifted the way job descriptions of those around them were structured, to everyone's benefit - because of how they described their unique background vis a vis the company’s mission and bottom line.

Take the time to figure out your USP before you pursue your next job target, and watch the shift in your confidence, and results. This could be a missing puzzle piece in landing the job you really want.