Have a job interview coming up? Great! Now, put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. When looking out into a waiting room full of candidates, what does the interviewer see? If the job posting worked, it is quite likely he or she may be looking at a room full of clones. After all, these are people who probably all have the same degree, who all have similar work experience, who all have the same license, certification, or other required credential, who all are professionally dressed, who all have neatly prepared resumes, and who all are polite and well-spoken. Everyone in the room – including you – meets the same basic requirements for the job or else they wouldn’t be there, right?
So, what makes you think you’re anything special?
This is a problem marketing professionals have struggled with for years! When you purchase facial tissue, do you research all the products available and then stress out over the decision of which brand to get? Probably not. For many people, a tissue is a tissue is a tissue. You likely either just buy what you always do or grab whichever one happens to be on sale this week. For the makers of facial tissue, this situation is a nightmare! Their challenge is to convince you that out of all the tissue choices available, their brand is the one you want.
To this end, they spend millions of dollars on advertising, product design, and physical appearance. They try to convince you their tissue is softer and thus gentler on the nose. It is more absorbent, stronger, and comes in attractive colors. Maybe it also contains aloe, packaged in a prettier box, is a convenient size, etc., and therefore the one you should purchase. They look for and tout anything which favorably separates their product from that of the competition.
In the field of marketing, convincing the customer a product or service is different from that offered by the competition is known as differentiation. Just as when selling products and services, differentiation is a real and important factor for you when it comes to job interviews. How does this impact you?
Without some way to differentiate the candidates, an interviewer might as well save some time and just simply draw a name out of a hat. OK, I’m kidding; that’s a stretch. But, by design, the job posting is supposed to bring in applicants who are all equally qualified, right? So, just like the tissue makers, you need to favorably set yourself apart from the competition. How can you adapt and use this marketing concept?
How do you stand out from the competition? As every line of work will be different, you must look closely for what is valued in your own career field. Identify these valued things, and if you have them, promote them. Here are a few general ideas to get you started:
- Is your education or training beyond the bare minimum required?
- Do you have “better” experience than the typical candidate?
- What specific and valuable skill sets or knowledge do you possess which other candidates might not have?
- Have you attended professional conferences or seminars which other candidates have not?
- Are you a member of one or more professional organizations recognized in your field?
- How’s your GPA? If it’s impressive, this may be helpful, especially for recent graduates who may not have a lot of experience.
- On your present job, have you volunteered for special projects or served on committees? If so, be sure to tell about it. Unlike you, many employees avoid volunteering like the plague!
What if you realize there is actually nothing which differentiates you from the other typical candidate? Make sure to practice and sharply hone your interviewing skills. In the end, even if you are identical in most ways to the other candidates, at least you may make the best impression. Also, start looking for and working toward ways to set yourself apart from the crowd! Help the interviewer to see that from among all the others, you are the clear and obvious best choice.
Put marketing differentiation to work for you!
Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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