Differentiation – Read About It Here First!
Have a job interview coming up? Great! However, 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? It is quite likely he or she is, to some degree, looking at a room full of clones. After all, these are people who likely 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?
When you purchase facial tissue, do you research all the available products and then labor 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 buy, or grab whichever one happens to be on sale this week. For the manufacturers of facial tissue, this situation is an absolute 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 essentially look for and tout anything which favorably separates their product from that of the competition.
In the marketing field, this challenge is technically known as differentiation. This may be the first time you have heard the term used in this context, but just as in the marketing of products and services, differentiation is a real and important factor when it comes to successful job interviews and achieving career goals. How does this aspect of marketing impact you?
Without some way to differentiate the candidates, an interviewer might as well save some time and just simply draw the name of a qualified applicant out of a hat. After all, to some extent the applicants are essentially clones and all the same, right? Like the tissue manufacturers, you need to favorably differentiate yourself from the competition. How can this marketing concept be adapted to the area of careers?
Every career field is different and likely places importance on different things. For example, one field may make a particular college degree a prerequisite whereas another may instead place a higher value on possession of certain specific skills. Licenses or certifications may be of prime importance in one field, whereas another places no value on such credentials whatsoever.
How do you favorably differentiate yourself from the competition? Again, every line of work will be different. Therefore, you will need to examine your own career field for possibilities. Here are a few general ideas to get you started:
- Is your education or training beyond the minimum required?
- Do you have experience which might be considered “better” than that of the other typical candidates?
- 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 may have not?
- Are you a member of one or more professional organizations recognized in your field?
- If you are applying internally within your organization, have you taken advantage of volunteering for special projects or serving on committees?
What if you come to the unfortunate realization there is actually nothing which differentiates you from the other typical clone candidate? 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 differentiation marketing to work for you!