Don't be surprised if at some point, you're in a job interview and the job recruiter asks, "What makes you special?" or, "Tell me about your personal brand," or even, "What is your unique value proposition?" In each of these questions, the recruiter is asking you to differentiate yourself from a sea of candidates who might all look and sound like you.
Why would recruiters want you to spell out your uniqueness? Because most job candidates spend so much time listing their skills and experiences on their resumes that they forget to make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to see what it is that makes them special, valuable and a perfect fit for the position.
When a job recruiter puts a request (online, in the newspaper or in a social network), they are listing the basic skills, abilities and experience an applicant needs to have before they can come through the front door. Things like, "10+ years experience as IT director for a global company in the security industry ...," or, "senior level expertise in UX/UI web design" are designed to be a first cut of qualifications.
Then, the hiring person is looking to see whether you're a fit within the company or the team.
- Do you have an outgoing personality?
- Do you work well with others?
- Are you a more social or independent worker?
- Can you handle stress?
As a veteran, you know the importance of building alliances and creating strong teams. You have worked under pressure where your ability to think and respond quickly was not only appreciated but crucial. Are you explaining this to the hiring managers? Are you listing this on your resume? If so, be sure to be succinct and clear in your descriptions.
Then, the hiring manager or job recruiter is looking for some aspect of who you are that is unique. What is it about you that will make your application stand apart from the thousands of others they might be reviewing -- all listing the same depth of expertise and skills?
For example, are you:
- Passionate about global security?
- Someone who enjoys working with children?
- Able to teach in a foreign language?
- A product of a family with a unique and unusual history?
- Someone who taught himself to play bagpipes?
- Proud to say you read every Harry Potter book ever written ... in Chinese???
How do these unique skills or abilities translate into a value you provide to your employers? It is critical that you make it easy for the hiring manager to see how your uniqueness is relevant and compelling for the position in which they are hiring.
- Because I am well-traveled and can speak three languages fluently, I would be an ideal candidate for your teaching position. As a former Army sergeant deployed overseas, I was often called upon to help troops integrate into other cultures by teaching them the language. This skill makes me a good team builder, teacher and someone who is sensitive to other cultures and who learns quickly.
- If you've ever heard or seen someone play the bagpipes, you are aware of the skill, training and patience it takes to master that craft. I taught myself to play the bagpipes when I was 19, and today I would like to bring my strengths to your position. I am a self-starter, quick study and passionate musician -- all skills that would serve well in your job opening.
These unique skills, talents and attributes might not be enough to make up for a lack of skills needed for the job, but if you meet all of their other requirements, your unique value proposition might just make you memorable enough to stand apart.
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