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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Journaliste: Albert Ocran

Crafting a unique selling proposition ; or personal brand statement

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In a typical job selection process, the review panel often has to make a difficult choice between several equally matched candidates. This is because many candidates possess similar qualifications and experiences. So, why would an employer choose you unless you have something different to offer from the rest of the competition?

You will gain an added advantage if you think of yourself as a product and your search as a marketing campaign designed to move that product. Every product has a unique selling proposition (USP).

For a product to break through the clutter, the company must correctly identify a compelling USP, match it to the market, and communicate the message effectively. Identifying the USP pretty much boils down to this: what kind of problem does the product solve? What makes it unique? Why is it better than the next product on the shelf?

As a job seeker, you're no different. You have a unique value proposition, too. Have you identified it? If you don't know what makes you unique and distinguishes you from the crowd, no one else will know, either. Whether or not marketing has anything to do with your job, you need to think like a marketer. You must figure out how to differentiate yourself from everybody else. You've got to put your finger on what's unique about you - and connect it to the needs of the market. Your interest will best be served if you invest some time in thinking about and developing your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. What is a unique selling proposition (USP)? Known as a personal branding or a value-added statement, the USP is a succinct, one sentence description of who you are; your biggest strengths and the major benefits that stakeholders can derive from this strength. The term USP, which first became popular in the world of marketing, has traditionally been used by companies to market their products in the face of stiff competition. It refers to that one thing that makes their product different from others. To put it simply, it is the reason why consumers will buy their product instead of the competitor's. The USP could be anything -- it could range from a lower price to more convenient packaging to better taste, etc.

Why should we hire you? Whether you are applying for a new job or looking for a promotion within your present job, it all boils down to marketing your skills well. Just like products have to be marketed to consumers, candidates have to market themselves to employers.

The USP should answer a commonly asked question at job interviews, "Why should we hire you?" What employers are usually looking for is a unique skill that can help them in difficult situations.

For example, for an HR job in a factory, a person requires good negotiation skills for handling staff conflict and all kinds of difficult situations.

Identifying or determining your USP The process of identifying your USP involves taking stock of your special skills. Ask yourself: What is that one thing that makes me unique? What makes me better than other candidates applying for a similar position with this company? What can I offer that no other candidate can?

This could be a specialisation or experience in some specific area, which the hiring company views as significant. If you can recognise even one exceptional characteristic or skill-set that could slot you into a particular job, it will make a big difference in getting you the position.

Some employers give a lot of weight to personality, which can be observed by the increasing use of personality tests in the interview process. If you find it difficult to decide which skill-set is your forte, it would be a good idea to talk to your seniors or mentor for objective insights.

Once you know and develop your USP, you can 'position' yourself in the job market. Any skills that directly or indirectly affect your job performance should be taken into consideration.

Another approach to finding your USP involves reviewing your resume and any past cover letters you have written. If they've been written well, you'll get a good sense of some of your past accomplishments.

Tapping into them will help you figure out your personal strengths. Your performance reviews from past jobs and recommendations from past employers can also provide clues to what sets you apart from peers.

Think about any awards you may have received as well! They serve as proof of your USP that you can also mention in your future interviews.

You may also ask your friends or colleagues to provide input on your strengths, accomplishments, and things you've done that have helped distinguish you professionally. Using a combination of these elements will help you find your USP quickly.

How do you know you have found it? It is something that feels very true for you. Your USP will be unique to you, and will provide an added dimension to everything you state in your cover letter, resume and interviews.

It is the one phrase(s) that is(are) easy to remember. Think of it as your own personal tag line. Many companies these days communicate their USP in their tag lines and advertising. Telecom giant MTN stresses that you will find them “Everywhere you go.” Disney World chooses to describe itself as "the happiest place on earth." What is your own personal tag line?

Crafting your USP Once you are aware of both yourself and what the company is looking for, you need to compile the information in your resume.

Craft your USP into a statement of around 10 to 20 words. Keep the following rules in mind: • It is usually only one or two sentences long. • It is stated in clear terms, and is easily understandable. • It is believable. • It emphasises some unique benefit that you can provide better than other candidates.

Your USP comprises a unique amalgamation of skills, interests and talents, and is the golden wand that you should wave in front of your prospective employers. The USP statement is also referred to as your 'elevator pitch' – that brief statement of value you can communicate within 30 seconds. It should be concise enough to be communicated in the time it takes to ride the elevator with that top business guru you may never meet again.

Examples of a USP Your USP should be short but descriptive. It may capture your educational background, training, years of experience, business contacts, or your ability to motivate and inspire. You may need to adjust it based upon the job profile. Here are some examples:

Example one "I have five years of information technology experience. My expertise is in technical support and troubleshooting computer problems. My technical knowledge will be beneficial in reducing call waiting times and will substantially improve the efficiency of your technical support centre."

Example two “I have strong credentials, a good reputation in the advertising community, and a track record of attracting and winning new clients. My personal values are in sync with any organisation that is passionate about putting clients first.”

Whatever field you might find yourself in, here is a simple fill-in-the-blank statement for you to complete, which will guide you in crafting your USP, or at least get you started in the right direction: "Because of my _______, I can do _______ for you better than typical applicants."

How to use your USP Once you have identified and crafted your USP, you should integrate it in all of your job-hunting and career development communications. Include your USP in the body of your cover letter.

Typically, you'll reserve the first paragraph for explaining which position you would like, and how you've found it. You may add in a little about yourself and include your USP then, or you may save it for the next paragraph and add in one or two examples from your career history to encourage your reader to review your resume.

In your CV or resume, add your USP to your career summary section or your objective. This must be clearly spelt out at the top of the page. Again, during your interview, your USP is especially helpful when you integrate it into your answers to classic questions like, “Why You?” “Tell me about yourself,” or even to the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Imagine you leaning forward and telling an interviewer: "I'm a seasoned retail manager strong in developing training programs and loss prevention techniques that have resulted in revenue savings of over US$1.2 million for XYZ Limited over the past three years."

What a difference you would make with this statement. Your interviewers will probably give you their undivided attention. At this point, you might just add the following comment: "I'd like to discuss how I might be able to do something like that for you." That throws the ball firmly back in their court and you have the beginnings of a real discussion and not an interrogation process.

With the benefit of years of experience in consultancy and interviews, we can ascertain that a strong and well-communicated USP can make you a winner in any interview.

Crafting a USP is an activity in which you truly analyse where you are in your career and where you want to go in the future.

Your USP gives you that much-needed 'competitive edge'. It could be the biggest reason why an employer wants to hire you. The end result of a well-crafted and utilised USP will be self-confidence and clarity about your strengths and advantages in life. GB

• Albert & Comfort Ocran are management consultants, executive coaches and authors of several personal development books including the bestseller “Career Starter Pack” and the latest “Speak Like A Pro”. E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]

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