What's your story?

Hiring managers and recruiters know when you’ve prepared for a job interview and when you haven’t. If you have you link your skills and experience to those the available job requires. You cite examples of your work that are relevant to the nature of the industry, organisation and position. And you perfectly describe how your present job equips you for this one. In other words, you have a good story to tell that’s relevant to the job applied for and you clearly articulate it to take the hiring manager on your career journey with you.

A common term used to describe your career story is your unique selling proposition, or USP. Your USP positions you in the candidate market based on your personal strengths, skills, experience and value. It spells out why an employer should select you above all other candidates.

If you don’t know your story, it’s time to identify it.

Think firstly about your skills. Ask current and former colleagues what skills they admire in you. Think about what you do well and are proud of. Look back over performance reviews to see what skills your managers have praised. What can you do that no one else at your current organisation can do as well?

Then examine your duties and responsibilities. Again look for areas where you excel.

Next, add evidence to support each strength you’ve identified. One easy way to do this is by looking at how much money you have saved the organisation. If your role doesn’t provide this opportunity, share examples that demonstrate the successful application of your skills.

Arm yourself with several examples – ideally at least one for each skill, prior experience, area of responsibility and any other competency in which you excel.

It doesn’t matter how long your list is, because you’ll then tailor from it a USP that is relevant for the particular job you are applying for. If you are applying for several jobs, create a USP that suits each organisation, its industry and its culture.

This can then become your default list that you return to throughout an interview when answering questions. It’ll ensure your answers are relevant to the job you are applying for, and will help if you are asked a question that you aren’t sure how to answer.

The importance of tailoring your USP to each role you apply for should not be underestimated. As Andrew Smith, Leader MSP & RPO Recruitment at Suncorp, says in the video The job interview, “Understanding the role you’re applying for is really important to standing out in an interview, so being able to articulate back to leader around your understanding of the role, the research you’ve done around the company and how your skills are relevant to that role is really important.”

My final piece of advice is to avoid complexity. Be straightforward and sincere. Practice clearly articulating it in a compelling way so that the hiring manager wants to know more. Take the hiring manager on your career journey so she/he gains a deeper understanding of your abilities and suitability to the role.

By doing this, and tailoring your USP to each job applied for, you’ll have an authentic and structured story to help you stand out above all other candidates.

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About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

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