How to Market Yourself to Any Employer
Just be yourself.
We’re kidding. That’s not what you do to market, sell and promote yourself. Forget that Peer Group Leader stuff that didn’t help you in high school, the cool kids know that you need to be anyone but yourself.
People are imperfect, insecure, forgetful and fickle. If you come across as a mere person you’re not likely to get hired. You’ll be sent the ‘we’re unable to offer you a position at this time letter’ along with every other Tom, Dick and Harry.
You have to make yourself more than that–
Have a Unique Selling Point (USP)
Continuing on the somewhat juvenile overplayed high school metaphor: the cool kids in high school weren’t just people. You didn’t really think of them as just people like your mates Joe and Susan (assuming that like most people, you weren’t one of the cool kids), but by what they had associated themselves with: reckless behaviour, shock value comedy, working out, punk rock, satyriasis, talking seldom and mysteriously, etc. These are actually very succesful branding efforts that can be learned from. The target market is high school students and they appealed to exactly what they liked, by each adopting a Unique Selling Point (USP). ‘I am a punk/I’m funny/I’m a stud/I don’t give a &%@$ man’.
The job interview situation is quite different. Quite opposite in many ways. But the marketing principle of the USP applies just the same. You need to brand yourself–to package yourself in a way that appeals to your target market. The target market is your employer whoever that may be. You could be applying to a tech firm, marketing company, banking corporation, daycare role or rap supergroup. You just need to find some way of selling yourself that appeals to the target market and that you can pull off. This is marketing at its purest.
Some good example USP’s for marketing yourself:
- Thinks outside the box–quirky ideas–ideas man–inventor.
- I fix things–I take things apart and put them back together for fun.
- Unconventional wisdom.
- Understands people–good with people–great personality.
- Good with words–restless pen.
All of these are fine interview-worthy USP’s that work for a lot of target markets (employees, corporations, corporate cultures). And there are undoubtedly endless more that you could come up with. The key is to choose and stick to one that you can pull off. Because you will then have to carry that USP throughout your career with the company, at least for a moderate amount of time, so it can’t be a thin veneer. It helps to focus on an admirable quality that you already possess rather than fabricating something entirely. Then you could even improve yourself by building on this quality.
Understand your Target Market
To craft an effective USP and sell yourself, you need to know who you’re selling to. This is the step that comes before creating your USP, but would seem dreary, abstract and unnecessary if we put it after. Now you realise the importance of the USP and how it underpins almost all of marketing. But unfortunately, understanding your target market requires research…
Research with the goal of creating a USP in mind. This is all part of the non-linear process of forming a USP. A deep non-superficial understanding of the company is needed. Look for at least the following information:
- The exact job you’re applying for.
- The attributes needed and valued for that job.
- The corporate culture of the firm
- The CEO and employer
Do your Homework
Wait… but I just did the homework. Sorry but you’re not done yet. Applying for a job is a job in itself. A large stressful unpaid job. But more work now can mean a lot less in the long run.
So the blow that I’m trying to soften here is that you should be researching not just the target market, but your USP. You should be not just packaging yourself in your brand in the ‘batteries sold separately’ kind of way, but you should be augmenting the product.
Product augmentation is where you add special, unique, highly marketed features to it in order to differentiate it. You can do the same. If your USP is ‘good with words’—actually start writing in your spare time, build a collection if not a portfolio of your writing, download the Google dictionary (tooltip) Chrome extension to improve your vocabulary, read books, make a list of the books you have read and remember them, etc.
Differentiate Yourself with Personality—Be Rare, Irreplaceable, A Must Have Limited Time Offer
Product differentiation is at the heart of marketing. Why does anyone ever try a new product of the same thing. Shampoo is still shampoo. But does it give fuller locks, does it contain rare deep ocean minerals or liquid diamond essence or concentrated holy auras? No home brand shampoo makes any of these claims. It cleans your hair. Fair enough. But every branded shampoo seems to make some claim that no other shampoo brand makes. They seem so rare, limited edition, valuable and must-have.
You need to make yourself seem like no other random guy that gets an interview. If you choose a USP that you think others are going to be doing—most of the obvious, fairly good USPs will be like this—you need to differentiate yourself further. How can that be done?
Differentiating yourself in an interview 101: Don’t have a boring personality. Everyone has a personality, so we didn’t say ”don’t have a personality’. But some personalities just seem to blend together into some kind of mediocre drone. The studious straight-out-of-college bright-eyed enthusiastic guy—you’re everywhere. The middle-aged yet experienced guy with an old-fashioned work ethic—I’ve seen you before too. You don’t have to fit yourself into these kinds of clichéd personas. How about, a middle-aged yet energetic type who is almost overly interested in a part of the job. Or a straight-out-of-college uncharacteristically realistic type who admits that there are some parts of the job which are tedious but he will do them along with the parts he knows he will enjoy.
If you’re reading this article we assume that you’re preparing for an interview. We wish you good luck with it and for your future career. For the best prospects, we recommend that you start researching and making notes on your USP as soon as possible. Then you can start becoming the successful, unique embodiment of your best attributes that you’ve always wanted to be.