Identifying and Leveraging your Unique Selling Proposition in a Job Search


Ever read a job description that seems as though it was written with you in mind? Your unique set of qualifications is a perfect match for this job. In fact, your unique traits are likely a match for many jobs, and a Unique Selling Proposition can help position you with employers as uniquely qualified.

The term Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, more recently referred to as a Value Proposition, comes from the world of advertising, marketing and branding. When companies are determining how to market a product or service, they focus on their Unique Selling Proposition, the one factor that makes that product different from any other. It’s the one reason they believe consumers will buy the product even though it may seem no different from many others just like it. It may be that the product has a lower price or more convenient packaging, or it may taste or smell better, or last longer.

Most of what is written about Unique Selling Propositions/Value Propositions from the perspective of advertising, marketing, and branding of products and services applies also to Product You. For example, Jeff Protentis’s proposed questions for getting at the Value Proposition for life science products and services can be adapted to job seekers, as I’ve done below:

  • How will this candidate solve the employer’s problem and help the organization succeed?
  • What is different and better about this candidate that warrants employers’ time and attention?
  • Why should employers choose to work with you and not your competitors?

For the customer, Protentis says, the question is, what’s in it for me if I buy this product/service? For the employer, it is: What’s in it for us if we hire this candidate over any other candidate?

You’ll notice the answers to these questions could easily change with each employer, given that every organization has a different set of needs and challenges. Thus, it’s OK to tweak your USP as needed for each employer. The questions also point out the mandate to know the needs of the industry, as well your targeted employers within it.

When preparing your job search materials, you may find it helpful to think about and identify your Unique Selling Proposition. What is the one thing that makes you unique? What makes you better than other candidates applying for a similar position with this company? What can you offer that no other applicant can? What is the one reason the employer should want to hire you above all other candidates? What makes you most relevant and appealing to your targeted employers? How will you add value for your next employer? If you can determine your Unique Selling Proposition and build it into a succinct statement, you will have a real advantage in marketing yourself to employers.

One good way to begin developing your USP is to start with a story about yourself that captures your essence. A former student, Kellie, told the story of her interactions with an older patient with dementia while she was working as a hospital aide. Kellie noticed that the man frequently called her by the wrong name. She realized the patient associated Kellie with his deceased daughter and continued to fill the daughter role for him during his stay. In developing the story, Kellie identified her characteristics of compassionate caregiving. Today, she applies her compassion in a slightly different way as a successful elementary school teacher.

If the story clarifies who you are, build on its essence with critical attributes and differentiators, perhaps skills that are hard to find or a combination of hard-to-find traits. Endeavor to include advantages and benefits for the employer – your ability to make money, save money, save time, improve processes. You need not prove claims about yourself in the USP itself, but do support them in your resume, cover letter, and interview responses. Keep your USP short; most of the samples below are 25-35 words.

Sample USPs:

Dynamic performer with background of achievement and success in entrepreneurial and business-development roles that have catapulted bottom-line revenues.

Goal-driven achiever with strong organization skills who performs as both a versatile individual and team player with ability to quickly assess, comprehend, and manage customer relations while upholding company values.

Outstanding, success-validated sales performer proven in the field as highly motivated self-starter with exceptional skill and experience in direct, persuasive interface with CEOs and senior-level marketing executives of Fortune 500, Global 2000, and NYSE companies.

Master’s-level professional known for strong analytical and quantitative skills and application of sound research methodologies to assess needs, identify alternatives, and recommend strategies that facilitate optimal healthcare outcomes.

Bottom-line-focused project-management professional with PMP credential, master’s-level education, and proven track record in project leadership, product development, project initiation and execution, and exceptional client-management interface.

Dedicated health and education professional who is uniquely qualified to deliver out-of-the-box accomplishments in pharmaceutical sales through exceptional ability to synthesize and disseminate product knowledge quickly to make immediate bottom-line contribution.

Accomplished, published, senior-level scientist with 12 years of experience in molecular biology.

Conscientious direct caregiver who provides meticulous, fully attentive, individualized nursing care to meet the complex array of patient needs associated with acute-care units by employing nursing process methodology.

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