Your mum has probably always told you that you were special. And hey, I’m sure she’s a wonderful lady. But in the eyes of an interviewer, at least at first glance, you’re definitely not. These people go through hundreds and hundreds of candidates a day – all with 2:1s, similar CVs and near-identical experience. That’s all good to have but you can’t rely on it. They’ll want to know what makes you better than all the other people who what the job. And that’s where unique selling points (USPs) come in.
USPs are that special part of your personal brand that makes you worth paying attention too. Every time you go for an interview, every time someone reads your CV or checks your portfolio, that’s what jumps off the page. Basically, it’s your X Factor – what can you do for that employer that no-one else can?
Everybody’s USP is different so unfortunately, we can’t tell you what yours is. We can, however, tell you a few of those unique selling points that are no longer unique and hence do not sell. Points, essentially.
1. I work hard
Chances are the employers already have gleaned this from your CV, so don’t bother repeating it. Also, be honest. Admitting you don’t work hard is a very bold, very silly strategy for an interview so who’s not gonna say this?
Instead… Focus on how you’ve shown your hard work – projects you’ve completed, processes you’ve changed, things you’ve struggled with that you’ve overcome. And back it up with numbers.
2. I’m a perfectionist
“Sometimes I care too much,” are common famous last words before you get slapped with a rejection letter for being wholly unoriginal. A unique selling point which shows self-awareness but also still paints you in a good light, the ‘perfectionist’ answer was – in many ways – the original cliché. And interviewers will spot it from a mile away.
Instead… Try talking about your attention to detail when it comes to certain areas of the role. If you pour over something until it’s the best that it can possibly be, explain why you spend so much time on that thing and how the skills you use can be important to the business
3. I’m well-organised
Define ‘well organised’. Is showing up in a suit with no stains on ‘well organised’? Is always having a pen to hand ‘well organised’? Honestly, to be well organised to the point where it’s actually interesting, you’d have to group the food on your dinner plate by colour, shape and consistency. Everything else really isn’t major, it’s stuff every employer would expect from staff.
Instead… Talk about times you showed leadership, led on a project, gave a presentation or organised a team. That’s way more interesting that your compartmentalised pencil case.
4. I’m passionate
The only ‘p’ word that’s obscene to interviewers is passionate. Because they’ve seen it already at least a thousand times and it’s almost always insincere. Come on, how many people in the world are really passionate about tax law or railway engineering? Those who are really passionate about something have a whole lexicon of different phrasing to talk about it because their knowledge is there.
Instead… Show you passion by having a strong knowledge of what the role entails and the industry at large. If you can put your skills in context with what’s going on or even meet a specific business need, you’re laughing.
5. I’m loyal
Interviewers are looking for a new employee, not a new dog. Yeah, it might seem appealing to promise that you’ll be with the company doing your role for a long time but it’s also wildly unrealistic in today’s climate. You’re going to come across as disingenuous and unambitious here.
Instead… Be honest about your goals and ambitions for yourself, both within the context of the company and without. If you’re there to learn as much as you can before embarking on your own venture, for instance, tell them. They’ll appreciate you’re ambition and honesty, and they might even do their best to keep you stimulated so you stay longer.
How can you find your unique selling points?
So you’ve been racking your brains (maybe you’ve asked your mum) but you still can’t figure out what makes you special? That’s fine, it’s not going to happen overnight. Finding your USP is something that requires time and reflection, but everyone has got one.
You’ll usually find it at the intersection of your interests, skills, personality, achievements and everything else that makes you uniquely you. And if you get stuck, we’ve got a complete Guide to Personal Branding that might help the light bulb to come on.