To Be Competitive Most People Need More Than a Good Background. Here's How to Build Appeal Beyond Your Credentials.


Use Words That Enhance Your Appeal

Your need for this can best be appreciated by comparing it to the "platform" of a candidate for the Presidency. The "platform" anticipates questions on major issues by formulating carefully-thought-out position statements to guide the candidate's answers.

Just like a political candidate, you can be perceived as more informed than the next person if you have taken the time to formulate your own communications strategy.

To do this, you must think through your assets, liabilities and goals, and arrive at a formula for guiding communications about yourself. The strategy itself must be geared to maximizing strengths and minimizing liabilities.

Our philosophy revolves around identifying the "core" words and phrases that will be the heart of your communications strategy. This means you want to be ready to use a series of words that communicate your special strengths. They should become a regular part of "your story" that you communicate to employers, recruiters and others who might be of help.

Please realize that your "tickets alone" (advanced degrees, blue chip background, lofty titles, etc.) will not necessarily motivate any employer to hire you. Those credentials only offer one form of reassurance that suggests you are right for the job. This is why you must use words that add interest beyond your credentials.

Use Key Phrases That Describe What Employers Are Looking for

When employers recruit people, they usually have a concept in mind or a word description of the kind of person they are looking to hire. In the final analysis, people get hired for the traits, skills and abilities that their own key words and phrases imply.

Decide on some phrases that relate to you, and select those that set you apart from those who are competing with you. For example, you may have "operated effectively under pressure." Perhaps you are "an excellent motivator," or you may have "built a highly effective team."

If you are young and are short on experience, you may be long on personal characteristics. One of your strengths may be that you are "a good listener" or someone who can "work easily with people." A key word or concept can describe a personal characteristic not related to a specific achievement, orit might refer to a particular action or experience.

Most people with five or more years of work experience can make a list of at least twenty key words and concepts. Used appropriately they can set you apart from competition and convey the unique advantages you have to offer.

Use Stories to Give More Interest and Impact to Your Experience

By now you've identified your key strengths and concept phrases. However, while most people who interview you may understand them, they will often forget them in a matter of minutes. In order to ensure that your points are both memorable and credible, use a method for creating interesting stories called the SOAR technique.

SOAR is an acronym which stands for Situation/ Opportunities /Actions/ Results. It represents a process of describing your past experience in a way that resembles a motion picture. Here's how you can use it.

  • Situation/Opportunities. Explain a job you held by first describing the situation when you began employment. This enables you to provide some interesting background information, e.g., what had been taking place when you arrived. Then you should integrate into your discussion information about the opportunities that the job seemed to present to you, the group you were part of, and the firm.

  • Actions. However, more importantly, your emphasis should quickly move to those actions taken by you and other members of your team.

  • Results. Last relate what results occurred.

SOAR means "telling the whole story." If it's well told it will generate more genuine interest than any recitation of duties. Furthermore, it will help people remember you ahead of others.

Rehearse Your Stories Before Interviews

Many people have said that it was their use of carefully rehearsed SOAR stories that most impressed an interviewer and won job offers for them. This is hardly unexpected. Anyone who has listened to a speech or a sales presentation knows how much more interesting it can be if the speaker uses short stories to demonstrate a point.

Now, let's recap all of the primary ways you can expand your marketability. First, broaden your appeal by listing your experience according to (a) business functions, (b) your skills and duties, and (c) your achievements.

Second, since your knowledge and interests are marketable, list all the things you know and any special interests that might appeal to employers.

Remember that your personality, character and enthusiasm are marketable. Since the opportunity you represent is also marketable, list problems you can help an employer solve. Once you have uncovered what's marketable about yourself, build appeal beyond your credentials by making use of a "communications plan."

Start by identifying words that reflect your special strengths. Then, identify key phrases which describe your traits, skills and abilities that employers seek. Use them in all written and verbal communications. To make your experiences more interesting and memorable, incorporate them with our SOAR storytelling concept.

Experience has proven that if you take a narrow view of yourself, you could be making a major mistake. For example, if you see yourself as a specialist or if you have spent a long time in one industry, you may mistakenly believe you are locked into a given career or type of business.

Or, you may feel you have few options because you are a generalist. However, each year, more and more people change careers and industries. Perhaps your career needs to take a whole new direction?