The Key to Marketing Yourself: To succeed in marketing yourself, or selling yourself, answer the one key question on the mind of the hiring manager, "What can you do for me?" This should guide you in tailoring your resume, cover letters, letters of inquiry and responses in interviews to the specific needs and concerns of the hiring manager and the hiring company.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of job applicants fail to target their sales pitch to the needs of the hiring manager, instead giving rote recitations of their own backgrounds.
A Case Study in Marketing Yourself: In particular, marketing yourself effectively hinges on demonstrating concretely that you can think creatively to solve the specific sorts of problems that the hiring manager, or hiring company, faces. For an excellent discussion of this issue from a business owner's standpoint, see "Hearing the Right Notes From a Job Candidate," The New York Times, 7/25/2010.
The author, Carl Diehl, is co-founder and co-owner of what he calls "a small national exercise company." In an ad for an entry-level position, he made it clear that the preferred candidates would be those who demonstrated the ability to take on greater responsibilities and advance in the company. However, out of hundreds of cover letters from recent college grads, Diehl got only ten that really addressed this challenge.
When he invited these candidates in for interviews, Diehl instructed them to study the websites of both his company and its leading competitors. However, only two gave analytical assessments of what his brand stands for, and how his company differentiates itself. The others just regurgitated facts from his website.
Morever, these same two were they only ones who clearly understood that selling yourself effectively involves explaining precisely how what they had learned in school could help the company in question. Most other applicants, by contrast, simply discussed what they had studied.
Again, these same two were the only ones applicants who appreciated that marketing yourself also is much easier if you give cogent and forthright responses when asked to describe the key weaknesses associated with your personality type. Since self-knowledge is a key element of success, proving that you have it is vital to selling yourself.
Both finalists were liberal arts majors, one in French and the other in music. If he had two positions to fill, Diehl would have hired both, but he took the latter, a violinist. She had described how her musical training had developed "imagination, intellect, energy and power of concentration" that were germane to the tasks at hand. Diehl reports that she is doing very well at his firm.
Marketing Yourself on the Web: In another angle on marketing yourself, some out-of-work job hunters are advertising themselves via their own websites. When done correctly, such a personal website can showcase your talents and attract the attention of potential employers. However, establishing a personal job search website while still employed could get you fired, since your employer can see that you are actively shopping yourself around. See "Your Resume, For All To See" in the 2/27/2011 issue of The New York Times. The article provides a lot of useful detail about how to design and utilize such a personal website to gain maximum advantage in marketing yourself.
Online Reputation Managers: If embarrassing information and/or photos of you are on websites that you cannot control, and if the problem is very costly from a career standpoint, you may consider engaging the services of an online reputation manager.
Mirroring how some companies try to game Google, to improve their websites' rankings, online reputation managers use tricks of their own to push links with negative information about their clients (companies or individuals) further down in search results, usually by trying to move URLs with positive stories over them. See "Erasing The Digital Past," The New York Times, 4/3/2011 for more detail.
Scheduling Interviews: A old adage maintains that you should wait until right after lunch if you are interviewing for a job, asking someone for a favor or otherwise concerned about having someone's rapt attention. By contrast, according to the same dictum, doing any of these things right before lunch represents very bad strategy. Reason: when people are hungry, they are bound to be impatient and cranky; after they are fed, they are likely to be content and generous.
A recent academic study indicates that this bit of received wisdom has an empirical basis. An examination of petitions for parole in Israel indicates that, controlling for all other factors, the sooner after a meal that a case came up before the judges, the more likely the judges were to grant the petition. See "The science of justice: I think it's time we broke for lunch..." in The Economist, 4/16/2011. "Court rulings depend partly on when the judge last had a snack," is the accompanying blurb.
For More Information: To read more about related topics in career development, follow the links below.