According to Wikipedia, here is the definition of a value proposition: A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced. A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services. However, you might not be aware that you, too, need a value proposition when you are planning a job search or fine-tuning your career management. You might not be selling a product or service as such, but in a sense YOU are the product, and the customer (prospective employer) needs to develop a belief that he/she can actually experience the value you have to offer.
Your Unique Personal Value Proposition
As the saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” When the idea for this blog topic came to me, I thought, “I’ll bet other people have already written about it in relation to job searching or career management.” Sure enough, I came across an article by Bill Barnett published in the Harvard Business Review Blog in 2011, titled “Build Your Personal Value Proposition.” In his article, Barnett sets out four steps to creating your own value proposition:
- Set a clear target. The PVP begins with a target, one that needs what you have to offer. You’ll prefer some directions, not others.
- Identify your strengths.
- Tie your strengths to your target position. Don’t leave it up to the employer to figure out how your strengths relate to what she needs.
- Provide evidence and success stories.
I would add to this the comment that your goal is not only to develop your personal value proposition but also to distinguish yourself from your competition. If, on the face of it, you do essentially the same job that many other people do and your resume (or other marketing documents) doesn’t distinguish your value from theirs, you’re missing the mark. For instance, the CEO of Apple Computer and the CEO of Chevron might do many of the same things as leaders of their respective corporations, but you can bet they’re far from being mirror images of each other. By the same token, the CEO of a boutique PR firm would perform differently and bring different value to his/her role than either of them.
Building Blocks of your Value Proposition
Barnett’s article provides some clear ideas about how to develop your value proposition. It’s up to you, of course, to pull together the building blocks of that value proposition and make it both believable and compelling to readers (employers). As an example, if you pulled off a feat that was the corporate equivalent of walking on water, you need to find a way of presenting your accomplishment that won’t make readers say, “Oh, yeah? In your dreams!” More than likely, you had help somewhere along the way–you might have built, motivated and guided the hard-working team that carried out your vision and turned it into reality, earning you the title of “miracle worker.” In your recounting of that success story, then, you want to be sure you give full credit to your team for their contribution.
Actually, your ability to inspire the record-setting achievements of others might turn out to be a core element of your value proposition, especially if the people you inspired weren’t performing at nearly such a stellar level before your arrival on the scene.
Why would employers hire you instead of other well-qualified candidates? When you finish identifying your building blocks and assembling them effectively into your unique value proposition, you’ll have a pretty good answer to that very important question.
If you receive a job offer after your first interview with a company, consider yourself extremely lucky! Over the years, it has become increasingly common to be put through a series of interviews before you get an offer–if you get one at all. And that is usually in addition to preliminaries such as a telephone prescreening that can determine whether you make it to the first-round interview. You could have a series of interviews on one day with different people, but you could also need to go back two or three times for separate interviews. That can be pretty tough on you as a job seeker, but as long as we’re in what’s generally a buyer’s market, you might not have much choice. The trick is to prepare yourself as thoroughly for multiple interviews as you would for just one–and then some.
Multiple Interview Tip #1
It has always been important to do your homework before you go to an interview. You should research the company as thoroughly as you can–online as well as elsewhere (through people you know, etc.). You should also “know your stuff”–be confident of your ability to answer questions about your experience, skills, and so on. Those factors just become more important when you’re facing the prospect of a multistage interview process. The better prepared you are going into the first interview, the better prepared you’ll be for the others.
Multiple Interview Tip #2
Ask for as much information as you can get from the person who contacts you to arrange the interviews, whether he/she works for the company or for an agency they are using to prescreen candidates. The contact should be willing and able to tell you things like the name(s) and title(s) of the people you will be interviewing with and give you some general information about the position you’ll be interviewing for. If possible, try to find out from that person what the probable salary range is for the position, so you’ll have an idea of where you fit on the scale. Ask your questions politely but firmly. If he/she can’t answer them reasonably well, that might be a red flag. You’re better off knowing that before you actually go to the first interview.
Multiple Interview Tip #3
Pace yourself! Especially if the interviews are close together, try to give yourself some breathing room for mental relaxation. Also, go armed with enough “success stories” and other good ammunition so you don’t have to share everything in the first interview. Save something for the others if you can.
Multiple Interview Tip #4
Ask if you can take notes during each interview. If you can’t, make sure you rough-out a summary as soon as possible after you leave. (I used to sit in my car and write items down before I pulled out of the company’s parking lot.) You’ll want to use your notes to refresh your memory when you prepare for the next interview and to help you craft a really good thank-you/follow-up letter for each person you interview with. That letter should be put into the hands of the interviewer as soon as possible after the interview–you can hand-deliver it to the company, mail a hard copy, email it…the point is, do it soon.
Multiple Interview Tip #5
Don’t assume that if you make it to the final interview, you’re home-free on getting the job. If you don’t have a signed offer letter in your hands, you haven’t necessarily nailed it yet. That’s just one more reason it’s important to send the follow-up letter. Also, try to find out, either from your initial contact or from the last person you interview with, how long the company expects the hiring decision process to take. You can and probably should call to follow up if you haven’t heard anything within a week or so after the final interview, unless you were told the decision would take longer than that.