You see a job online, the job scope interests you, you feel like you fit the bill and you prepare to attach your CV to submit. But you see 240 other applicants have applied for the job. Yes…we’ve all been there, and we’ve all heard that voice at the back of our head going “hmmm, what are the odds, I probably wouldn’t get a call”. 

Portals have AI tool to filter the CVs coming in by skills, number of years of experience, specific keywords to filter out applications that are deemed unsuitable. Say you have those skills. But...will that give the recruiter a solid reason to call you? How do you differentiate yourself from the 200 other CVs piling up in a typical recruiter’s inbox, vying for the same job? Do you know your USP and are you expressing it in your CV in such a way that you stand out from other people in your cohort?

What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)? 

Say for example, you are an Enterprise Account Manager for a vendor, applying for a role on LinkedIn, a quick search on LinkedIn Recruiter tells me there are 1356 (and the number might increase) people with exact the same title in Singapore, in industries such as IT, Networking, Internet, Security, Computer Software and hardware. Imagine if just a tenth applied, that’s still 135 people you might be potentially competing with. To a recruiter, everyone looks about the same on paper. 

But a recruiter typically looks for the following to get down to a 30-50 name shortlist: 

    1. Most relevant companies - if your current and/or previous employers happened to be competition or complementary vendors to the firm you have applied for a job, you are likely to be shortlisted.

    2. Relevant geographical coverage - if the role is looking for ASEAN and you have APAC coverage for the past 10 years, chances are you are ranked lower on priority. One of the reasons is they are worried they can't afford you.

    3. Relevant Job Challenge/Context - the more sophisticated recruiters will look at this. You can't really change your past like in point 1 and 2 but knowing the context and the challenges of the job you are applying for, sets a foundation for you to apply your unique skills and experience.

Finding and applying your USP to a job

  1. Research the role: Let’s say there are a RPA presales jobs you are keen to apply for: A bit of research shows you they are currently small, ramping up, clientele seemed to be large enterprises even though they are starting out in the region. There should be more travelling as a start. There will be likely more autonomy, more “filling in the gaps”, more making decision on the fly because there might be no precedence. 

  2. Apply your past experiences and skills: Do you have those traits they are looking for? Say you have Business Process Management experience, an earlier cousin of RPA - that would be quite relevant. No? General enterprise software? Ok, check. You do some travelling in your current job - ok, check. Hold on, some 100 other presales have that too. Served FSI customers? Check, too.

  3. Then how about your past jobs, have you done your job in a similar context? If you have done presales in a small environment, you understood AND tolerated the lack of process, perhaps even enjoyed  it, does it show in your CV? Or even if you doubled up different roles in the team when the situation calls for it. You learn things fast on the job - you can even show it in your cv when you picked up a new technology and supported the customers for it, all while doing your core job. 

  4. These are similar context skills, very extremely transferable. In fact, the lack of these skills, are often the reason why people leave very shortly after joining because they are used to operating in a different context/environment and they tried but failed to adapt. You HAVE to show this in your CV.

For most jobs, it is not difficult to imagine the job context, do your research and apply your relevant skills and experience. But in cases where you simply cannot grasp what they are looking for in that role, there are still fallbacks on generic but rare USPs that you can talk about on your CV. And still stand out. 

Examples: 

  1. Decision-making / Critical thinking – What were some tough decisions you had to make? For example, have you ever won a tender that multiple other companies are bidding for? What did you do differently?

  2. Conflict resolution – How did you handle a situation when the odds were against you? How did you navigate through the complexities of a tricky situation? E.g. Have you ever taken over an account by someone who did not handle it well? Have you ever almost lost a customer due to poor account management? How did you retrieve the account or won the customer back?  

  3. Teamwork – Teamwork is an integral part of any business success. Try and list situations where you had to work with different cross functional teams to contribute to the success of a project/company goal. 

  4. Adaptability – How flexible were you in taking on something you were not familiar with? Remember the example above on if you’ve picked up a new technology and supported a customer with it? Putting these examples down will show how you handled something out of your comfort zone - which is a very transferable skill and something that employers will value. 

The fact remains that:

  • Most people are not problem solvers. They are executors and most are not actually very good executors, too.
  • Most people do not have good people skills, nor the patience and takes the effort to understand every stakeholder’s perspective, let alone lead them to do something, together. 
  • Most people do not have the ability to understand complex ideas and express it simply.
  • Most people cannot produce something out of nothing. 
  • Most people do not know how to organise issues and events in the most efficient way.

I personally feel that product and industry knowledge can be learned, the attitude, drive and these skills mentioned are very hard to teach. If you have any of these skills, it is highly to your advantage that you demonstrate examples of any of the above, in your CV, ideally over a few jobs. 

Always tie it to an outcome

No matter how you choose to phrase your CV (short, succinct sentences in bullet points preferred by employers and recruiters!), remember to tie it to an outcome. What do you want the takeaway to be?

For example, you solved this never seen before problem and saved the company the effort of doing x-y-z, restored customer confidence and retained the annual spending of this client to the company. Stating the outcome of it is the key. What were some achievements you have had throughout your career? Quantify your KPIs, note the numbers you have overachieved. Try to condense your statements, make it easy for recruiters or TAs to absorb the things you consider an achievement.

Think about it. Take the time to think about all of these points because guess what, they become something that you can even talk about during interviews phone calls - to increase your chances to get past Round 1.

Written by: Josephine Chia