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The competition in the job market is increasing like never before. This is because many candidates possess similar qualifications and experience. So, why would an employer choose you unless you have something different to offer?

In such a scenario, when applying for jobs, it would be a good idea to think about developing your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.

The term USP, which first became popular in the world of marketing, has traditionally been used by companies to market their products in the face of stiff competition. It refers to that one thing that makes their product different from others. To put it simply, it is the reason why consumers will buy their product instead of the competitor's.

The USP could be anything -- it could range from a lower price to more convenient packaging to better taste, etc.

Why should we hire you?

Whether you are applying for a new job or looking for a promotion within your present job, it all boils down to marketing your skills well.

"Just like products have to be marketed to consumers, candidates have to market themselves to employers," says Rishi Gupta, a senior manager with a telecom company in Delhi.

The USP should answer a commonly asked question at job interviews, "Why should we hire you?"

"What employers usually look for is a unique skill that can help them in difficult situations. For example, for an HR job in a factory, a person requires good negotiation skills for handling trade unions," says recruitment consultant Punit Trivedi.

If you can determine your Unique Selling Proposition and build it into your job marketing campaign (your cover letter, resume, interview, etc), you will have a solid advantage over other candidates.

Determining your USP

Take stock of your special skills

Ask yourself: What is that one thing that makes me unique? What makes you better than other candidates applying for a similar position with this company? What can you offer that no other candidate can?

This could be a specialisation or experience in some specific area, which the hiring company views as significant. "If you can recognise even one exceptional characteristic or skill-set that could slot you into a particular job, it will make a big difference in getting you the position," says Gupta.

"Some employers give a lot of weightage to personality, which can be observed by the increasing use of personality tests in the interview process," says Anuj Raheja, an HR executive in Delhi.

If you find it difficult to decide which skill-sets are your forte, it would be a good idea to talk to your seniors or mentor for objective insights. Once you know and develop your USP, you can 'position' yourself in the job market. Any skills that directly/ indirectly affect your job performance should be taken into consideration.

Analyse trends in your field. "Smart candidates are always attuned to the latest trends and opportunities in their respective fields," says Trivedi. The best strategy in this regard is to do a 'macro analysis' of your industry profile and determine the current trends, opportunities and goals of your target company. How do your internal capabilities fit in with the existing external realities?

Presenting your USP in your resume

Once you are aware of both yourself and what the company is looking for, you need to compile the information in your resume. "Craft your USP into a statement of around 10 to 20 word statement," advises Gupta. Keep the following rules in mind:

It is usually only one or two sentences long.
It is stated in clear terms, and is easily understandable.
It is believable.
It emphasises some unique benefit that you can provide better than other candidates.
Your USP comprises a unique amalgamation of skills, interests and talents, and is the golden wand that you should wave in front of your prospective employers. The USP statement is also referred to as your 'elevator pitch'.

Examples of USPs
Your USP should be short but descriptive. What attributes distinguish you from others in your field? Maybe it's your educational background, training, years of experience, business contacts, or your ability to motivate and inspire. You may need to adjust your pitch based upon the job profile. Here is an example:

"I have five years of information technology experience. My expertise is in technical support and troubleshooting computer problems. My technical knowledge will be beneficial in reducing call waiting times and will substantially improve the efficiency of your technical support centre."

"When I was being interviewed for an advertising position, I used the following USP: 'I have strong credentials, a good reputation in the advertising community, and a track record of attracting and winning new clients. My personal values are in sync with the company's mission with respect to putting clients first.' My USP worked and I was selected out of more than 100 candidates," says Shailesh Singh, who works in an ad agency in Delhi.

Here's a simple fill-in-the-blank statement for you to complete, which will give you your USP, or at least get you started in the right direction:

"Because of my _______, I can do _______ for you better than typical applicants."

Your USP gives you that much-needed 'competitive edge'. It could be the biggest reason why an employer wants to hire you. The end result will be more interviews and job offers. Develop your USP and flaunt it; you'll find that getting the job of your dreams has never been easier.