Communicate Your Strengths
When you are trying to persuade an employer to offer you a job, you need to be really good at communicating your strengths. Think of this as marketing yourself as a product by packaging up and presenting yourself in a way which will be attractive to your target market.
You are the same person with the same bundle of skills and attributes wherever you are, at work or outside work. So in thinking about skills, think about your whole life. Perhaps you have or have had a job where you did not lead people, but outside work you are the chair of the committee which runs a thriving swimming club. To perform that role successfully, you must be using leadership skills. If you enjoy this, does it suggest that you should aim for a position where you lead others at work?
Start off by writing a list of times in your life to date when you feel you did something well or particularly enjoyed doing something (often this is because you were doing it well). Include things like hobbies or voluntary work. Think about what skills these achievements show. What have other people said you do well?
One of the common mistakes people make is to simply tell an interviewer what they are good at. “I’m a good leader...” So what? An interviewer seeing a procession of people needs something more persuasive.
For each skill you identify, think of an example of when you used the skill – and what the outcomes and benefits were that arose. Use the formula: "I did this with this result."
"One of my strengths is negotiating contracts. At X company, I negotiated a new contract with our timber suppliers which made cost savings of £150,000 in the first year." Or “I was the lead organiser for our PTA Christmas Fayre. We raised £500, £100 more than last year.”
Avoid using vague terms like "I was responsible for" or "I ensured that" or "I was involved in". Try to let the person listening picture what you were doing. If you were part of a team that achieved something, try to say what role you played or what particular contribution you made.
You won't always be able to quantify the results. Comments from others such as colleagues, fellow volunteers, staff or customers, excellent performance or fast promotion of staff you managed, or a consistently high amount of funds raised are all ways in which you can give evidence of a job well done.
It is too easy to take for granted what you are good at. "It's just my job." We Scots are not known for blowing our own trumpet! But if you simply describe what you did, your skills and strengths will speak for themselves.
Got a question? Ask it in the comment section below.
About Heather McArthur
With a background in HR and career management consulting, Heather McArthur is an experienced career coach who helps her clients to embark on the right path for the future with renewed confidence. Using a mix of face-to-face discussions, exercises, questionnaires and psychometric testing she guides them through the process of taking a thorough and objective look at who they are, what they could do in their future career and what actions they need to take to get there, including presenting themselves persuasively to potential employers. She works with people at all stages in their career, ranging from recent graduates to board directors.
Visit Raeburn Career Coaching for more information.