You know that feeling you get when you come across a product that just works? Maybe you got it the first time you used Square. Or the first time Tripit saved you money on airfare. Or maybe it was watching Netflix on your Roku. I’m sure you know the feeling.
What do all of these products have in common?
I’ll give you a hint. You probably don’t get that feeling when you use most Microsoft products.
That’s right. Square, Tripit, and Roku each defined a very specific use-case, a clear user need, and built a simple but powerful solution to meet that need.
Microsoft Word, on the other hand, tries to be everything to everyone.
As you’ve learned, as a job seeker, you don’t want to be everything to everyone. Instead, you want the hiring manager to get that same feeling inspired by these products when they read your cover letter, scan your resume, talk to you on the phone, and meet you for the interview. You want every touch point to be a delight.
Let’s look at how to create that experience.
Identify your unique value propositions.
Good products have a clear value proposition. They do 1 or 2 things that differentiate themselves from everyone else in the market. They understand their customer segment and they speak directly to it. As a job seeker, you need to do the exact same thing.
Based on the challenges you uncovered in your research, you need to identify the 1 or 2 or 3 value propositions that make you the best candidate for a role at your target companies.
Continuing with our last mile example, where we are targeting ZipCar, Uber, Segway, and Citibike, suppose we uncovered the following challenges in our research:
- Having the service be available in the right place at the right time.
- Understanding the psychological barriers to taking public transportation vs. driving your own car.
- Keeping costs low enough to compete with driving your own car.
- Designing an easy to use, fast mobile app that’s a delight to use.
- Empowering users to share the service with their friends.
Based on your past experience, you might define your unique value propositions as:
- Product manager for award-winning iOS / android apps.
- Deep expertise in user acquisition through mobile app stores.
- Product manager with extensive experience encouraging behavior change.
- Deep expertise in inspiring word-of-mouth buzz.
- Expert in urban development and public transportation planning.
- Designs cost-effective solutions that go above and beyond stated needs.
You can see how these might be 3 very different people. The third example might not even be a product manager, and yet, each could contribute a lot in addressing the identified challenges.
The mobile expert can help each company develop a mobile app that delights users helping to ensure that they have access to the service when they need it. And their expertise in user acquisition via mobile app stores would certainly help each of these companies grow.
The behavioral change / word-of-mouth expert would be great for tackling how to convince people to ditch their cars and use public transit combined with one of these services. They could also contribute to empowering users to share the service with their friends.
And finally, the urban development and public transportation expert could provide a wealth of knowledge about where to reach users in cost-effective ways.
Reinforce the message with every touch point.
Now that you’ve identified what makes you unique, redesign your collateral to reinforce these value propositions.
Start with your cover letter. How can you tell your story in a way that speaks to the challenges the company is facing? Your goal should be for the hiring manager to nod his or her head and think, “yes, that’s exactly what my challenge is.”
Your cover letter should be about the company and the challenges they are facing, not just about you. You might not want to hear this, but nobody cares what you’ve done. The hiring manager only wants to answer one question, “can you do the work that i need you to do?”
Don’t tell them you can, show them. The best way to do that is to show that you understand their business context, that you have a grasp on their challenges, and that you can contribute in a meaningful way. The more that you can speak their language and show that you understand their world, the easier it is going to be for them to draw the conclusion that you are capable of doing the necessary work.
For your resume, make sure every single word reinforces one of your value propositions. Don’t list anything and everything you’ve ever done. Highlight elements from each position that reinforce your value proposition. Be selective. Less is more.
In the interview, select stories that reinforce your message. Remember, you are the product. Just like when you are positioning a product in the market, you don’t list out every single feature, you just highlight the key differentiators, you want to do the exact same thing when positioning yourself as the candidate for the hiring manger.
Prepare your stories ahead of time. Look for openings in the interview to share them. Connect your stories to the needs of the company.
But don’t stop there. You’ve done a lot of research. You know a lot about the company, the hiring manager, and the challenges they are facing. Make sure this shows in the interview. Don’t be creepy. But do always bring it back to how what your sharing fits the company’s needs. Don’t make the hiring manager do the work.
This sounds like a lot of work.
Let’s take a step back. This is the fourth post in a series about how to find a product job. The premise is you need to act like a product manager and look at yourself as a product. Just like building products is a lot of hard work, so is finding a job. You might be thinking to yourself, why should I do all this work?
I’ll tell you why. It’s this simple. When you walk into an interview armed with the business context, a clear understanding of the hiring manager’s biggest challenges, and an arsenal of personal stories that reinforce why you are the best solution, the whole game changes. You’ll stand out like very few other candidates. You’ll shift the balance of power. They’ll be chomping at the bit to hire you.
So I’m not going to lie to you. This process is a lot of work. But it works a hell of a lot better than blindly sending out your resume. What have you got to lose? I recommend you get started.
Did you like this series? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And if you’d like to be notified when I post new content, please subscribe to my mailing list.