When you’re looking for work, you’re marketing a product to potential employers—and that product is you.
Before you begin marketing yourself, it’s important to:
- be familiar with your product—know yourself and identify your skills and accomplishments
- identify your market—target employers who are a good fit for your qualifications and work preferences.
Once you know your product and your market, the next step is to present your skills, experience and other qualifications using marketing tools that show the employer you’re the best candidate for the job.
Create effective marketing tools
Any contact you have with an employer, from phone calls and emails to meetings and job fairs, is a marketing tool. Your marketing tools also include:
- application forms
- cover letters and emails
Creating effective marketing tools is a three-part process that involves:
- thinking like your market—understanding what the employer is looking for
- tailoring your marketing tools—like your resumé or your interview skills—to reflect what the employer is looking for
- presenting your product effectively.
Think like your market
Imagine you are an employer who needs to fill a position. Before you start recruiting, you decide what kinds of qualifications your ideal candidate would have. You describe these requirements in the job posting.
You may receive hundreds of applications for the position. Some will meet your requirements; many won’t. How do you decide who to interview? You’ll probably screen the applicants by sorting them into 3 groups:
A — those who show that they exceed all your requirements
B — those who show that they meet all, or most of, your requirements
C — those who do not show that they meet your requirements.
You’ll probably end up looking at dozens of resumés or applications from people in group A and if necessary, group B. You’ll screen them again by choosing the ones that:
- are easy to read and error-free, reflecting the ability to do high-quality work
- are tailored to the job, clearly highlighting the relevant qualifications you’ve asked for
- describe the relevant qualifications using the same or similar keywords to those in your job ad or posting.
Thinking like an employer helps you understand what the employer is looking for so you can emphasize those qualities, attitudes and qualifications in your marketing tools.
Tailor your marketing tools
To market yourself effectively, it’s essential to tailor your marketing tools. Tailoring your marketing tools means developing your resumé, cover letter, interview preparation and other tools:
- to reflect the needs of each position you apply for
- to show each individual employer you have the specific qualifications they’re looking for
- to demonstrate that you place a high priority on the employer’s individual needs.
This approach helps your resumé, application, interview and other marketing tools stand out.
Present your product effectively
Whether you’re meeting an employer in person or presenting yourself on paper or online, you probably have only a few minutes to make a positive impression. Present yourself effectively:
- Do your research. Find out everything you can about the employer, the position and the industry.
- Know what you have to offer. Identify your skills and accomplishments.
- Be prepared. Find out how to submit your resumé online. Role-play introducing yourself to an employer at a job fair. Know what to expect in the interview.
The following suggestions will help you present yourself effectively on paper and online:
- Proofread. Make sure your resumés, cover letters and emails are free of errors in both spelling and grammar. Ask friends or family to proofread your work. Don’t rely on the spell-check tool in a word processing program. It may not catch omitted words, frequently repeated words or errors in usage.
- Be concise. Keep your resumés to 3 pages or less, your cover letters to 1 page and your emails to 1 screen or less.
- Be clear. Put the most important qualifications or information first. Organize the information in an easy-to-follow order. Use headings in your resumés.
- Make it easy to read. Use plenty of white space, bulleted lists and standard fonts between 10 and 14 points.
- Be professional. Use a friendly but business-like tone. Do not use text-message language, online acronyms, such as TTFN or LOL, or emoticons (typed symbols such as smiley faces).
Use the following tips to present yourself effectively in person:
- Look professional. Find out how people in the organization usually dress. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Pay special attention to your grooming.
- Act confident. Keep your head, back and shoulders upright but relaxed. Smile and make eye contact. Learn how to shake hands.
- Be positive. Leave any emotional baggage about past interviews or bad work situations at the door.
Get ready to market yourself effectively
When you're looking for work, you're marketing yourself every time you send out a resumé, talk to someone about your job search or go to an interview. Knowing what you have to offer and what employers are looking for will help you target your marketing tools and present your product—you!—with confidence.