What’s your USP? Marketing yourself with applications

If all products were the same, how would we choose between them?

A unique selling point – USP – is the attribute that makes a product different from and more attractive than its competitors.

Just as big brands need to hook buyers in with their USPs, job applicants need to find ways to catch the eye of recruiters. So, when applying for jobs, this means showing employers what makes you different, ensuring you stand out from the crowd.

Job descriptions and person specifications outline the skills and qualifications required of an ideal candidate, and in some cases additional ‘desirable’ qualities. However, the jobs market is a competitive place, and many applicants will meet the essential criteria, i.e. many people will be equally qualified to do the job.

This can make the shortlisting process quite difficult – between equally competent candidates, who should get the job? Therefore, as an applicant, you need to be able to offer something extra to differentiate yourself from the others and break that tie. You are aiming to tick all the essential boxes and offer additional benefits too!

Added benefits – USPs

If you think of your application as a marketing exercise, you are essentially promoting your individual benefits to employers and matching those benefits to their needs.

To do this you’ll need to identify your key strengths, experiences and achievements. What do you feel proud of? You are probably more interesting than you may think! Highlight what makes you different and describe the benefits that you can bring to the organisation. Consider all the wider experiences you can draw upon that, in combination, are unique to you.

You will then be able to present yourself as a full and varied package of skills and accomplishments that not only meets the job criteria, but exceeds them.

Of course, you can’t do this if you haven’t sought out opportunities to develop your skills and experience – so now may be the time to find out what you can get involved with to enhance your portfolio of skills.

What might these added benefits or USPs include? Here are just a few examples:

  • Relevant work experience or shadowing in a similar role
  • Further professional or academic study/qualifications
  • Volunteering experience which has developed transferable skills
  • Evidence of achieving personal challenges or goals
  • Commercial awareness – market sector understanding
  • Holding positions of responsibility – e.g. society secretary, course rep
  • Sponsorship or awards in recognition of effort or achievement
  • Engagement with social action or community projects
  • Charity fundraising
  • Evidence of a commitment to a long-held interest
  • Resilience – overcoming personal challenges or extenuating circumstances


The way in which you communicate your skills needs to be confident. Employers are looking for self-assurance (though not arrogance), because they want to be reassured that you have seriously considered the role before applying and know that it is “for you”. You should also look at our list of ACTION words and phrases and incorporate some of this strong, skills-based language into your applications to describe how you have made a positive impact in the past.

Focus on your specific contributions, and don’t be afraid to use technical terms. Using the correct terminology or key phrases will also highlight your market sector understanding and show that you’ve done your research.


Use simple techniques on your applications to highlight the most relevant information by using bold, italic, headings, sub-headings and bullet points. On a CV, you could use columns, boxes or tables to draw the eye towards your most relevant key skills or qualifications. Be careful not to ‘over design’ though. Consider what’s most appropriate for the industry you are applying to.

If it’s a more traditional environment, keep your presentation professional, simple and direct. If you are applying to a more creative industry, you might go a little bit further with your design skills to demonstrate flair.

Either way though, always ask yourself if your application is easy to read? Is it structured and presented in a way that will help the employer to find the most relevant information about you? Employers don’t have much time to look at each CV they receive, so you really need to make the important parts stand out quickly and easily for the reader.

Passion & Personality

Finally, your enthusiasm for any role needs to be clear. Evidence of a genuine interest or passion for the industry and organisation will impress recruiters and reassure them that you’re serious about sticking around in the role. Enthusiasm that demonstrates your motivation and suitability and gives your application an extra shine that employers are eager to see. If you can show this, alongside a thirst to learn, you will be a more attractive candidate. Ultimately, employers will always choose an enthusiastic, self-motivated applicant over a well-qualified but disinterested one. It can be more than a tie-breaker.