Monday, December 17, 2012

What's your Advantage?

Your Competitive Advantage that is...

In the Industrial Age, having access to certain tools, whether knowledge, training or physical tools of some kind, provided you with a very distinct competitive advantage over others.    In today's marketplace though everyone has easy and ready access to information.  Experts are more accessible than ever, as is even education through the internet.  The accessibility of and to 'tools' therefore is no longer a defining feature or benefit in the marketplace.  Likely most people that you are competing against will have a similar educational background, a similar set of physical skills and abilities and comparable experiences.

How then do you differentiate yourself in the marketplace of today?

More than ever before, people are having to learn to position and sell themselves.  The 'personal' them, not just simply their skills and abilities.  In today's business place the job market is extremely competitive.  There are a lot of highly skilled and technically competent candidates competing for the 'good' available roles.  Employers then are able to be selective when hiring.  The key differentiator between those that receive offers, and those that don't, tends to be based more on the personal qualities and characteristics of the candidates than on their technical merits.

  • how likeable is the candidate?
  • do they appear to be someone that will fit in well with our existing team?
  • how self-focused versus others-directed do they appear?
  • what is their work attitude?
  • how trustworthy did they seem to be?
  • are they competitive, cooperative, innovative, conventional, group oriented, self directed...?
These are all questions that your interviewer is asking themselves - whether consciously or unconsciously - and likely basing their decision upon.  We know from research that the likeability of political candidates is one of the top three reasons for us voting the way we vote.  We know that apparent trustworthiness is one of the top two components to creating a strong first impression.   If you are not concerning yourself with 'how' you deliver your answers to your interview questions, with 'how' you come across to others in your first impression, you are likely not as competitive in the marketplace as you should be - certainly not as much as you would want.

Still the best, and easiest, way to assess this is to film yourself in a mock interview.  Pay attention not to the content of your responses, but to the delivery of them.  How did you look, sound, move?  What feelings did your responses stir and generate?  When you said you were delighted to be there did you look and sound delighted?  If you were meeting you for the first time through your videotape - what would you think of you?  Would you like you?  

All of the above is a great starting point for beginning to understand how others see you, allowing you to begin the work of strengthening the delivery of your secondary messages.  Having the 'right' answer is one thing.  Delivering it in a way that makes it - and you - memorable is an entirely different component but one that is proving to be the deciding element.  You spend time and effort in crafting and learning your interview stories.  Now... practice the delivery of them. 

Each should have underlying messages to the audience, telling them how they should think, feel, or respond to what you are saying - all communicated through how you deliver it.  These secondary messages may be indirect but they are powerful.  They can be the difference between your message being believed, or not, and are what is needed today to give you the true competitive advantage over your competition.  

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