Whether you’re just starting out after graduation, or you’ve been working for years, there’s one important question that you can ask yourself before you start job hunting. What is my unique selling point.

Having a USP (sometimes also called a unique selling proposition) is a marketing term. It’s used to by sellers to demonstrate to buyers why this particular product is different (and better) than the others. It’s not too much of a stretch to see how, with some vacancies attracting hundreds of applications, knowing what it is that makes you stand out can be a big advantage.

Your personal USP could be one of a number of things. It could be your experience, or your soft-skills. But quite often what makes a person stand out from other candidates isn’t job related; for example, an IT contractor has kept the fact he was a volunteer Santa Claus on his CV for 30 years because it works well as an ice-breaker.

So how do you work out what your personal USP is? Here are some things to think about.


Grab your CV and look through it. Rather than thinking about it as separate jobs, look for themes or consistencies. Have you always been given extra responsibility? Are there aspects to your roles that you’ve really enjoyed or excelled at? Do you have a significant number of years in a given field, or have you been part of some major changes?


Now carry out the same exercise but look at what skills you used in each job. Don’t just think about the technical skills that you learned on the job, consider things like soft of transferrable skills that you’ve picked up. For example: A manager you worked with may have had a good project management or personal organisation solution that you’ve come to use. Have you learned a foreign language?


Look back as far as school and make a list of all the qualifications that you’ve achieved and any training courses you’ve completed. If you don’t keep notes on these things it can be easy to forget the one-day workshop in presentation skills, or your first aid certificate. Again, look for themes either in what you’ve learned (your expertise) or what they tell you about yourself. A constant curiosity and a willingness to do research are not bad things to be able to say about yourself.

Your Life

A really useful exercise that many counsellors get their clients to carry out is to create a timeline of your life. Beginning at the year of your birth, you continue until your current age adding positive things above the line, and negative things below. This is a great way to take a step back from your life and to see what the recurring themes are.

If you prefer to keep the personal stuff out of your work life, you could start the timeline with your first job and look at positive and negative experiences in work alone. Either way, once you’ve got your timeline and you can see the themes, think about what your personal values are. If you know what you are passionate about, what you believe in, it will be much easier to choose the right role.

Think About It

You’ve now got a lot of information about yourself, presented in ways that you don’t normally see it. What strikes you about yourself, from this new perspective? Do you have unique skill or experience? If there isn’t one thing that stands out, is there a combination of things which you think is unusual?

Hopefully, now you’ve looked at things from a slightly different angle you’re able to see yourself as more than just a list of jobs. Your unique pattern of training, skills, experience and values make you a rare combination. And I bet there’s someone out there who is looking to hire a person just like that.

Talk to Yourself

This might sound a little crazy, and if it’s outside your comfort zone, then you can always ask a friend to do a little role play with you. But you need to spend some time vverbalizingwhat you have just discovered about yourself, so you can hear how it sounds out loud. If a friend will help, ask them to question you about what you are saying, so that you can firm up your ideas.

Update your CV

Now that you know yourself better, it’s time to make sure that your CV better reflects this new version of you. Spend some time reworking it, thinking about that USP and the roles that you want to apply for – what is it about you that the interviewer shouldn’t ignore?

And now you’ve got a better idea of who you really are, it’s time to apply for that job that is so uniquely yours!

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.