Tell a Consistent Story

Tell a Consistent Story

To conduct a successful job search, you need to tell a consistent story in your resume and cover letter, and continue the theme throughout the interview process. Just as a narrative hook grabs readers’ attention at the beginning of a story and draws them in so they continue reading, in a job search, you need to catch and keep the prospective employer’s attention from the first contact until you accept a job offer.

The trick is to focus on your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) which states the clear benefit you provide to a prospective employer. It communicates who you are, what you do, what differentiates you from the competition, and how you are a better fit than other candidates for the position. By defining your UVP, and clearly presenting it in your resume and cover letter, you quickly gain prospective employers’ attention and interest them in knowing more. By focusing on and reinforcing that message in your interviews and follow-up, you separate yourself from your competitors and have a higher chance of being positively remembered and hired.

Define your Unique Value Proposition

Bottom line, you want to create a compelling answer to the question, "Why should we hire you?" Ask yourself: What distinguishes me from others in my field and makes me better than other candidates applying for this position? Think of yourself as a product and the employers as the buyers of your skill set. You are selling your unique blend of qualifications, talents, expertise, and accomplishments.

Start by reading job listings and practice area descriptions on law firm websites to get a general idea of the skills and attributes required for the type of position you seek. Use that terminology in your UVP to describe what you have to offer a potential employer. Determine, in addition to the minimum education and experience required, whether you have any tangential skill or interest that could prove useful. For instance, an engineering background is desirable, if not a prerequisite, for some areas of intellectual property and environmental practice. Knowledge of a foreign language could be a plus, as could experience in writing or lecturing. A seemingly irrelevant skill may well help to set a candidate apart from the rest of the crowd. If law is your second career, or you took time out to pursue another career direction, such as writing, teaching, or running a business, elucidate how honing the skills required to succeed in that endeavor add to your value as a lawyer. You may possess strong leadership or team acumen; have relevant volunteer work experience; or be involved in community, trade, or other business groups which could provide contacts for client development.

Reread your performance reviews from past jobs and any recommendations you have from previous employers. These documents provide clues as to what sets you apart from your peers. Distill your answer into a short but descriptive statement: "With my _______, I can do _______ for your company or firm better than typical candidates for this position." Practice your value statement in front of a mirror. Then try it out in front of a live audience of trusted colleagues or mentors and incorporate their recommendations. Sometimes it helps to ask what factors they think make you a uniquely qualified candidate.

Minimize distractions

To tell a consistent story, once you define your UVP, integrate it in all of your job hunting communications. Emphasize your skills and experience that bolster the story you’re telling about your fit for the position you seek and minimize any information that does not support it. Include your value statement in the body of your cover letter. Add one or two pertinent examples from your career history to encourage your reader to review your resume. On your resume, incorporate your UVP into your career summary section (which replaces the “objective” at the top of your resume). While you cannot simply ignore anything in your background that is not directly relevant to the position you seek, shine the spotlight on the skills the employer needs.

During interviews, integrate your UVP into your answers for questions such as, "Tell me about yourself," or "Where do you see yourself in five years?" After your interview, mention it again in your thank you letter along with one or two topics discussed in the interview that demonstrate why you are such a good fit for the position they seek to fill.

Make sure your firm’s website bio reinforces the attributes you emphasize in your value proposition. And don’t forget to emphasize those same skills in your social media such as in any online professional profiles, postings, and self-publishing content. Request LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements which associate you with the skills you highlight in your UVP. Prune any information that is not relevant as it will only dilute your message.

Using your Unique Value Proposition

There are three basic steps to using your UVP to tell a consistent story in your job search:

  • Identification – define the business problems the prospective employer seeks to solve with this hire. Conduct a detailed examination of the job description and research the firm online. Use social media and blogs to further explore what’s important to the prospective employer and whether there are any current or prospective legal or business challenges you can help them resolve.
  • Translation – describe how your unique combination of qualifications makes you better able than your competitors to provide those solutions. It’s important to communicate a grasp of what the position entails and what business or legal problems they need you to solve, and then sell your abilities to meet those needs. This is the key. By matching your UVP to the job description and corporate or law firm value proposition, you link your specific credentials to the firm’s bottom line. Put the puzzle pieces together for your prospective employer, and you'll make it easier for the interviewer to envision you in the position.
  • Demonstration – provide examples from your background that show how you resolved comparable issues in the past. To prepare for the interview, practice responding to questions with vivid examples of how you used your strengths to achieve business objectives similar to those of the prospective employer. Tell a consistent and easily understood story of your career trajectory, and state only the relevant information, prioritizing your transferrable skills. Eliminate or minimize any non-related information. Focus and tailor each presentation for the position you seek; you may need to adjust your pitch based upon each job profile.

The more consistent you are telling your story in your job search communications, the more you will convince prospective employers that you are a better choice than any other candidate. Throughout the job search process, focus on your Unique Value Proposition. Stick to the primary message you want future employers to remember about you from the minute they receive your resume and cover letter until they make their final hiring decision. If you know how to define your professional qualities and sell them effectively, potential employers will choose you over your competition.

Valerie Fontaine

Valerie A. Fontaine earned her JD from UC Hastings College of Law and her BA, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, from UCLA. She was on the Editorial Board of COMM/ENT, a Journal of Communications and Entertainment Law. Valerie practiced law with a prominent Los Angeles law firm and entered the legal search profession in 1981. Valerie is a member the Board of Directors of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) and serves on its Ethics Committee.
Valerie Fontaine

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