My Recent Job Application, Part 4: Packaging and Spin

Couldn't resist it!
Photo:  Blinking Idiot

This is the fourth and final post in the series about my recent job application. I’ve talked about how to beat the no experience problem and how totally rewriting my resume helped highlight the right experiences that got me the job. I ended the last post by saying that often the experience is there, we just have to put it in the proper context. That brings us to the subject of this last post – packaging and turning disadvantages into advantages.

Give Them Something New
I read the site I now write for because I’m obsessed with gear and they cover the best stuff. Originally I wanted to write about all the bad-ass gear I’d been reading about, and that’s almost how I framed my application. Thankfully, I came to my senses.

Why would I pitch myself to a company by saying, “Hey, I’m really excited about giving you more of what you already do really well!”? Employers are looking for something NEW. Fresh perspective, different ideas, alternative skill sets, new solutions. We can’t pitch ourselves as more of the same!

So I took a hard look at their site and noticed a type of outdoor gear that was somewhat under-represented. For example – they cover high-end, luxury travel gear extremely well, but there was room to beef up the equally high-end hunting and fishing gear. I pitched myself as just the person to help them capitalize on this opportunity.

Judo a Disadvantage into an Advantage
It’s a classic sales move (and why sales jobs are awesome) – take something that seems negative about a product or service and reframe it in a way that sounds like an advantage. For this job, they wanted an experienced writer based in New York, but I’m in Chicago. When I interviewed I layered on the more of the “different is better,” saying they’d actually be gaining a valuable perspective by adding a team member based in a vibrant midwestern city.

I played up the many things Chicago had to offer (huge population, large urban center, thriving tech scene, host to many conferences/conventions/international events) and made those things sounds as sexy as possible so as to erase any perceived disadvantage by my not being in New York. My interviewer readily agreed and said the different city issue wouldn’t be a problem.

When applying for a job, if the packaging or messaging are off even slightly, we’re dead before we start (I hope the parallels between applying for a job and all instances of selling, pitching or convincing anyone are clear). Be a new solution, rather than more of the same, and move from commonplace to a precious commodity. Turn dead-ends into speed bumps by focusing on why you’re great and diminishing what you lack.

Hopefully these guidelines can help you shape your application materials and increase your chances at success. Good luck!

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Tim Murphy is the founder of - the first free web app to help you track school and job applications.

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