What Makes You Special?


This is part 4 of a series covering basic things employers look for in applicants. While every job, hiring manager, employer and situation is unique, there are usually common traits that employers look for, in almost every position.

A fourth thing that nearly every employer looks for is … What makes you special?

When employers see hundreds or thousands of applicants for each position, they are no longer satisfied with candidates who are qualified. Qualified isn’t enough any longer – When so many applicants are available to choose from, employers seek candidates who offer more than just being qualified.

However, most of you haven’t been taught how to write a resume that portrays you as special.


Because we have been taught how to paint ourselves as commodities … we’ve been trained to emphasize that we were merely qualified to do a job. In times of candidate shortages, it didn’t matter that we were trained to be the same as everyone else … commodities. But during times of job shortages, Hiring managers look for candidates who can show they are special, that they go beyond being just qualified.

In addition, hiring managers had improved tools (Applicant Tracking Systems) to microtarget exact skills, making it impossible for candidates to portray themselves as commodities and also stand out at the same time.

The truth is that hiring managers have always sought out candidates who demonstrate they are special. But in times of candidate shortages, the candidates who have something extra are quickly hired – so hiring managers weren’t often able to hire them, because employers were competing to hire candidates with something special to offer.

So how can you portray yourself as a job seeker with something special?

  • Stop considering yourself as qualified: When you think of yourself as merely qualified, you can’t help but communicate it.
  • Figure out what you do better than anyone else: When you start to think of yourself as unique, you start to concentrate on what you do better than anyone else.
  • Find companies with problems that you’ve already solved: Having a way to show you’ve got special skills is nice, but finding a way to match your special skills with employer problems that you’ve already solved … is a match made in heaven to hiring managers.
  • Understand hiring manager priorities: When you understand hiring manager priorities, you can start to focus on the hiring managers who need the very things that make you special to solve their priority problems.
  • Customize: It’s impossible to present yourself as a candidate with something special, if you send the same resume (or just a tweaked resume) to each employer. Make sure your resume demonstrates why you’ve got something special to offer that specific employer.

So how will you write your resume? Will you continue to portray yourself as a commodity? Or will you find what makes you special … and make it the focus of your resume?

About Ivy Exec

This article was originally posted on the Ivy Exec Blog. Ivy Exec is a career resource partner of AESC/BlueSteps - a highly selective, invitation-only career site founded by a team of Columbia MBAs to address the unique career needs of top executives. Ivy Exec is a trusted recruiting tool used by companies such as JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Google, Prada, and other upper echelon firms looking to hire high-calibre executives.

Ivy Exec has agreed to provide the AESC and BlueSteps community complimentary All-Access membership should you be approved to join. As an All-Access member, you will have access to over 17,000 international job listings, industry intelligence reports, and the option to build a profile searchable by over 600 leading companies.  

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