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By Matt Craven, Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible

I’ve recently received an email from someone in my business network (Nigel Botterill from the Entrepreneurs Circle) who has recently read a book titled “How the World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead.

It’s all about Positioning and Personal Branding, which is a topic very close to my heart.

Nigel was rather taken by Sally’s teachings and used it as a tool for educating his SME clients, but it is highly relevant for Job Seekers too. I’ve pinched a few parts of Nigel’s email (thanks big man) and tailored it to the recruitment market.

The key point that Nigel homes in on is how many businesses describe themselves as being ‘better’ or ‘the best’. Based on Sally’s book, Nigel talk about how a business should resist the urge to pitch themselves as ‘better’ and focus on how they are ‘different’.

Sally highlights her point with a metaphor about ice cream and asks her audience to thing about whether they are ‘vanilla’ or ‘pistachio’. Vanilla is the best-selling ice cream flavour but there is a lot of competition in the vanilla ice cream market – being a ‘better vanilla’ is a flawed strategy because it’s subjective and every other vanilla ice cream also thinks it’s the best.

Using Nigel’s words “Now, pistachio will get you noticed! Yes, you’ll get a negative response from some, but being pistachio is the only way to be fascinating to somebody. Vanilla fascinates no one.”

In the book, Sally pontificates that you are 99.9% the same as everyone else. She’s talking about DNA and anatomy, but it applies to you as a job seeker as well. Your point of difference depends on that 0.1% – that’s where you’ve got to find your USP and competitive advantage.

If you’re seen as vanilla by recruitment decision makers, you’ll be in the bun fight with everyone else; Nigel would argue that you are “suppressing the very 0.1% difference that offers your only true opportunity for greatness in your marketplace.”

But, if you are seen as pistachio, you’ll be seen as having a point of difference that will get you noticed among the hundreds of other job seekers pitching for that same job.

I think Nigel and Sally are spot on! Here’s my thoughts on how it relates to CVs and LinkedIn profiles.

Obviously, your LinkedIn profile is your window to the job market (well one of them anyway) and what your LinkedIn profile says is crucial to how people perceive you AND your professional worth.

I review an awful lot of LinkedIn profiles and the scenario that Nigel mentions crops up over and over again. It was only last week that I was talking to a job seeker about how her message was terribly generic and ambiguous. Frankly, I would be surprised if she has ever generated any recruitment interest on LinkedIn and we talked about some strategies to fix that.

Interestingly (maybe ironically), I speak to many job seekers who tell me that they have tried LinkedIn, but it doesn’t work. The truth is, it’s not LinkedIn! Firstly, they’ve not realised that their LinkedIn profile is their crucial landing page for all their LinkedIn activity; and secondly, it’s the fact that they appear vanilla and not pistachio!

Your average person is so entrenched in their own thinking that it’s practically impossible for them to objectively assess the message they are beaming out to the world.

It’s the same with CVs! Take Project Managers as an example – barring the different dates and company names, I could read 100 Project Manager CVs and they would all be virtually identical. How on earth are Recruiters and Hiring Managers supposed to make informed shortlisting decisions?! No wonder they rely on ATS’ and recruitment software.

What’s key is to find your point of difference – communicating your value proposition, your unique selling points, and providing some rich examples of your work with tangible and measurable outcomes is a good place to start.

It’s through your value proposition, selling points and case studies that you’ll find your version of pistachio and allow yourself to move away from the same old vanilla CV and LinkedIn profile that gets you nowhere!

Feel free to submit a free CV and / or LinkedIn appraisal and get detailed feedback against current CV / LinkedIn best-practice. Just visit our home page: www.cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk


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Matthew Craven

Matthew Craven, Managing Director

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  • Are You Vanilla or Pistachio?

    I’ve recently received an email from someone in my business network (Nigel Botterill from the Entrepreneurs Circle) who has recently read a book titled “How the World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead. It’s all about Positioning and Personal Branding, which is a topic very close to my heart.

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