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As a hiring manager, what you ask of job candidates is also what job candidates are asking of your company: Why should I want to work here? With candidates holding more of the power, the spotlight is on companies to showcase what makes them unique and attractive to top talent.

What Makes Me Unique, Professionally Speaking

The other day a Bruno Mars song came on the radio. At the time, my mind was doing that typical thing where it manages to operate a car and take in sensory details, like pop songs and traffic signals, while staying focused on other priorities, like work-project due dates, a bag of crumpled dry cleaning, and an empty tube of toothpaste.

Then I heard the chorus and all the things I’d failed to cross off my to-do list were pushed further down said list as something more pressing took priority: editing. Like an instinct, I rewrote the following lyric in my head:

Before: Should’ve gave you all my hours / When I had the chance / Take you to every party / ‘Cause all you wanted to do was dance

After: I should’ve given you more time / When Id had the chance / Taken you to every party / Because all you wanted was to dance

Give Bruno a Break?

Now I know songwriters aren’t syntax-obsessed grammar sticklers—and for the sake of catchy, melodic beats, they shouldn’t be. But in my world of words and messaging and saying more with less—and saying it properly—that’s all I think about, even when I’m not really thinking at all.

It’s what sets me apart as a writer, editor, and person in charge of a company’s content program: I can’t not edit imperfect language when it stares me in the face or rings in my ear.

The Power of Competitive Differentiators

As job candidates, we’re often asked to describe what sets us apart from the competition (you know, because we know exactly who we’re up against). What makes you unique is an interviewer’s way of seeing if you know what it is about yourself that makes you worth hiring.

I believe my obsessive real-time editing, whether it’s a song, a billboard, or someone I overhear talking, sets me apart. When I describe this in an interview, I’m not simply selling myself as a trained marketer, I’m trying to get my interviewer to buy in on my particular brand of quality and perfectionism.

But what about companies? Shouldn’t they, too, sell job seekers on what makes them stand out from all the others in consideration? Whether they’re asked directly or not, companies do have to deal with this question of uniqueness. Every time a hiring manager interviews a job candidate, or even when that candidate visits the “About Us” page, they are—or should be—selling candidates on what makes their company different and worth joining.

Being Unique is a Two-Way Street

Showcasing competitive differentiators goes both ways. But as we shift toward a candidate’s market, it’s even more important for companies to understand theirs and make them explicit.

It’s culture, not just compensation and perks, that can be a company’s real competitive differentiator, just like editing everything I see and hear is mine. What makes your company different from all the others is what will attract the best and brightest to it—not to mention the most fitting. And the best, brightest, and most fitting hires are the ones who will make the biggest impact.

3 Questions Every Company Should Be Able to Answer

Here are three questions commonly asked of job candidates. Spin them around and ask them of your company:

  • What makes us unique? versus What makes you stand out from the competition?  
  • What would our employees say about what it’s like to work here? versus How would your friends describe you?  
  • Why should a job candidate want to work here? versus Why should I hire you?

And if you don’t know the answers, ask.

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