By clearly demonstrating your value to a prospective boss, you can stand out from the rising sea of applicants.

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | May 2007

You can blame outsourcing, the tech bust or the large influx of new IT job seekers, but regardless of the reasons, competition for information technology positions has increased. With change comes opportunity, the saying goes, so look on this competition as a reason to take your game to the next level. By clearly demonstrating your value to a prospective boss, you can stand out from the rising sea of applicants.

Your Value Proposition

The first step is to define and author your personal value proposition. Seriously - write it down. As you do, the most important thing to keep in mind is that first, last and always value is in the eye of the beholder.

A value proposition is a powerful emotion-invoking statement that validates a hiring manager's unmet needs and instills confidence that you're the best candidate to fulfill them. Anticipating those needs comes from putting yourself in the manager's shoes. By referencing your ability to help the manager address his challenges, you'll demonstrate you can be a solution.

"One of the things that has changed about information technology is that it's not about technology for technology's sake any more," says Tony Black, chief information officer for Lane County, Ore. "Today, IT is about solving business problems. Candidates can separate themselves from the pack when they know who our customers are and they can demonstrate how to adapt the technology to solve the needs of a particular business unit."

Black estimates that less than 10 percent of the job seekers he currently interviews effectively "connect the dots" between their background and skills and solving business problems for customers. For you, that means there's plenty of room to separate yourself from the pack.

Here are the steps to creating a statement and corresponding resume to establish your value as a candidate:

  1. List your technical and non-technical skills and strengths.
  2. For every "gig," project, or job you mention on your resume, list the internal and external customers you serviced, describe the business problem you solved, the results you achieved, and the skills you used to get the job done.
  3. Research targeted employers to find out who their customers are and anticipate the business problems your prospective managers may need to solve.

Create a short statement that encapsulates your value. For example: "I have five years of experience as an Oracle DBA, and I'm an expert at effectively partnering with marketing and sales to target the right customers and prospects, thus increasing revenue by 50 percent while decreasing costs by maximizing data effectiveness for those business units."

Place that value proposition at the top of your resume and repeat it in your cover letter's lead paragraph. For each opportunity, create a custom cover letter that provides a bulleted list of the prospective manager's needs followed by a summary of how you'll meet them. Conclude by referring to the specific projects or jobs on your resume that validate your claims. This will entice the reviewer to look at your resume - by showcasing your value, you're standing out from the crowd.

"Don't lead with your skills and certifications," says Black. "Make sure that your solutions to the manager's business problems stand out."

Value Examples 

In order to anticipate a prospective manager's needs, think about their performance plans. Knowing how they are measured will help you craft a proposition that will create value in the "eyes of the beholder." Here's a list of common performance benchmarks for IT mangers:

  • Performance to budget: If your hard work, experience, wisdom or technical skills brought a project in on budget, it's valuable to a manager. Better still - quantify your financial results.
  • User satisfaction: If your listening skills, customer service skills and empathy helped you design or implement a solution, that's "value music" to an IT manager's ears.
  • On-time performance: The days of missed deadlines and cost over-runs are past. If you brought a project in on time or, better yet, ahead of schedule, it's valuable.
  • Positively impacting the company's bottom line: If you increased sales, improved collections or helped assimilate an acquisition, you created value. History has shown that employees who create value usually repeat their performance.
Managers also find value in loyal employees, so if you work late or have examples of above-and-beyond contributions, tee those up as well.

"Quantifying their value by using performance metrics or examples of the ROI they have achieved is just another way that candidates can show that they can think beyond technology and truly demonstrate their value," says Black.

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has more than 20 years experience in the staffing industry.