Demonstrate Your Value

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

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

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

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

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.