Help! I’m being pigeon-holed – Employers can’t see my value

Ange Connor

Job hunting can be frustrating at the best of times. You keep putting yourself out there with application after application but you keep getting knock back after knock back. You know you have great skills to offer, you know you have transferable skills to bring to a new employer, a new industry and a new job. Yet no one seems to be able to see that you are capable of doing a different type of role, that you can apply the skills you have and learn the elements you need to, to transition to a new job and industry. Why do people keep pigeon-holing you in to the same jobs based solely on the job titles you have held previously?

Being pigeon holed is one of the greatest frustrations I hear about from job seekers. I know it happens. I’ve recruited for clients at various times who pigeon hole potential candidates because of the position titles they have on their resumes, because of the one industry they have worked in their entire career, because they can’t relate the transferable skills of a candidate to their own work place.

The challenge you are up against as a job seeker is that at present it is a highly competitive candidate rich job market in many sectors. You are up against many other job seekers applying for the same role and depending on how much of the selection criteria you meet; qualifications, industry experience, skill, attributes – often hiring managers will go with the safer option. In markets where candidates are scarce hiring managers can’t afford to pigeon hole potential candidates.

Every day I talk to frustrated job seekers who are sick to death of being pigeon holed. They are frustrated, angry, negative and fed up with applying for jobs only to be continually knocked back, not even making it to interview stage where they believe they can “sell” themselves. If this is you, you need to start thinking differently about your job application process.

Let’s look at it from a different perspective. In the business world businesses have to continually pitch their services or products to secure more work. As a consumer you make a choice to buy from one business over another because of how well they share and communicate their unique value proposition. You make a conscious choice to buy from a particular business because they have sold you on what they have to offer, you see value in what that business is selling you. It could be because of quality service, value adds, cheapest price, guarantees/warranties; the list goes on.

So why don’t we apply this same mentality to applying for a job? Instead of getting yourself pigeon holed maybe it’s time to look at your application letter and resume from the hiring managers perspective. What is the unique value proposition you are presenting to a hiring manager. How are you demonstrating what value you can bring to their business? If you are going to stop yourself being pigeon holed you need to connect with the reader and demonstrate what value you can add, what problems you will solve, what challenges you can help them overcome. You don’t need to be a sales person to do this but you do need to understand your own unique value proposition before you can effectively influence someone else with it.

Before applying for a job, have you ever really stopped to think about the vacancy from the hiring managers perspective? Have you considered what challenges the business will be facing now, tomorrow and into the future? How can you help them solve those challenges? Just like in a business sales pitch you need to provide a solution; you need to demonstrate value for the hiring manager to see the value in taking the time to interview you.

If you really want to be considered for a job you need to stand out from the crowd with what you have to offer. You need to have an offering that addresses the hiring managers needs, that demonstrates the skills you have to solve their problems.

To submit this kind of application it takes time and effort. Time and effort to research, to gather industry information, to put yourself in the hiring managers shoes, to really understand what it is you have to offer them. It takes time and effort to write an application that demonstrates a unique value proposition. And sometimes this time and effort will lead you to the conclusion that maybe for a particular role you don’t have a strong enough unique value proposition to offer. Sometimes as desperate as you are to find work or change jobs you need to be realistic and self-select; if you can’t articulate your unique value proposition you can’t expect a hiring manager who has never met you before to see and value it.

Your unique value proposition isn’t just a token statement that you put under the career objective section of your resume. Your entire application needs to be alive with your unique value proposition, it starts from the time you first enquire about a job. Having clarity about your unique value proposition is key to reducing the chances of being pigeon holed. Take the focus off the job titles of previous positions, off the industries you have worked in and focus on what it is that you genuinely have to offer.

As frustrating as it may be, getting angry about being pigeon holed isn’t going to help you with your job search. You frustrations will start to show and that is only going to compound things and work against you in your job search. Think differently – own your application. Maybe you were pigeon holed or maybe the hiring manager failed to see the value in what you could bring to the role. What can you do differently next time to ensure that value you have to offer is recognised?

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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