Understanding Competitive Advantage

Being aware of your skills and qualifications is one thing. Understanding your competitive advantage a different thing.

Read on and let me elaborate how.

This week, I started reading a book by David Ogilvy – founder of one of the world’s top advertising agencies – Ogilvy & Mather.

Advertising fascinates me. It’s a massive driver of consumer consumption. These ad-men are incredible masters of mixing data and psychology to persuade the consumer in deftly creative ways. When done right, it’s a joy to observe.

Personally though, I’d never want to work in the advertising industry. I don’t see a point in using my talents to help Nestle sell more breakfast cereal. It’s not something I’d reminisce about with glee when lying on my death bed. Don’t get me wrong though, I love my morning Koko Krunch. It’s the taste I grew up with.

I’m digressing.

In his book, David Ogilvy spoke a lot about distilling product advantages – understanding what makes your product better than the competition. And then getting the best copywriters to sell that message in as few words as possible. (of course you’ll also have to add in a jingle and some fancy font styling to make the message stick)

To the consumer, it’s branding. To the business strategist, it’s unique selling point. To me, it’s competitive advantage.

Take David Beckham for example, he’s widely heralded as the “free kick specialist”. If you were a goalkeeper, you’d shudder every time he lined up a free kick 30 yards from your goal. He’s scored so many from that position.

Adidas, his sponsor, recognise Beckham’s competitive advantage. And they remind you of it when selling their predator range of boots.

That’s his brand, his one unique competitive advantage. Beckham knows it. Adidas knows it. And boy do they milk it.

Time and time again, you’ll see that people who know their competitive advantage thrive in their chosen field of work.

So, it makes perfect sense for job seekers to play to their competitive advantages, yes?

And yet, so many don’t. Here’s an example.

We’ve got a client working with a colleague of mine. Let’s call him Nigel. (not his real name)

Nigel was previously a Project Manager (PM) with over 10 years of experience in the optics field. Now that he’s job searching, he’s applying for all sorts of Project Manager (PM) positions across multiple industries including logistics and IT.

He’s not getting any responses.

I’m not surprised.

When applying to generic PM roles, Nigel is one of many applicants who while are capable, aren’t a perfect fit. (as we’ve shown before, there are WAY too many applicants for jobs these days). Why would you want to waste time competing for a job in the Logistics industry when you have no experience? The hiring manger has dozens of other applicants, many of whom have more relevant qualifications. I guarantee you, he won’t call you for an interview.

But when Nigel applies to PM roles within the optics industry, he’ll stand out like a diamond. So few people have the industry expertise he has. I’ve got almost no doubt he’ll get interview call ups to every optics related position he applies to. Furthermore, his expertise will also allow him to negotiate a far higher salary. He’s a rare commodity!

What we do for our clients isn’t rocket science. It’s actually really easy (for me at least).

We study each individual profile, identify what their competitive advantage is, decide (with the client) on the kinds of jobs to target, and then produce job application documents which:

  1. Bring out the best in the client
  2. Emphasise their competitive advantage
  3. Tailored to job ads where their competitive advantage is sought after

The strategy is super simple. I couldn’t understand why job seekers weren’t doing it themselves. You should always position yourself for the maximum potential advantage.

This advantage is why I joined the amazing team here at ResumeWriter.SG back in 2010.

I saw my competitive advantage in understanding psychology and recruitment mechanisms, and instead of competing with other head-hunters like me in a crowded field, I elected to leave the professional recruitment industry and go after an underserved market.

Over the last 6 years, my team and I have used our competitive advantage to dominate the CV writing market here in Singapore. It’s a small market, but we’re #1. (man, it feels so good to say that!)

We get the lion’s share of the profits and I get to work less hours whilst earn a higher salary than before.

I’ve enjoying myself because I’ve found, and acted upon, my competitive advantage.

So, what’s your competitive advantage?

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Russel Yee

Former Headhunter


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