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From the archives: Features, Benefits and the Principle of Timely Relevance

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

I originally published this blog post in 2012, however, some things don't change!

If you have participated in one of my strategy calls, you know that I like to use marketing and sales metaphors when talking about job search and career management. One of the most important concepts to understand in either case is the difference between features and benefits.

Features are your skillset - your innate skills, as well as everything that your experience has taught you. Benefits are the positive outcomes produced by your skills – what your features enable you to accomplish.

So why is the distinction important? People buy and hire based on benefits not on features. This simple distinction should inform every part of your search process. Take your resume, for example. I see a lot of resumes and sadly, more of them focus on features than benefits – responsibilities rather than accomplishments. The same goes for most elevator speeches - long on experience and short on deliverables.

Where it really falls apart, however, is when you get in front of the decision-maker. If you are still trying to get by on features without bothering to understand the benefits, it is unlikely that the conversation will result in a positive outcome for either of you.

If you lead with your one size fits all resume, trusting that your experience will speak for itself, you are behaving like an inexperienced salesperson who dumps every brochure he has onto the prospect’s desk and says, “Just tell me what you need.” Like the hapless salesman, you need to do your homework and understand what they need. You must then be able to articulate how your features will benefit that company – and it doesn’t hurt to have a tailored resume!

If you can’t turn your features into benefits and answer the decision maker’s unasked question “what’s in it for me?” you are wasting time, no matter how impressive your experience is.

Finally, there is the “Principle of Timely Relevance”, a phrase coined by Nicola James in her presentation for Experts Connection. Nicola used the expression in discussing how to get on a recruiter’s radar – i.e. you have the experience I want for a search I’m conducting now! Relevance and timing are everything when it comes to a successful landing. Understand that it’s not personal.

You can be recognized as the best electrician in the world but if I need a plumber, I’m not going to call you.

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