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Personal Branding in Job Search - What Local Employers Have to Say

The Hiring Process Social Media in Job Search Ask the Employer

Question:

"Someone recently advised me that successful job seekers have a strong personal brand. What are a few things I can do to build and/or promote my personal brand?"

Responses:

From Amanda Haddaway, Director, Human Resources and Marketing, Folcomer Equipment Corporation

Finding out information about other people is much easier than it used to be. Professionals are now going to great lengths to create their own personal brands online. For example, many people have purchased their own name as a domain and use the space for a portfolio, online résumé or personal blog. Domain names are relatively inexpensive and it might be worth the cost to show prospective employers what you have to offer. A personal website can expand upon what you fit into your résumé and may be particularly beneficial for people who are seeking jobs in design, art and technology fields to showcase their work.

Whether you decide to create your own website or not, make sure your online presence is consistent. One of the best ways to do this is to search for your name online and see what results come up. If there are search results that are not appropriate for employers’ eyes, take action to fix those items.

Be aware that anything you post online could be in the public domain. If you’re posting comments or images online, they may be visible to prospective employers.

Online postings can be used for positive messages, too. For example, you can show your expertise in a certain area by posting comments on other people’s blogs or creating your own. Consider subscribing to blogs and website feeds that offer tips for the industry in which you want to work and in your area of study. You’re likely to learn something new and you may have an opportunity to engage with others in your field by posting comments and being a part of an online community.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, sign up for the free version and post your résumé. Once you have an account, you’ll have an opportunity to join groups of similar professionals. There may also be groups that cater to people who work for certain companies, people who attended your college, various areas of interest and more. The groups allow users to post their own questions, as well as respond to questions others have posted. This is yet another way to become a part of an online community and network with people with whom you wouldn’t ordinarily be in contact.

Once you have your offer letter in hand and all of the details of your employment have been confirmed, you should update your profile to reflect your new position. This information will show up in the status updates section of your fellow connections.
If you’re concerned about how to build your network within LinkedIn, think about sending connection requests to current and former professors. It is also wise to connect with classmates and stay in touch with them as their careers (and yours) progresses. You never know when you might be in need of a contact at a particular company, a reference or a new job opportunity.

Google allows you to set up an alert that will email you any time your name shows up online. It’s not fool-proof, but the free service does pick up the vast majority of instances your name is in the media. If you have a common name, you may need to define your search criteria to include the city where you live.

From Vaughn Thurman, Founder and CEO, The Swift Solutions Group

1) Get a great photo of yourself up on LinkedIn, and get your profile up-to-date focusing on the business value you delivered at each point along the way in your career. Focus on how great those organizations you worked for really were – it makes you come across as positive. It’s the first place I go to check out most people who apply for positions that will report to me. That “second resume” and photo will be how many people “see you” before they see you, so it matters.

2) Make sure your resume is focused, printed on high-quality paper, and sent (or hand-delivered) in a handwritten envelope to the jobs you really want (in addition to whatever means they asked for). If you go to drop it off, dress nicely. The chances your resume will make it to the right person this way are high. Many managers will find out who received it and ask that person “Well? How did they present?” So be sure to present yourself well.

3) Talk to the person about what they need, not what you do. Ask questions. Take an interest in their business, team, or operational need. Long resumes that list everything you have ever done are not nearly as valuable as focused resumes that explain the problem you believe you can help a potential employer solve. Employers believe that they have to be able to trust you – so build trust (see #’s 1 & 2 above) and tell them what you do that is just because of who you are: Charitable volunteering, organizations you support, etc. Some will advise against that as the organizations you support might not be the ones your potential employer would support, and there is something to be said for that so avoid trying to make points with controversial charities and organizations (like Planned Parenthood, the NRA, one political party over another, etc.) and focus on the things that everyone can get behind, like helping those in need, etc. This is also useful for those without experience. You may not have any job experience “implementing firewalls”, but if you have done it for your local goodwill, food pantry, etc. for free, you still have done it - and it may even work for some as your first reference.

Lisa Morrissey, Human Resources Manager, Common Market

I think the best thing to do to promote your personal brand is to have some “catchy” business cards made and hand them out at your interview and/or attach them to your cover letter/resume/application. It would also be a good idea to have a Linked In account with a fully completed profile identifying all of your talent areas and a “professional” picture.

Rob Collings, Branch Manager, Manpower, Inc.

My goal in this response is not to disagree with the advice previously given, but to offer a different way of thinking about what determines success for a job seeker. I have never liked the term “personal brand.” To me it’s a buzzword that waters down the most important factor that determines which applicant will get hired. This factor is not built, it’s inherent. This factor can’t be promoted, only demonstrated.

I have been in the Recruiting and Staffing world for almost 10 years. In that period of time, I have reviewed thousands of resumes and interviewed thousands of job seekers. There are two, and only two, factors that employers use (knowingly or unknowingly) to determine which applicant gets hired: Candidate Skills and Company Culture.

The definition of the word “job” is: “the execution or performance of a specific task.” It makes no difference if you’re a Doctor, Delivery Driver, Engineer, Administrative Assistant, etc. the definition of “job” remains the same. What differentiates one job from another is the “specific” task that needs to be performed. What is needed to successfully execute or perform a specific task?

Skill: “A learned power of doing something competently.”
Different jobs have different skill sets that are the basis of that function. Each applicant, at minimum, must possess the basic ability, knowledge, or skill required for the job they have applied. If they don’t have these essential skills, they are eliminated from further consideration. It’s a safe bet that the majority of candidates who apply to the same job posting will share very similar skills. Some candidates will be more proficient with these skills than their fellow applicants. In the early stages of the hiring process, this will carry some weight. When it comes down to the final top two or three candidates, the skill gap closes fast and is no longer the be all and end all!

The second and most important factor is Company Culture! This factor is defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” There are several key words in this definition, but to tie this all together I’m going to say the winner is “shared.” A company’s culture very rarely changes. Culture is what a company is founded on, built around and anchored to. Employees, customers, investors, and communities are attracted to and retained by a Company Culture that they themselves respect, believe in, and share.

If the final two candidates being considered for a position possess the same skill set, at the exact or similar level, there is nothing of substance to make a sound decision. The candidate who “shares” or “fits in” with the company culture better will get the offer 99 out of 100 times.
Employers will consider making adjustments to required skills and/or exceptions for an applicant’s/employee’s skill level. Employers will not make adjustments or exceptions as related to their Company Culture.

So what does all of this have to do with your original question? Everything! Skills can be learned and will adjust and change with time and technology. Culture is the foundation of a company; it can’t be taught, it’s inherent and will not change. If a company tries to build or promote themselves into a “brand” based around a product or service they don’t truly embrace or believe in, then what are their chances of long-term, sustainable success?  If a job seeker tries to build or promote him or herself into a “brand” based around a job opening or an employer they don’t truly embrace or believe in, then what are the chances of a long-term, sustainable career?

Based on my experience, my advice is to:
Apply to the positions your skill set are suitable for, or learn the skill set for the career you want.
Don’t compromise who you are to land a job, in the long run you won’t be happy.