Professionally dressed job seeker stands proudly with her shadow in the background wearing a superhero cape.

5 Things All Job Seekers Should Know About Personal Branding

Essential Personal Branding Tips for Job Seekers

By Michael Weaver, iHire
As a job seeker, the benefits of personal branding can’t be overstated. Personal branding is a combination of numerous factors, including your reputation, demeanor, specializations, core values, online presence, and the impact of your resume itself. It entails both the skills you have as a professional and the feelings you evoke as a colleague. Many useful insights have been said about developing your personal brand, but there are several important personal branding tips for job seekers that are especially important to pay attention to.

 

#1 Hiring Appeal is Just as Important as Memorability

Don’t get us wrong. If you’ve established your brand as a job seeker to be both highly desirable and extremely memorable to employers, then you’re already ahead of the game. Both aspects are helpful in enhancing the power your brand has in propelling your job search. It’s also true that many of the qualities that make you more attractive as a candidate will also make you more memorable, but the overlap is not a perfect eclipse – when it comes to presenting yourself, if push ever comes to shove between being more likable as a potential employee versus being more memorable as a candidate, you don’t want to sacrifice the former for the latter.
 
It’s better to avoid falling into the “memorability trap” where you seem too eager to make a lasting impression, no matter the cost. Everyone has a negativity bias that makes bad experiences more memorable than positive ones. Some candidates (or anyone for that matter) could be especially unforgettable precisely because of their poor qualities, and if you only focus on standing out as much as possible, it’s easy to forget that you may be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Details of interview horror stories are repeatedly shared with more delight than the nitty-gritty minutiae of an excellent candidate’s interview.
 
Applying this knowledge is not always intuitive, but it does mean that cheesy, gimmicky antics, like wearing a top hat to an interview or printing your resume on construction paper – are not going to help you achieve the objective of landing your dream job. Other problematic habits that increase memorability but hurt hiring appeal include dominating the conversation rather than listening or emphasizing unusual talents above other skills that may be more pertinent to the position. To demonstrate uniqueness, it might be tempting to show off your knowledge in an ostentatious way, but this will only get you nixed from consideration as you’ll be considered too difficult to work with.
 
 
Silly job seeker is trying too hard to have a memorable brand, wearing a tacky bow tie, sunglasses, and a top hat.
 
 
Here are a few actions you can take to increase your memorability without sacrificing hiring appeal:
 
  • Research the firm and its industry ahead of the interview so that you can answer questions about how your background relates to the position.
  • Craft unique, tailored cover letters that speak to the values of the organization you’re applying to.
  • Highlight a unique talent from your personal life that may be applicable to the position; for example, experience performing in historical reenactments may help you secure a great job as an event organizer.
 

#2 Your Brand Should be Describable

It’s important to have a personal brand statement that can clearly answer the question, “What is my personal brand?” Writing it down for your own reference can help you fully understand the benefits of personal branding. If you maintain a personal brand statement that you can easily articulate, like an elevator pitch, you’ll have another important tool in your arsenal of prepared interview responses. Let’s look at a couple of personal brand statement examples:
 
Poor personal brand statement examples are vague and mundane, like this:
 
“I’m a great worker. I love technology. I’m very nice and collaborative. I’m a fast and smart learner. I don’t like to argue with people.”
 
Strong personal brand statement examples are specific and passionate, like this:
 
“Not only am I excited to learn new technology, but my background in C++ and Java has been honed through years of dynamic software development. I adapt and handle feedback with grace. When contributing to a collaborative process, I find ways to encourage others to follow the flow of their ideas and to help foster my colleague’s creativity through relevant questions and active listening. I use empathy to be a more agreeable colleague and to develop more intuitive user interfaces.” 
 
Even if you think you’re done answering the question, “What is my personal brand?” – formally composing your personal brand statement can help improve it and act as an affirmation. When you put in on paper, you discover more about what you want to embrace and what you want to mitigate, and this can enhance the benefits of personal branding during your job search.
 
 
Casually dressed young woman is writing her self-description in a notebook as inspiration for her personal brand.
 
 

#3 Authenticity is Key

Above all other personal branding tips for job seekers, being authentic is the most important. If an oil company is known for crashing tankers and polluting our oceans, all the advertising in the world will not do much to improve their brand until they clean up their act. In fact, when you see their commercial featuring a green, sunny, nature-focused motif, you’re more likely to feel contempt because of the dishonesty rather than change your mind about them. It’s the same with your personal brand as a job seeker.
 
If your brand includes a component such as “I like people, and I’m easy to work with” when the truth is quite clearly the opposite during your interactions with potential employers, not only are you unlikely to land the position you want most, you’ll eventually gain a reputation as an imposter. Honesty is always the best policy, and if you don’t believe it yourself, neither will your potential employers. 
 
Find an unbiased observer – preferably a blunt acquaintance rather than a close friend who might sugarcoat it – and ask them if your sense of your personal brand is accurate. The feedback you receive may lead to some introspection about yourself as a candidate which leads us to our next tip. When you reflect on who you are as a professional, you may realize there are habits that must be learned (or unlearned) if you want to succeed.
 
 
Jovial, blonde woman smiles and shakes hands with employer after accepting a job offer she earned thanks to her strong, authentic personal brand.
 
 

#4 Your Brand Should Include Flexibility

Being true to yourself shouldn’t mean being stubborn or rigid. As part of your brand, you must be willing to grow, adapt, and evolve.
 
There is no industry that’s looking for people who feel they have nothing left to learn and no room for improvement, and during the job hunt, there are some habits that employers want all job seekers to have
 
Stay true to your core values but make it a goal to be flexible and adaptable if you’re not already. Your brand should be authentic, but it can also be aspirational because it also embraces your goals and ideals. The willingness to grow, develop, and learn is easily the most important goal to strive for.
 
 
Job seeker wearing headphones sits in library, doing research on her computer as she embraces learning as the best pathway to growth and flexibility.
 
 

#5 You’ve Always Had a Brand

The truth about a personal brand is that you have one whether you like it or not. Being prudent about what you post on social media is, of course, advisable, but even if you delete every social media profile you have, then you’ve just added a new aspect to your brand. Now, you’re an untraceable, disconnected, unknown quantity. 
 
Gone are the days when you could simply let your resume “speak for itself”. Employers aren’t hiring resumes; they’re hiring you – and everything (they think) you stand for. This means they’re looking online, through your references, and by word of mouth to the gather information that paints a picture of their prospective employee.
 
Just as you can’t truly delete something off the internet, you also can’t rewrite your own history or get a clean slate. This can be both scary and empowering.
 
Everything you say and everything you do has an impact. The way you present yourself to potential employers can be verified. Remembering this can help you maintain a sense of self-awareness so that your actions and words are always deliberate. Since you can’t fight it, you may as well guide it. 
 
Reach out to every potential reference and determine who would vouch for you in the way that is most authentic to your brand. Also, use them as a source for honest feedback. Curate your online posts to be representative of the professional side of your personality while still being accurate to your demeanor and values. Embracing your reputation and building off what’s already there can also help solidify your sense of how you want to be perceived as a candidate. 
 
Regardless of how you shape your personal brand, if you’re true to yourself, passionate about what you do, and eager to learn and grow, it will all have been worth it, and you will be one step closer to landing your dream job.
 
 

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