Creating a strong personal brand for yourself will go a long way towards differentiating you from all the other candidates who have applied for the job.
Companies have been branding themselves for many years.
The more recent phenomenon of employer branding, which is an extension of the company’s values and culture, is driven by a desire of employers to attract more relevant applicants through showcasing reasons to work for the company.
A common interview question is “what makes you different from all the other candidates who have applied for this job?”
So candidates have increasingly embraced personal branding to ensure a good cultural fit with their place of work.
Social media has exposed our personal brands and has made it easier for employers to see the real person behind the brand, making it really important to have a consistent and congruent brand across all aspects of your professional life.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is similar to branding for a company, product or employer; it is the impression you give to a potential employer from your values and behaviors.
What you do and say, the way you present yourself, your non verbal communication and how your family, friends and colleagues see you are all part of your personal brand.
Personal branding is what sets you apart, makes you unique and why an employer should hire you over all the other applicants.
Why create your personal brand?
Candidates for all roles can benefit from personal branding.
In the current candidate led market, personal branding enables you to pick and choose who you work for based on cultural fit, rather than being miserable in a role you don’t enjoy.
A lot of roles have evolved to become customer facing and therefore a lot of employers call for the ability to deliver their company brand through interpersonal skills, non verbal communication and behaviours, in addition to knowledge.
It is easy to create your personal brand
You will need to think about some words to describe you, your values and your best traits.
Start by thinking of some phrases or words which describe you, then narrow this down to three or four phrases to form the basis of your core personal brand values.
It is useful to ask a friend or colleague to contribute, this way you will also gain an insight into how others experience and perceive you as a person.
Let your personality shine through, your personal brand is as unique to you as your fingerprint and there are no right or wrong answers.
Then think about what you want to achieve with your personal brand.
Is it to become an authority on your topic as a guest blogger? Do you want to become well respected by your colleagues and customers? Or would you like to be known as the person that the company can rely upon to get things done?
You should make a list of the desirable and undesirable behaviours of the type of person you want to be known as. How do these behaviours compare to you at present?
Establish your personal brand name
Your personal brand is unique to you, but often you won’t be the only person with your name.
A simple test of your personal brand is to search for your name in a search engine.
You will find others with the same name as you, as well as social media profiles. How do these people compare to you?
If there is someone with the same name as you giving out a negative personal brand, there are ways in which you can differentiate yourself from them.
Firstly you should consider your name on your social media profiles; if you are known to colleagues and customers as Johnny, but put John on all your social media profiles and CV / resume, change to the name you are known as professionally.
You could even create strong social media profiles, or guest blogs to help your personal brand to rank above the negative search results of others sharing your name.
Communicate your personal brand
Your personal brand is not just the content of your CV / resume and your social media profiles; up to 80% of communication is non verbal.
Non verbal communication relates to how you present yourself visually and your behaviours and is highly important to your personal brand.
Clothing, hairstyles, tattoos and piercings are all examples of non verbal communication and are great ways to add some individuality into your personal brand.
Some companies are more tolerant than others and so it is important to research the company policy on dress code.
If you cannot part from your individual style, perhaps the company interviewing you would be a poor cultural fit for your personal brand and you should consider another employer which would meet your personal brand better.
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Body language is another giveaway for non verbal communication. If you say you are interested or excited at an interview, yet are slouching in your chair, an employer could read that you are actually bored.
Your personal brand could be that of a confident and empathic face to face customer service advisor, yet if you don’t make eye contact with the customer and fidget nervously, it will contradict your personal brand.
Be aware of your body language and ask friends or colleagues to observe you if it helps to refine your personal brand.
Make the most of social media
Employers now routinely check candidates’ social media profiles including personal Facebook and Twitter pages.
You could have an all star LinkedIn profile, but your personal branding efforts could be let down by your personal Facebook profile.
LinkedIn is a professional network and so your photo is hugely important. LinkedIn is not a place for selfies, photos of you and your pet, your holiday photo with a drink in your hand or worse, no photo at all.
Your photo on LinkedIn should be a professional looking headshot, but also should reflect your personal brand.
When using LinkedIn, think about the type of posts which would reflect your personal brand and engage your audience, every post should have a purpose too.
LinkedIn Posts are great for sharing your opinion. Contribute to LinkedIn discussions and use Keep In Touch to comment on your contacts’ statuses.
The occasional meme is acceptable, but don’t make a habit of it because your personal brand will become perceived as that of the person who shares all the jokes.
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Over on Facebook and Twitter, you can lock down your personal profiles so that only you and your friends can see your profile.
Again, think about replacing your photo and cover image with something which reflects your personality but doesn’t show you in a less than professional light either.
If you are adamant that you don’t want to change your personal profiles, create professional profiles related to your career which are open to potential employers to view.
Keep yourself ‘on brand’
It can be very tempting to create a personal brand to suit the employer in order to get the job.
But if your personal brand is not congruent with your real self, it will quickly become apparent to a potential employer at interview stage, or even within the first six months of your employment.
To have a congruent personal brand, you will need to demonstrate that your CV / resume, social media, verbal and non verbal communication are all in line with your personal brand.
Personal branding is something that is easy to do and can be constantly evolved as you grow professionally. It should reflect you as a person, what you want to achieve and how you want to be perceived by others.
Next time you apply for a job, think about how personal branding can help you achieve not only a step up the career ladder and extra salary, but also a happier working life through cultural fit of your personal brand and the company brand.
This is a guest post from Jo Rowbotham. Jo joined EmptyLemon, a direct employer job board covering all sectors in 2015 as Marketing Manager, with a background in full mix marketing in the recruitment, student, property and IT sectors.
She has a passion for social marketing, personal branding and recruitment marketing and has spoken in Colleges to give jobseeking advice for students.