What is a Personal Brand & Why is It Important?

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Q: What is a Personal Brand, and why is it important for job seekers to have one?

A: Your personal brand is everything that makes up your professional identity. This is particularly true online, but applies to the offline world as well.

Just as a college application is not just about your transcript alone - nowadays, resumes and job applications are no longer just about listing out the qualifications for the role. 

You can think of your personal brand as an umbrella, underneath which is all of the online and offline attributes that make up your unique identity as a job seeker and professional in your field. This includes your resume (skills, experience, education), your online persona (LinkedIn, social media, your website), and how you present yourself in the interview. Any way in which you are visible to hiring managers should be considered part of your personal brand - and that can also include things like presentations you’ve done, videos, or press mentions.

Do Employers Care About Your Personal Brand?

Employers are interested in understanding your personal brand - and what you have to offer beyond the resume. They're looking for well-rounded candidates that not only can do the job, but who stand out and show culture fit. To understand a person’s brand, I always ask my clients, “What message do you want a hiring manager to take away from your resume?” This is the central message behind your brand, and it’s really about what makes you the best fit for the role - particularly in comparison with others who may have a similar background.

A personal brand tells a story about what makes you unique as a candidate. 

Hiring managers can tell right away if you have the basic qualifications to succeed in the role. But it's harder to know who will be the "right fit" - the person most likely to provide value on their hiring investment. And often it comes down to being qualified, well-rounded, and a likely culture fit.

Let’s assume you have 2 candidates who are both equally qualified on paper. The hiring manager will be looking for differentiators that help them determine which candidate will be the better fit for the role and the organization. So this includes things outside of the traditional experience - whether that’s personal activities or volunteer affiliations, specialized training, niche experience, or a record of achievement, such as getting promoted multiple times. 

What unique factors make up your "story" - in other words, why are you here?

Are you a non traditional candidate who found success in a new field? Talk about that in your cover letter or LinkedIn profile. That’s part of your “brand”.

Were you part of company through a major change, such as joining a startup at it inception and staying on through it’s growth? Talk about how that affected you, what you learned from it, and how it shaped you as a professional in your field. That too is part of your “brand”.

Did you spend a lot of time overseas, or do you come from an international background that impacted your career in some way? Let that shine through - it’s also part of your “brand”.

Understanding a candidate on a deeper level that goes beyond just the qualifications on the resume is what hiring managers are striving for. And candidates can leverage that by highlighting unique factors on their resume, talking about themselves more deeply in the cover letter (in a way that’s relevant), bringing their personality and brand through on their LinkedIn profile, and other online channels. Consistency is key - and that’s a big part of what makes a solid personal brand.  

Related: How to Build a Strong Personal Brand

What Next?

Need help crafting an impactful personal brand that grabs hiring managers’ attention? Contact us to get started.