But what is personal branding, and why do I need to know about it? Well if you are looking for a job, it’s an all-encompassing term for how you present yourself and how you are perceived both online and in person, whether it’s conscious or not.
As a recruiter, the first thing I will do once I like the look of your CV is Google you.
For the majority of people that will likely bring up nothing of any real interest except social media profiles, and maybe an old tumblr or wordpress site you started and forgot about. Fine. Except when you have left your social media profiles ‘open’ – I can see everything you have posted, tweeted and commented on since 2007.
Many years ago, a colleague of mine was representing a candidate undergoing an interview process with a legal firm, who had a reputation for being both traditional and extremely professional. First stage interview, they loved her – then they found her Facebook page open for the entire world to see. Full moon parties in Thailand, hen parties, club nights and fairly underdressed holidays in Ibiza – all fairly explicit images, she probably wouldn’t have wanted her grandma to see. It wasn’t ideal, but the icing on the cake came in the form of her most recent image – her crawling out of the office, behind her boss’s back, swigging from a bottle of wine with the caption ‘TFIF’ (although sadly not written as an acronym). We received a call from the firm to state that ‘upon reflection’ they weren’t convinced that she was the right ‘cultural fit’ for the business!
Rightly or wrongly, she stopped the interview process dead in its tracks by not recognising the importance of knowing your audience when it comes to personal branding.
Most of us are a lot savvier today. We have our Facebook’s and other personal profiles set to ‘private’ (if you don’t, and you are looking for a job – you really should!) and we are mindful when we comment online. If you haven’t already, Google yourself and sense check what comes up. If there is something you don’t like, make it private or remove it. If you can’t access it, find someone who can.
But what about in person? You’d be amazed how much of how you are perceived has nothing to do with what you actually say. I recently sat in on an interview for a relatively senior position where the candidate arrived in a casual, creased shirt and was on their phone when I walked up to greet them. My first impression was that the candidate was radiating indifference, and made me question why I was spending my time (and my clients time) interviewing them if they couldn’t even be bothered to iron a shirt and put on a tie.
So here are my five top tips to cultivate a memorable and professional personal brand that will get you noticed: