What Is a Personal Brand?
Malik is searching for a new job in sales. He's heard that something called personal branding can help him get and succeed in a job interview, but he's confused as to what it is and how it can help him.
A personal brand is a cohesive message about who you are and what sets you apart from others in your industry. It includes both your online and offline presence. For example, Malik has a Twitter account. That's part of his personal brand.
A personal brand can be a powerful tool for getting your dream job because it communicates to a prospective employer exactly how you can help the company. For example, perhaps Malik wants to communicate that he's great with people, which is an essential skill in sales. His personal brand can help potential employers see that side of him.
Before Malik can land his dream job, though, he has to get and pass the interview. To show him how his personal brand can do that, let's take a look at the ways he can use his personal brand before, during, and after the interview.
Pre-Interview Brand Building
There's a company that Malik really, really wants to work for and they have an opening for a sales position. That's perfect! But how can Malik's brand help him stand out from the other applicants?
The first thing Malik will want to do is to build his brand by focusing on the qualities and experience that employers want. If being a problem-solver and good with people are important qualities to the company Malik is applying to, he'll want to include those qualities as part of his brand. Of course, if Malik were looking in another industry, he might be focusing on other skills, like communication skills, analytical skills, creativity, or something else. The point is that, whatever qualities his industry values, he should focus on in his personal branding.
More importantly, he'll want to look for ways that he can demonstrate that he has those qualities, instead of simply saying he does. He might want to highlight his volunteer work at a shelter, for example, and the ways it shows his problem-solving and people skills.
It's also really important that Malik remember that everything he does online is part of his personal brand. He'll want to keep his message professional. That is, he won't want to have a bunch of photos of him partying or tweet or post messages that might be inflammatory. Finally, he'll want to create brand cohesiveness through his use of colors, images, and messaging. For example, he might want to use the same headshot of himself as the main photo on Twitter, Instagram, and his blog.
Brand Building During & After
Thanks to all his work building his personal brand, Malik has scored an interview at his dream company! He's very nervous; what should he do now?
Remember that a personal brand doesn't end online. It extends to offline presentation, too. Malik will want to stress the skills and brand that he's presented online. In his case, he'll want to point out that he's a people person and a problem solver. But he'll also want to think about tone. If his online brand is very jocular and fun, he'll want to be upbeat in the interview. If his online tone is more thoughtful and serious, he'll want to project that in the interview.
As with online branding, in-person branding should be kept professional. Malik should wear professional attire to the interview, like a suit and tie. He should avoid chewing gum and other behaviors that might not present himself in the most professional light.
What happens if Malik is faced with difficult questions? If he's asked a factual question and he's not sure of the answer, he shouldn't try to fake it. Instead, he should honestly say that he's not quite sure, but promise that he'll find the information and get back to the interviewer. He should then follow up with an email within 24 hours with the answer.
But what about questions that are difficult in a different way? For example, maybe Malik was laid off last year and has been out of work for a while. How does he answer questions about the gap in his employment? He'll want to frame the answer in terms of how it has benefitted him, always tying it back to his core message. For example, he might say that getting laid off was tough, but it allowed him to hone his interpersonal skills through volunteer work.
After the interview is over, Malik will want to follow up within 24 hours to anyone who interviewed him. He'll want to provide a personalized email to each. In his email, he should thank them for their time and highlight some of the important things that they talked about that tie in with his personal brand. For example, he might want to remind them that they talked about Malik's problem-solving at the shelter and direct them to a tweet or blog post about a time when he solved a problem while volunteering.
The follow-up email also offers a chance for Malik to provide information that he didn't get to share at the interview, especially if it is on brand. For example, if he didn't get to talk about a community service award he received, he can mention it here. He might want to write something like, 'Because we talked about my volunteer work, I wanted to mention that I received the Prunella Longinous Award for Community Service last year. This award was given to me as a result of the solution I set up to deal with the widget problem at the shelter.'
Malik will also want to sign his email professionally. This means signing with his full name and phone number, as well as links to the places online where he's built his brand, such as his blog or Twitter account. But anything in his email signature should be focused on furthering his personal brand in a professional way.
Let's review what we've learned! A personal brand is a cohesive message about who you are and what sets you apart from others in your industry. It includes both your online and offline presence. You should build your brand by focusing on the qualities and experience that employers want and looking for ways that you can demonstrate those qualities, which can include things such as professional accomplishments or examples of problem-solving. It's important to keep the brand message professional online and offline.
In a job interview, stress the skills and brand that you've presented online, making sure to match how you act with the personal brand you've cultivated online. When faced with difficult questions, frame the answer in terms of the core message of your brand. After the interview is over, you should follow up within 24 hours to anyone who interviewed you, providing a personalized email to each. In this email, you should thank them for their time and highlight some of the important things that you talked about that tie in with your personal brand. The follow-up email also offers a chance to provide information that you didn't get to share at the interview, especially if it is on brand.
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