Communicating Your Personal Brand

22 November 2018

This is the second installment in our two-part series that looks at personal career branding. It’s based on an ‘Ask the Expert’ panel of public relations and human resources professionals and looks at how to communicate your brand to a potential employer.

‘Ask the Expert’ panel members from left to right: Rosina Johnston, Ginny Jones, David Rowney and Sue Evfremidis.

We were fortunate to have knowledgeable and engaging guest speakers comprise our expert panel at our mentorship event held Nov. 10, 2015:

  • Sue Evfremidis, Human Resources Representative, City of Burlington
  • Rosina Johnston, Account Director, Davis
  • Ginny Jones, President, Acuity Options
  • David Rowney, Senior Manager, Canadian Banking Communications at Scotiabank

They provided insight on applying for jobs, what employers are looking for and how to stand out in an interview. This article summarizes the panel and group discussion.

The first blog post titled “Are You Branding YOU?” encourages students and practitioners to begin thinking of themselves as their own ‘personal brand’ to help promote their professional career. The personal branding exercise and this expert panel were part of the CPRS Hamilton Mentorship Program workshop held in November.

Once you have an idea of the direction you want your professional career to take, the next step is to begin building your career towards that goal. Often that means applying for jobs in an effort to get on the right path to move your vision forward.

Job Search Tips

  • Spend time networking. This will help to build connections with people in the industry and may open up unadvertised opportunities.
  • Don’t apply to every single job. Make sure that your skills align with the position.
  • Look at the job position and determine how your values tie into the corporate culture. When applying for positions, keep in mind that an employer is looking for the right candidate; the whole package of skills, experience, education and personality.

Resume & Cover Letter Strategies

  • Never send a standard resume: Always update your resume and cover letter based on the qualifications they are looking for in the specific job description.
  • Highlight what they are asking for, and use the language in the ad because some databases search for those exact terms.
  • Don’t tell them why you’re so great; tell them what benefit they will get from hiring you
  • The preferred resume formats? Chronological and developmental.
  • Edit your resume and cover letter, and then have someone else proof it for typos, proper punctuation and formatting. This is a very important step. If there is a typo, a resume may not get a second look – it will go right in the ‘no’ pile. Plus, it is something you can easily control; in fact, it is part of your brand and the way you present yourself.
  • Be concise: One page for a cover letter, and maximum two pages for a resume.
  • Very little time is spent reviewing individual resumes, especially when there are hundreds of applications for one position. Make sure your resume is easy to read, and have someone else review it. The first paragraph of the cover letter is crucial – that creates your first impression. So give them what they are looking for, and be relevant. Ask yourself: what are they looking for? And then figure out how you can deliver. Then also try to weave in your own personal brand.
  • If you’re changing industries and have limited job experience in that field, focus on competencies that are transferable: personality and skill sets are transferable.
  • Use your LinkedIn profile to include more information – it’s an extension of your resume where you can include links to websites, projects, and further details.

Pre-Interview Research & Preparation

It’s expected you will research the company prior to an interview. Do your homework on their business, management structure and corporate social responsibility, so you can engage with them at that level.

Interview Tips & Approaches

  • PR professional David Rowney offering advice to mentees during the panel discussion.

    Show your eagerness – be curious and ask questions that show you have researched the company

  • Be confident, not arrogant
  • Capitalize on the moments that you get to speak to demonstrate how you are a good fit
  • Show them how you can help them achieve their business objectives
  • Give specific examples – show, don’t tell
  • A person may look good on paper, but the interview is a time to let your personality shine
  • Show that you align with the company’s values – they are looking for candidates that exude the corporate culture
  • Listen and ask good questions about the company. For example: What are challenges they are facing? What is the corporate culture like?
  • Candidates that are curious stand out: Show that you are open to trying new things, and are willing to learn
  • Don’t be too personal brand-focused: The interview is about how you would be a good fit for the organization – it’s not about you, it’s about how you fit in
  • In a formal interview you may not have an opportunity to get across your uniqueness, so look for opportunities to explain how you will be an asset to the company
  • Be truthful in personality/aptitude tests – you wouldn’t want a job that you’re not suited for
  • Remember that every hiring manager is different

Do Hiring Managers Look at Social Media Profiles?

Yes. LinkedIn is a go-to site for recruiters and could influence decision-makers as they are debating whether or not to bring you in for an interview. Again, it’s important to review your profiles and have a colleague also take an objective look at it for errors or omissions.

Have a careful look at your other public social media profiles as well. If you’re applying for a social media manager position, employers will evaluate how you handle your own accounts. They want to hire people with a good understanding of social media, so demonstrate that with a positive image consistent with your own brand.

Not very active on social media? Consider creating a blog around a hobby, or PR-related news. Look at the industry you want to be in, and then illustrate your passion. Even sharing and commenting online can boost your profile and show your genuine interest and expertise in a particular subject.

Brand yourself into a career, but be careful how you use your personal brand. It needs to be respectful and most importantly – it has to be you.

Strategies for Building Your Brand

Compiled by Kim Sopko and Rosita Carobelli-Zukowski, CPRS Hamilton 2015-16 Co-chairs

  • Determine who you want to be: What’s your story? What’s important to you?
  • Ask people in your network about how they see you – pay attention to what they’re not saying.
  • What is your unique selling proposition?
  • Be a connector: Link silos in organizations and workplaces by connecting people within your department or class, and people outside your network.
  • Create bonding capital: Connect with people like you – others with similar interests.
  • Have a positive digital footprint: Be a content curator and share relevant information and ideas. Keep in mind nothaving a digital footprint can be viewed negatively by a potential employer.
  • Remember: You ARE your Google search. Google yourself to see what comes up and what images appear.
  • Have a ‘wingman’: Doing your own PR is tough, so help each other. Find a friend or colleague who will review your resume, LinkedIn profile, and in turn you can review their personal branding assets.
  • Mentorship 2.0 concept: Very few people are fortunate to be involved with a formal mentorship program. Build your own mentorship model by continuing to connect and learn from others. Look for industry professionals that have values you would like to emulate. Also seek out peers so you can learn from one another. This can help to build your own personal board of directors.