Create your own "Personal Brand" to Stand out?

Should you try to build and communicate a personal brand in your CV and Cover Letter

As if job searching was not hard enough for graduates; now we have advice emerging from Serif – according to the news article “the UK’s leading independent design, publishing and creative software company”.  Not the usual place you’d expect advice. With no recognised professional expertise in the recruitment industry, giving advice on writing a CV seems a little odd and may have some commercial motivations.  They suggest the following tips to stand out with your own “personal brand”: (see: http://www.onrec.com/newsstories/25888.asp)

QUOTE

1. Catch the recruiter’s eye with a personal logo
A well-written cover letter can make your application instantly stand out from the rest when emblazoned with a personal logo. …[deleted part]

2. Add ‘omphf’ to your résumé with colour and graphics
Once the cover letter grabs the recruiter’s attention, elevate a traditional text-laden résumé to a new level by incorporating finely-tuned colour pallets or accent graphics, but do not be tempted to go overboard.  Add that extra bit of professionalism to a résumé by turning the document into HTML format or a PDF.

3. Continue the conversation with a personal website
Once a recruiter’s interest is sparked, their first move will be to search for the candidate on the web.  Make an impact by extending your personal brand online with an interactive website. …With a little thought and creative input, you can create professional-quality, attractive and informative sites that integrate web 2.0 elements, like a blog, links to your Twitter feed or Facebook page and embedded video.

4. Leave a lasting impression with a portfolio and business card
Great qualifications, a perfect résumé and a great online presence can help get the interview, but then the focus shifts to maintaining a personal brand during and afterwards. Candidates can offer samples of their relevant past experience (eg. sample projects or writing) in a full-colour, seamless presentation and leave behind a personal business card with all relevant contact information, including website address.

5. Brand your replies and ‘thank-yous’
Following a job interview, a candidate should send a ‘thank you’ note to the interviewer.  Stay fresh in their memory by mentioning a point of conversation from the interview and include your personal brand logo on follow-up correspondence.

UNQUOTE

This advice, in many ways, ignores the reality of hiring, the recruitment industry’s methods and even of people themselves.

What does a logo really bring
I have never known a logo making the difference in a cover letter.  In fact, in many instances, the cover letter is separated from the CV when it goes to the interviewer, so they may never get to see it.  In fact, such graphical embellishment can do as much to harm you as help you, being easily interpreted as “unusual” or, worse, “weird”.  Not the brand you want to have.  The same happened with CV DVDs, which contained the applicants interactive portfolio of work and CV.  It often looked fantastic, until people thought – this is a bit odd really…and it was downhill from there.

Is graphics and file type the be all and end all
Graphics do not help you unless, perhaps, you are applying for a creative job with the likes of Serif! For most other jobs, adding graphics and slight font changes makes you stand out, but for the wrong reasons.  Make the CV look clear, easy to read and aesthetically pleasing and you will be fine. As for making a PDF version of your CV, yes you can. But note that most recruiters will ask for Word versions so they can put it into their own template with their own cover pages.

People don’t buy a book by its cover
Following up with samples of work in nice presentation packs can be a nice touch, but this would typically only apply to creative-type jobs where such things might be requested.  And again, as long as the work is nicely presented, the focus will soon turn to the actual content and your branding efforts will vanish.  When it comes down to it, people may initially judge a book by its cover when deciding to take it off the shelf, but they only buy it once they are happy with what it and reviewers say about the story on the back and inside.

An online strategy is valuable, but not like this
A website is fine to do.  It is part of managing your online information, as recruiters will look on Google or LinkedIn to find more information about you.  But blogging and twittering is not necessary unless you are going for certain roles, like online marketing or journalism, professions who may be impressed with a high quality site.   But let’s be honest, while Serif do undoubtedly care about helping people get back to work – well why wouldn’t they – they could be interested in you building a site with their software, too.

Focus on your achievements and job search strategy, not a personal brand

When all is said and done, this is generally unhelpful advice.  Companies invest millions in advertising and sponsorships to build a brand with positive associations they want you to link to their products and services.  Equally, at school and university, you spent much time and effort building your brand and reputation with colleagues and tutors, and restoring it in the case of a personal scandal. You did not have or need a logo, and if you had presented a business card with a logo to people who did not know you at university, they would have thought you were a bit egotistical or a bit odd.  Don’t think an employer will be different – they’re the same people you went to school and university with, only with a few more years of experience and cynicism!

Get your content write and focus on finding the right jobs through your network of contacts, job sites, direct approaches to firms, or recruiters.  Alternatively, set up your own business if you can.  Don’t waste your time on a logo and website unless you know it will be appreciated by the prospective employer.  If in doubt, ask one or two if it would help you.

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