What do Oprah, Michael Jordan and Madonna all have in common? Sure, they've all attained a certain level of success, but one is a media mogul who likes to give her favorite things away while another is one of the most well known basketball players of all time and the third is a musical artist known for her risqué performances. What unites these differences is one common trait: a strong personal brand. It's the reputation that precedes them and the consistent set of attributes that come to mind whenever someone hears their names.
A personal brand is one of the most crucial aspects of building a career. Whether you know it or not, you have a personal brand that you're known for, so it's up to you to decide what your brand is and how it will help you stand out from the crowd. When coaching my clients on job hunting, I always advise them to first do this exercise: figure out what you'd like to be known for or what you'd like your brand to be - often times this is at the intersection of your priorities, values and innate interests. In parallel, do a reality check to uncover the skills that others have often attributed to you, and what others believe your strengths to be i.e. what do others perceive your brand to be? This will help you identify your current personal brand and the gaps you need to fill to get to your desired brand. Then, decide what actions will help you either fine tune what you want to be known for or build upon what is already there.
After determining your personal brand, think about the brand of the company you're interviewing for and how your personal brand aligns. It's a balance between being general enough that the employer can imagine you as part of the team but specific enough to differentiate yourself from every other candidate. Here are four ways to show the right amount of your personal brand in interviews.
1. Wear Your Personal Brand (Within Limits)
This is not a directive to wear whatever you feel like to an interview. Rather, it's a recommendation to think about how you want to present yourself and what message that will convey. If you're interviewing for a job in a conservative environment, there's likely little opportunity to show too much of your personal brand, but there may be subtle actions you can take, like the color of your shirt or the tie you choose to wear. Alternatively, if you're interviewing for a position that allows for more creativity, use the opportunity to choose your outfit wisely. A more colorful outfit will elicit a different response than a more subdued ensemble. Again, your choices must be done within the confines of your industry, but if given the chance, take the opportunity to show a little bit of who you are.
2. Let Your Personality Shine Through
Employers not only hire based on your skill set, they also hire because of cultural fit, often the latter more than the former. Use the interview to reveal some of who you are and, if appropriate, see if you have any common interests with the interviewer. Don't approach the situation as if you're sitting down for a weekly catch up with your best friend but do relax, engage in conversation and show some personality. People like working with others whose company they enjoy, so make sure you're one of them.
3. Give Authentic Examples
Look for opportunities in an interview to provide examples that show your competencies as well as your values. You may be someone who values being forthright and honest above all else. If so, how does that inform the way you work with others and approach problems that arise in your professional life? Give examples that support these values and indicate to the interviewer how you would respond in certain situations. Be strategic but genuine about what you share.
4. Tell Them!
Almost always, you will be asked the following question in an interview: "Tell me about yourself." This is your chance to do just that. Think of it as a version of your elevator pitch but adapt it to the situation: who you are, what you do, how you do it and what sets you apart from everyone else who's doing something similar. To use myself as an example, I may respond with the following: "I'm Melissa Llarena, a career transition expert and coach who has worked in 16 different business units and understands the nuances of everything from switching industries and job functions, to starting your own business, to balancing work responsibilities with motherhood. My unique experiences provide clients with the insight and expertise to help them achieve their career goals."
You now have four tested methods for showcasing who you are in interviews. With all of these, the most important reminder is to be yourself. Employers can tell what rings true and what doesn't, so be genuine, embrace your brand and show the employer why you're the best person for the job.
Want to share your pitch with me? Set up a virtual power session. I can help you define and market your professional brand in a way that's crisp, clear, and compelling!