Job hunting is something that most of us have to go through at one time or another and, a quick Google search will hand over page after page of tips and advice on how to catch the eye of a potential employer. From sending personalised bottles of wine to creating video explainers, innovation is often the buzz word when it comes to getting ahead. As with anything else, job hunting follows trends and, in the early noughties, a revolutionary trend began to emerge - the act of marketing yourself as a brand when looking for a new role.
And the brand played on
These days, branding is big business and is essential for companies who want to put themselves on the map and place themselves as thought leaders within their industry. Branding is all about creating an identity around your product or service and then making this identity instantly recognisable to consumers. Once businesses got onboard with branding, numerous celebrities, such as the Kardashians, began to follow suit and, personal branding became a thing. Entrepreneurs followed celebrities and, then, ordinary folk followed the entrepreneurs and, all of a sudden, we were being told that the sure fire way to nail that job was to market ourselves as a brand. And it nearly worked. At first, employers were impressed by these new, slick job applications which included professional profiles and killer sales pitches but, then, the tide began to turn. It’s not the first time that this has happened:
In the 1980s, a trend emerged whereby candidates were advised to respond to the question ‘where do you see yourself in five years time’, with ‘In your seat’. While this was considered bold and ‘go getting’ at the time, it quickly became seen as arrogant, silly and outdated. Similarly, presenting yourself to an employer as a brand is no longer considered a good idea for a couple of reasons:
From ‘you’re hired’ to ‘tired’
Employers have, of course, always been aware of this trend and, in 2021, tend to see it as outdated. The problem with trends is that, by their very nature, they are short-lived. For many employers, a candidate who is simply following a trend (particularly one which is getting a little old) may be seen as less than dynamic and somebody who may not bring anything original or creative to the role.
Brand vs Brand
The second - and most important - reason that this is a bad idea is this; the company that you’re applying to is a brand and will most likely have a whole set of values, ethics and guidelines attached to that brand. Then along comes your CV, featuring your own personal brand - and it doesn’t match up with that of the company; guess what happens next? That’s right, your CV goes sailing into the big, circular file and, with it, your aspirations of working for that company.
During the recruitment process, employers are looking for a number of things from you. They want to know that you have the skills and experience necessary for you to do the job. They also want to know if you will be a good choice for the company in terms of fitting in - not just in terms of getting on with your colleagues but, also, in terms of fitting in with the company’s branding and ethos. In essence, they expect you to mould yourself to the company’s brand, not the other way round.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, don’t despair, there are a few things that you can take away from the whole branding experience which will actually help you with your quest for a new job:
Different, not better - It may be that your skills and experience aren’t necessarily better than those of other candidates - and they don’t have to be. Instead, focus on what makes you different; for example, you may not have got a first in your degree, but you did volunteer at a charity for a month.
SEO - If you have some great expertise in a particular field, why not let employers come to you? Clever use of keywords and phrases within your CV can be really effective in getting you noticed. These days, many companies use recruitment software which is programmed to look for specific words and phrases so, when applying for an advertised position, pay attention to the language used in the ad and then mirror that language in your application.
Engagement - During your job hunting journey, it’s natural to focus on those jobs which are available and are being advertised - but it doesn’t have to stop there. Use your social media platforms to start a dialogue with professionals from the companies on your wish list and be sure to keep it up - they may not have a suitable role for you right now but, when they do, you’ll be front and centre in their minds. While this can be really effective, do make sure that your social media pages are professional and not littered with any dodgy images or posts.
In the landscape of 2021, competition is fierce when it comes to finding a job and, it’s tempting to any and every passing trend to give yourself an advantage. Instead, focus on figuring out what it is that the employer is looking for and then highlighting those things within your application. Play to your strengths and, remember, you’re not a brand, you’re an asset!