Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers

Whether you get to a hiring manager by referral, through a recruiter or a job board, today’s candidate needs to make a distinctive impression quickly. The traditional resume form does a poor job of quickly, clearly, and succinctly telling the reader why they should spend more time on this resume.

Since the average time spent reviewing a resume is 15 seconds or less, a job seeker needs to quickly convince the reader to stick around. A well crafted personal branding statement tells the hiring manager 3 extremely important things in a well crafted, concise single line:

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  1. What job does the candidate want?
  2. What single problem can the candidate solve better than anyone else?
  3. How can you deliver value for the organization?

What does the candidate want?

In a Fishing resume (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/09/differentiate-your-resume-with-winning.html) the candidate has to give a generic title, but can make it specific for a response resume. It should be a single title, rather than a range, or something so broad as just Executive, or manager. Listing an industry specialization can help make it more specific.

What single problem can the candidate solve better than anyone else?

Many candidates struggle answering this. Some will start listing everything they can do, not understanding that it’s primarily one problem that they will be hired to solve (don’t worry, plenty of problems solving will happen on a day to day basis, but hiring decisions are usually made to solve major problems). Make this problem solving statement very specific (stay away from broad terms like “strategy”, “leadership” and “people skills”) to differentiate yourself from the thousands of others applying for the same position (See: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search.html).

It also can be challenging to making a Personal Branding Statement this into a very succinct statement – a single line incorporating the position and the problem solving skill. Many candidates, especially technology, engineering, and finance people have a difficult time making this short and to the point, as their minds work in a wonderfully detailed way – great for their jobs, not so great for a resume. Left brainers – you’ll have to work to make this specific, yet succinct.

How can the candidate deliver value?

Frame your specific problem solving skill around the business results you achieve…rather than the technical issues you deal with to deliver results. By focusing on the results over the method, you focus the reader on the value you’ve delivered to the organization.

Here are some examples of Personal Branding Statements:

Rocket Scientist – Expert in propulsion control, delivering project results on time and under budget
Administrative Assistant – Organizes office details while implementing efficiency recommendations
CFO – Fundraising expert who lowers costs by driving productivity improvement programs
.net Developer – Programmer who delivers innovative and efficient solutions with ASP.net, C#, & SQL

How about Homer Simpson’s Personal Branding Statement?

Nuclear Engineer – Expert in controlling power plants, maximizing safe & low cost power capacity

Traditional resume styles don’t work well today:

The traditional resume style of Objective and Summary are seldom clear and describe everything the candidate can do…rather than the one thing that is the most important to the decision maker. Even executive level roles are typically hired because they can solve a specific problem better than anyone else.

The objective statement by its very nature is candidate focused and describes What’s In It For Me (WIFM), not What’s In It For Them (WIFT – the hiring manager). Most objective statements are so broad that they can’t differentiate the candidate well, because the job seeker often chooses a broad statement to attempt to appeal to a wide variety of positions and management levels. It’s what we were all trained to do in the days of paper resumes, but it doesn’t work well with an audience that today rewards personalization.

The summary section has numerous problems – It paints the candidate as a jack of all trades - master of none, while deeply discounting the candidate’s most important and most relevant skills to the company. Summary sections effectively hide WIFT (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-candidates-should-avoid-ambush.html), by burying them in paragraphs of other skills. Summary sections are often written as paragraphs – the human eye doesn’t pick up detail well within paragraphs.

A summary section doesn’t include skill recency – when you’re competing against thousands of candidates, hiring managers gauge how recently a candidate’s used the skills listed as important. When the competitive field is so large, employers favor recent skill use over what a candidate did 20 years ago.

Finally, a summary is best at the end to summarize, not the beginning … hence, its name. Would an author put the summary at the beginning of a book?

Here’s my summary (notice … at the end): Personal Branding Statements can draw your reader in, quickly differentiate a candidate, and encourage extended evaluation times for positions where the candidate truly is a good fit. Increasing specificity as a resume title will attract hiring managers looking for an employee to solve their major problem, it will also cause quick elimination from positions a candidate isn’t as well qualified for (based on what’s on the resume compared to competitors). In today’s hyper-competitive world, candidates get interviews based on what they do best, but seldom based just on what they can do.

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Related Articles:
Why use Social Branding to search for a job when you’ve already got a job?
Is your Cover Letter an Ineffective and Obsolete Tradition?

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eric said...

In some ways I think that you are confusing the issue. Most definitions of a Personal Branding Statement deal with the candidate's online presence, message, and target audience. This is not something that belongs on a resume.

I think that your content is right-on. The information that you said should be in the first line of the resume is one of the best descriptions that I have found.

I would just call that "A Resume Objective done the right way".


Phil Rosenberg said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. But I'm confused ...

Why would a candidate not want to brand themselves via their resume in the same way they brand themselves online? Why wouldn't they want a consistent branding?

Sure, there can be exceptions, if the candidate is using online branding for their present job (or business) ... but that's not the issue for the majority of candidates.