Brand You is who you already are, whether you are consciously aware of it or not. Brand New, Brand You is about building a name for yourself based on what you have achieved and what you want to achieve and what differentiates you from others. It essentially is your reputation. The benefits you offer to others; your value proposition and your return on investment to prospective employers. And it must be consistent throughout your communications and how you Articulate yourself.
The key to Articulate is how you establish yourself as an expert in your field and is one of the most essential ways to brand yourself. It builds credibility and demonstrates your achievements and proven abilities through various venues, such as by writing articles published in trade journals, giving speeches at conferences and conventions, being quoted by the news media, and the like.
In this post I’m going to focus on a few key areas, namely Your Elevator Pitch, Telephone and Face to Face Interviews and Your Online Presence.
The Elevator Pitch
You’re in an elevator, a corridor or at a party and the CEO of the firm you’ve always wanted to work for, is standing next to you. What do you say?
Elevator pitches are developed to relay just enough information to cause the person you’re speaking to, to ask, “Tell me more.” If you’re lucky, the CEO will say, “If you have a few minutes, I want to hear more.” If you’re even luckier, your prospective boss will ask you to set up an appointment the next day to meet up. All of that from the development, memorising, and tweaking of a few simple yet incredibly powerful words.
Putting your pitch together
1. Who are you? Introduce yourself and your credentials up front. There’s no point in saying anything if the listener has no idea who you are or if you have any credibility.
2. What’s your objective? Get to the point quickly about what you are looking for or how that person can help. Being direct not only grabs attention but helps the listener to put your pitch into context.
3. What can you do for the listener? This is where you explain how recruiting you will meet their need. Your goals and dreams are all well and good but remember in the end what you are offering must benefit them. This is your chance to communicate what makes you someone who your audience should consider helping. People typically like to help those that they feel will be successful in the process. There are a few things you should think about when highlighting your qualifications:- industry relevance, leadership, expertise, pedigree, and impact.
4. The close – this is tricky to deliver effectively, but ideally you need an outcome to the conversation. This could be a follow-up meeting with the person you’re pitching to, a name of someone who you need to contact to follow-up, or some advice as to how to reach your goal.
Once you have your personal elevator pitch, practice it in front of the mirror. If possible, try to video or audio tape yourself, and watch it in fast forward. You’ll be amazed at your nervous habits!
Even though you’ve prepared and practiced, keep it natural.
Arguably one of the most important times to articulate Brand You, is at interview. You’ve got through the CV shortlisting stage, but now you have to impress. More often than not you will have to face a telephone interview before you get to meet a prospective employer face to face.
The Telephone Interview
Eighty percent of human communication is body language—eye contact, facial expressions, the way you move your hands, your behaviours, the way you sit or stand, and all of this is missing during the telephone conversation. However, you still have three powerful ways to get Brand You across:
Tone: Your passion, energy level and pronunciation.
Content: Your expertise and depth of experience.
Quality: Your choice of words and your ability to demonstrate a solid, consistent thought process.
Before the Interview:
- If you haven’t already, research the company and the position. Visit the company website and review news releases and other public information about the company, including quarterly and annual reports. Learn about any new product releases, any awards or special recognition received by the company. Find out about the structure of the organization, its products or services and the markets it serves. You would be amazed at the number of candidates I’ve interviewed over the years that miss this crucial step. I’ve actually terminated interviews at the point I discover that they have not bothered to prepare.
- Make sure that you know who you will be speaking with and can check for that person’s LinkedIn profile and you should also “Google” them to learn more information.
- Revisit the job description and the person specification for the role. Make a special effort to identify any areas where your skills and experience may be of particular value.
- Prepare a list of your achievements pertaining to the job description. Specify and quantify your accomplishments, e.g. ‘increased sales by x%’ or ‘reduced costs by y%’. Keep this list in front of you during the interview for you to refer to.
- Make a note of any key questions that you wish to ask.
- Make sure that you have a copy of your CV with you and ensure you have a pen and notepad to hand.
Ensure that you will be somewhere quiet for the interview itself and that you will not be interrupted.
If you have been asked to call at a specific time, ensure that you call at precisely the correct time. If you can’t get through, leave a message if you can and also call a secretary/receptionist to show that you called at the right time. Ask when the manager is expected to be free, and try again then. Repeat the same procedure until you make contact. If you have been told that the hiring manager will call you – do not expect the same rules to apply. They will call you when they want to!
- Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic.
- Try smiling while you are talking. Studies have shown that this has a positive effect on the person who is listening. It is also a good idea to stand during a telephone interview as this makes you sound more confident and helps project a positive and professional image.
- Be polite and don’t swear or use colloquialisms.
- Try not to use jargon if at all possible, unless the interviewer introduces it into the conversation.
- Use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation (but not all the time). Also, use the company name a few times.
- Be succinct. For most questions a 2-3 minute answer is a good target. Time is always an issue with telephone interviews and you’re wasting your own time if you stray off the subject.
- Be a good listener. If you do not hear or understand what was said, do not hesitate to ask that it be repeated. Do not make up answers to questions you think you have heard.
- Do not bring up salary, holiday entitlements and benefits at this stage.
- Have powerful questions written down that you can ask when provided the chance.
- Use strong, positive phrases, such as “I know,” and avoid weak phrases such as “I think.”
- Never speak negatively of anyone or anything—a former manager, colleague or company.
- Emphasise why you want to go to work for the company you are interviewing with and NOT why you want to leave your current employer.
- Do not try to evade any question. If you don’t know the answer to any particular question, say so, and then say you’ll get the answer and call back.
- If something doesn’t sound good to you, take note of it. Do NOT confront the interviewer at this stage.
- “Close” at the end of the interview. You might use: “I really appreciate your time today, and I am genuinely excited about and interested in this opportunity. Based upon our conversation, is there anything that will keep us from moving to the next step?”
After the Interview:
A post interview thank you letter or email is an excellent way of re-impressing your qualities and abilities on the mind of the interviewer. It may also separate you from others interviewed, and will tell your prospective employer that you are courteous and professional.
The Face to Face Interview
Before the Interview
Repeat the same steps as for the telephone interview. Depending on the gap between the telephone interview and the face to face interview, there may well have been recent activity within the organisation that you need to be aware of.
Ensure that you are dressed neatly and professionally. Doing so will immediately create an air of quiet confidence that will be evident in how the interviewer responds to you.
Get plenty of rest the night before. Many job seekers are so nervous they find it hard to sleep and wind up pacing the floor half the night, only to be exhausted by the time they get to the interview.
Ensure that you get to the interview venue in good time. Leave yourself enough time for traffic problems or any other eventuality that would delay you being on time. I would suggest arriving 15 minutes early, giving you time to relax once you’re there, and it creates a good impression.
Be ready to make a good first impression right away. Look your interviewer(s) in the eye and smile warmly. Be ready with a friendly greeting, and offer your hand to shake. You’ll score points immediately by getting this right – a clammy limp handshake is not good, but a bone crushing vice-like grip is equally as bad. If you’re not sure about your handshake ‘quality’, ask someone you trust to give you feedback – it is important!
During the interview itself, try to be natural. Don’t use the time the interviewer is talking to you to prepare your next answer – if you haven’t been listening attentively, it will be blindingly obvious. Punctuate any long speeches by your interviewer with very slight nods of the head – particularly the ‘let me tell you a little about what we do here …’ speech. The interviewer knows this by heart, and so is far more interested in your reaction to it. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, switch your attention periodically. It’s good practice to address your remarks to one interviewer only if he or she has just asked you a direct question, but don’t turn your back on the rest.
Be confident, you’re the expert of Brand You! Nobody knows you better than yourself, and you this is your opportunity to Articulate your passion, your value proposition and why you are the best candidate for the role.
I’ve listed some generic questions below that I often use with candidates that may help you prepare; obviously you’ll get specific role-related competency based questions about the role you’ve applied for.
- Tell me about yourself and your career?
- Why do you want the job and why do you want to leave your existing one (if applicable)?
- What can you tell me about this company / department / role?
- What is the worst feedback you have received? What was it about? How did you react? What did you learn from it?
- What motivates you? What frustrates you?
- Assuming I offer you this role, what would be the goals you set yourself for the first 30, 60 and 90 days?
- What has been your biggest achievement and failure in the last 12 months?
- What are you most proud of in your professional life?
- How would your last employer describe you?
- What strengths would you bring to this role and where would you need some support or development?
- How do you manage your time / work under pressure?
- What does success look like for you?
- How do you deal with conflict?
- How do you relax outside of work?
The key is to have lots of examples that you can draw out during the interview to demonstrate your skills and experience. Using the same example more than once to answer a question is not ideal. If you can, practice your answers with someone else.
After the Interview
As with the telephone interview, a thank you letter or email to the person / people who interviewed you is a good idea.
If are offered the job at this stage:
Ask yourself are you genuinely excited about the prospect of working for the company for a fixed term?
- If ‘yes’ – keenly accept – verbally; await the written offer and reply within a few days.
- If ‘no’ – explain to the interviewer why you feel you cannot accept it. Do not wait several weeks before declining – there may be another candidate who genuinely wants the job. Remember to be civil and polite – at some stage you may want to go for another interview with them.
If you are not offered the job:
- Review your performance objectively with yourself.
- What interested the interviewer?
- How could you improve your presentation next time?
- Did you get all the points across?
- Did you interrupt the interviewer at all, or fail to complete any questions?
- Were you positive, aggressive, tense, too laid back, too talkative or taciturn?
- What questions were difficult or needed further research?
- Try to get some feedback from the interviewer(s). Most people are happy to give feedback, so use it as a golden opportunity to develop.
It may be that there a several more hurdles for you following the 1st face to face interview. Many companies now ask shortlisted candidates to complete psychometric tests, medical or physical tests, analytic tasks, skills tests or other tested measures. Some companies will ask you to attend a second or even third face to face interview, depending on the seniority of the role or the rigour of their recruitment process. They may also ask you to deliver a presentation at this stage of the process. Don’t panic…this is all good news. It shows that they’re very interested in Brand You! Ensure you repeat some of the key preparation steps above!
Use the second interview to clarify any of your doubts about the organisation including its training program or location. And use the second visit to work out if you like the people you may be working with. Remember this is a two-way process. They may like you, but what’s your opinion of them? Use this opportunity to meet individuals, view facilities, review company philosophies and ask any additional questions. Do the employees seem happy, bored, overworked? These are people you will have to spend much of your time with so it is best to find out now.
Second interviews are often occasions for you to be introduced to other potential colleagues as well as the manager – and just as much as it’s their mission to find out if they really like you, it’s yours to determine if you can happily share an office or desk with them. If you are lucky enough to be introduced to people who would effectively be your peer group, don’t be afraid to ask them what it’s like to work there.
Depending on your field of expertise, your personal brand values and your career goals, you need to think carefully about your online presence. Over 20% of employers (according to careerbuilder.com) research candidates online and 77% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants.
If you type your name into Google, where do you appear and more importantly does that article or link represent Brand You?
Your professional image/headline is already created. It is a matter of taking charge, marketing it and building a solid reputation in your industry. Establishing credibility and visibility in your field is essential in building meaningful relationships and elevating your online presence.
Today’s business climate is too competitive not to create and build your brand and you need to keep pace with your competition. Not only can your online footprint give you that edge you need when someone comes looking for you, but effectively marketing yourself online can actually bring great opportunities to you. There are many success stories of people who’ve been discovered on the web and created viable businesses around their passion.
I’ve already covered LinkedIn and its importance in Part 3, but what other areas should you be thinking about to build your personal brand?
Contribute to industry blogs and forums – a great place to build Brand You is on industry specific blogs and forums. You never know who is reading and where those connections might lead. Comment on popular blogs in your field. Contribute on forums related to your field. Leave links to your LinkedIn account so people can learn more about you.
Start your own blog –A blog is a great to begin building your personal brand. Having your own personal website or blog will not only make it easier for people to find you, it will give you a chance sell Brand You. In order to really connect with people, you should personalise your site in a tasteful and professional manner. Post a picture of yourself and tell your audience who you are and how you got where you are today. What you write should exude confidence, but not come across as boastful. Your web address should contain your name or the name of your company or business, and your website should be appealing to the eye yet simple in design. If you are looking for a new role, be sure to incorporate your CV and a portfolio of your work into your website or blog so that potential employers or clients can view your background and your work. You need to make a great first impression. Because of advancements in technology, many first impressions are formed in the virtual world! I would recommend WordPress. It’s really easy to use, and you can be up and running with a minimal amount of effort and technical know-how!
Not everyone needs to blog (or should) – You don’t need to blog to establish an effective brand online. If you do want to blog without the pressure or time commitment, look for opportunities to guest blog. Remember that Twitter is a form of microblogging. Other ways to share your expertise: participate in online forums, contribute to LinkedIn’s Q&A section, or submit articles to sites such as eHow or your local or professional equivalent. If you’re a dynamic speaker, add podcasts or post videos on YouTube.
Keep your personal brand separate from your company brand – If you’re working for an IT firm, don’t tweet about the company. Establish yourself as the person on Twitter locally who has all the IT answers. Otherwise you’re limiting the power of your personal brand (and what happens when you leave that company?).
Safeguard your privacy – Whether you’re using Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the social media platforms, check your privacy settings. Most people don’t realise how much control they have. Consider keeping your online private and professional lives separate. On Facebook, for example, you might choose to have a personal page for family and friends and a separate page for anyone else. This is a particularly good strategy if your profession has a more conservative public image that differs from your personal beliefs.
It’s really important that you keep Brand You fresh. Make sure that you invest some time at least each week to keep your profiles current and your opinions flowing!
That concludes the third step in START. Good luck with Articulating the Brand New, Brand You – let me know you get on!
In the next post in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the fourth step in the START process, Reinforce.