Job seekers who don’t think personal branding is worth their time are going to be sorely disappointed waiting for their phones to ring.
Because 70% of employers use social networking sites to research candidates, and 40% won’t hire someone who posts inappropriate content online. 47% of them won’t hire someone who can’t be found online, either.
You can’t just hide your profiles if you want a job these days—you’ll be passed over for one of the hundreds of other applicants (on average) for most positions you pursue. That’s why personal branding is important.
Pro tip: You can see fantastic personal branding examples here from normal people who work 9-5 jobs.
The stats on why a personal brand is important
You’re not paranoid for thinking that employers check applicants’ social media profiles. They do—and they decide a lot about you from those early impressions. Methodically building your personal brand will let you take advantage of their expectations instead of working against them.
Note: your personal brand isn’t just about your social media profiles, but those often represent your first impressions with others, so we’re focusing on those statistics here.
According to a study from CareerBuilder, employers find these reasons enough to pass on a job candidate if they spot any of these factors (% shows how many respondents identified these as deal-breakers):
- Inappropriate content (including photos, videos, or text): 40%
- Alcohol or drug-related content: 36%
- Discriminatory comments on race, religion, gender, etc.: 31%
- Linked to criminal behavior: 30%
- Lied about qualifications: 27%
- Just plain ol’ poor communication skills: 27%
- Badmouthing previous company or employee: 25%
- Unprofessional screen name: 22%
- Sharing employer’s confidential information: 20%
- Lying about an absence: 16%
- Posting too frequently: 12%
On the other hand, those same employers identified these factors as reasons why they would hire someone:
- Profiles supported qualifications: 37%
- Candidate appeared creative: 34%
- Conveyed professional image: 33%
- Appeared well-rounded with many interests: 31%
- Understood candidate’s personality and likelihood of fit: 31%
- Good communication skills: 28%
- Awards and accolades: 26%
- Positive references found online: 23%
- Candidate interacted with company’s social media accounts: 22%
- Posting compelling content: 21%
- Had large number of followers: 18%
The importance of personal branding in a digital ecosystem
Why is a personal brand important when people can find you anywhere on the web? It’s precisely because we can be found in so many places that personal branding is important.
Being everywhere means you need to manage your image more closely. Think of these factors:
- Clarity: Employers care about what you can do for them and what drives you internally. Don’t force people to figure it out—this is why you should write a personal brand statement.
- Consistency: You want to be the same person wherever employers or connections find you. Don’t make them second-guess your persona.
- Appropriate: Everyone says things they regret, and plenty of off-hand comments can be misconstrued. Pruning your social profiles is highly important because those comments could be a liability.
Look at this bar graph ranking the things employers look for in your personal brand online:
- Verification of your experience.
- If you have a professional persona.
- Your reputation.
- Any red flags about your character.
They’re looking at your profiles to see if your personality and your behavior match your resume and your LinkedIn profile. It’s not just about being found more often, but appearing more competent, approachable, and accomplished than the competition.
Pro tip: Think about powerful personal brand words to add to your profiles to create a subtle connection between yourself and the values you want people to associate with you.
References matter for your personal brand
It’s also worth noting that 34% of recruiters are looking for your references. Why are they doing this? It turns out that professional and social networks represent the second-best source of top talent for companies these days, following employee referrals, according to Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation Survey.
There’s also a fair amount of data from the marketing and advertising industry that can corroborate that finding.
- According to Nielsen Research, 92% of people trust reviews from normal people—especially people they know.
- A study from BrightLocal also found that 88% of people trust online reviews from other consumers as much as from people they know.
That data is unsurprising but vitally important because it confirms something fundamental to creating a personal brand: what other people say about you is just as important as what you say about yourself, if not more so.
“Soft” reasons why personal branding is important
Those are all the cold, hard statistics about personal branding, but they really only scratch the surface. The truth is that personal branding can become the key to every “next job” you take for the rest of your life.
Imagine never having to “apply” for jobs again in your life.
You read that right.
Good companies attract the best talent they can afford because they know it will be a worthwhile trade-off. You’ll still have to go in for interviews, but the difference is that you’ll have been invited, not permitted.
It’s a different power dynamic entirely, and it feels good.
When you become a known authority in your industry—even just as a young up-and-comer—new doors begin to open for you. Being known for your skill, experience, and tenacity will serve you in whichever industry you want to grow.
More specifically, having a personal brand matters because it achieves these things for you:
- It positions you as a solution for specific business problems.
- It makes you more memorable to new connections.
- It makes you appear more useful to the rest of your network.
- It can make you more prolific and more widely known in your extended network.
It comes down to marketing yourself as a professional, creating a demand for your skills (or someone like you) to help companies grow and prosper. Consistency is key and it will pay dividends.
Read these personal branding quotes to get a more intuitive sense of how powerful your own brand can become.
Getting started on your personal brand
You can use all kinds of tactics to build your personal brand step by step, too. Here are some advanced tactics for after you cover the basics:
- Build a portfolio website for yourself.
- Blog about your work experience and insights on LinkedIn.
- Create a hobby project and promote it.
- Experiment with a personal brand logo.
- Offer free consultations at networking events.
- Make a point of connecting mutual acquaintances for business opportunities.
- Help people find jobs or clients.
- Advocate for specific vendors or businesses to earn legitimacy.
If you’re still not sure where to start then you could consider hiring a personal branding consultant, but it’s much more cost-effective to start on your own and then get some feedback from friends, family, and other coworkers.
Developing your personal brand is important, hands down. The interesting part is really about how you build it, though. Learn to market yourself instead of making a hard sell. Invite people into your professional world and help them understand it so that they can achieve more, and network while you do it to amplify the effect.
That’s the secret sauce to long-term success. Now it’s your turn to make a personal brand.
Happy hunting, folks!