Are you wondering what personal branding is and how it relates to your resume? Your personal brand is your unique promise of value. It’s the individual way that you repeatedly bring benefits, help, and good to the companies you serve. Personal branding on a resume is the piece most job seekers miss, but it’s what makes one resume stand out from all the others.
Why is personal branding so important?
Over the past 15 years of working with job seekers, I’ve repeatedly seen the difference personal branding makes. A job seeker with a strong resume may apply to a role of interest and get a call for an interview. However, a job seeker with a personal-brand-focused resume and LinkedIn profile gets recruited into roles, is highly sought after by top companies, gets contacted by hiring managers on LinkedIn, and is chased down by employers jumping to make an offer before someone else can. The salary is almost always higher than the job seeker expected.
When you show an employer how you repeatedly deliver value, your market value skyrockets. You become a scarce resource in high demand.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is your unique promise of value. Unique means how you compare to your peers in a highly competitive market. You and your peers might have similar certifications and credentials — maybe even similar results — but the context will be individual to you. No one else will have the same career stories, challenges, or transformations.
The promise part of your personal brand is the theme of your work — it’s how and why you work and the value you repeatedly deliver. The consistent and repeatable delivery is the important part. When I work with job seekers, I’m looking for themes across their entire career: ways they work, strengths that surface no matter where they work, and achievements that are repeated over and over again.
The value piece relates to your target audience. For your personal brand to be effective, the language you use, what you share, and how the content is delivered are all important. Your resume must communicate the results, benefits, and achievements you deliver in relation to the specific employer’s needs. You can share great achievements on your resume, but if they don’t address what your target employer needs, it won’t hit home.
How do I find my personal brand?
Now that you understand how important it is to include your personal brand on your resume, the next step is to identify it. When we work with job seekers, we don’t set out to create their personal brand. We work to uncover it. Your personal brand is already there. It’s already part of who you are and the work you complete. All you need to do is look for it.
The best place to start is by making a list of what you have in common with your peers. It’s usually easier to identify the similarities. Once that list is complete, make a second one with the ways you stand out from your peers. What’s different about you from other similarly qualified candidates?
The four foundational pieces of your personal brand
Next, we work on four foundational pieces to your personal brand: vision, values, purpose, and passion.
Vision: What companies and roles do you want to target?
Values: What are your personal values, and what values are you searching for in your target company?
Purpose: What interests you? What brings you satisfaction and fulfillment in your work?
Passions: What motivates you? What makes you feel alive or like you’re hardly working at all?
Your unique promise of value
What makes you unique? When it comes to finding your personal brand, this one is at the top. If you’re not sure, email 10 people you know, and ask them for five words that describe you. Then, compare the words to see what themes emerge. What about your LinkedIn recommendations and past performance reviews? Read through them to identify any themes as well. You’ll start seeing a picture emerge of what makes you different from others in your field.
What’s your promise? Your promise is how you work, why you work, and what you do over and over again no matter where you work. Again, you’re looking for themes that are carried through each role you’ve held. What do people come to you for? What can you do well no matter who you’re working for? How do you do what you do? Why do you do what you do?
What’s your value? The results and achievements that you deliver. Every position adds value to a company in some way. How is your role evaluated? How is your work reviewed? What makes you compelling? What makes you relevant to your target employers? The answers to these questions are how you define your value.
Once you’ve taken the time to document your vision, values, purpose, passion, and unique promise of value, you have the raw material for your personal brand. Now it’s time to communicate it on your resume.
How do I convey my personal brand on my resume?
When job seekers reach out to me for help, it’s usually because they’re struggling to write about their accomplishments and make their resume stand out. Writing about yourself isn’t easy. It’s hard to see the forest for all the trees. In other words, you’re so close to your career that taking a step back to look at the whole picture is hard to do. So, don’t feel bad if this part is a struggle. You’re not alone. Virtually every job seeker needs help writing about themselves.
Gather career stories
Stories are what give our results and achievements context. That context is what helps us stand out from our competitors. To write a successful career story you need three things:
- You need to share stories specific to the employer’s problems.
- You need to share the results.
- You need to go beyond results and share the context of the situation or challenge.
I use career stories to help my clients stand out from other applicants. Too many resumes have language that could be copied and pasted and applied to any other job seeker in the same role. If you can take a bullet from your resume and put it on someone else’s resume, it isn’t specific enough to you.
Here are two examples of branded resume bullets:
- Launched shared-screen technology to allow designers to make client-facing presentations that better articulate offerings to prospects and help them make informed decisions, cutting designers’ time 20% and reducing customer cost.
- Increased projects 35% by estimating client’s budget and price range upfront based on historical data from similar projects, documenting everything, and sharing the data with client, also cutting contract length 50%.
In these two bullets, you get the context of the career story. You see the challenge, a comparison, the transformation, or a before/after picture.
When you set out to write your resume bullets, avoid adjectives and adverbs. They add fluff to your resume and dampen its impact. Trade adjectives for accomplishments. Instead of saying successful at, demonstrated success in, proven track record of, or results-driven, replace it with quantifiable accomplishments. Be specific about how you add value. Make sure what you’re writing can’t be copied and pasted.
The next piece is choosing the right stories. Look for consistency. You don’t want to be redundant, but you do want to show a consistent picture of the value that you can deliver. Maybe everywhere you’ve worked you’ve cut costs or generated revenue. Show your repeatable achievements — these are part of your personal brand.
Focus on value
One thing that I see too many job seekers do is get hung up on features instead of benefits. They write using terms like strengths in, ability to, or demonstrated success. When you use language like this, you’re talking in terms of features and not benefits. Ask yourself instead: What did I achieve? Use percentages, dollar amounts, and numbers. Another tip to help you stay focused on value and benefits is to start each sentence with an action verb, like created, launched, increased, skyrocketed, negotiated, influenced, or championed. These terms make it easy to lead into how you add value.
Including validation is another way to create a branded resume. You can prove your personal brand by writing accomplishment stories with tangible results. Numbers are believable, and facts are hard to deny. You can also use testimonials. If you do, make sure that the endorsement reflects your personal brand, and include the name and position of the person for maximum impact. Pulling quotes from your LinkedIn recommendations is another way to include proof on your resume.
I love using on-brand quotes on resumes. You could include them in the top section, on the side of the resume with a border, underneath the resume section headers, or in a separate shaded section.
I hope now you have a clearer understanding of what personal branding is on a resume, why it’s so important, how to uncover your personal brand, and how to include your personal brand on your resume.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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