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As a recruiter, you understand how important it is for job seekers to have a strong online presence—so invest time in building a brand of your own.
Illustration by James Smallwood for HR Magazine.
As an HR professional, you no doubt know that social hiring is now the norm. Only 4 percent of recruiters do not use social media sites such as LinkedIn to source and assess candidates, according to the results of recruiting platform Jobvite’s most recent Recruiter Nation Survey.
Clearly, to compete in the digital age, candidates must brand themselves and provide proof of their expertise on multiple networks and in multiple formats. It’s a whole new ball game.
While you likely understand this, if you’re like many HR professionals, you may feel reluctant to shine a light on your career accomplishments. After all, HR practitioners are more accustomed to supporting others’ development than to building a robust personal brand and online presence of their own.
In fact, branding doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. All too often, I hear job seekers say self-sabotaging things like:
• "I’m not a brand, I’m a person. And I don’t like to brag about myself."
• "I don’t want to ‘put myself out there’ online."
• "I don’t have time for LinkedIn or any other social networking."
Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to get better clarity on what branding is—and what it isn’t.
Personal branding is not bragging, nor is it a matter of simply stringing together your functional areas of expertise on your LinkedIn page.
It is about defining what makes you unique and valuable to the employers you’re targeting. Differentiation is the key. Think about the job searches you lead as an HR professional. What makes the resumes you cull for a first interview stand apart from the rest? Applying the same principles will help you get noticed in your own career.
Your brand is your authentic self. It’s your reputation, what people rely on you to deliver and what you’re the go-to person for. It is the unique combination of personal qualities and hard skills that represent why you would be a good fit for your target employers—the things that will make your resume and
LinkedIn profile interesting reads.
It’s true that it takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate a strong brand, but it’s a worthy investment in yourself that could help you land your next big opportunity. Here are some tips on how to get started:
Take stock of your online footprint. Most recruiters and hiring decision-makers turn to online platforms first to find and assess candidates. Job seekers who ignore LinkedIn, in particular, for reputation management and personal brand-building risk career suicide.
You want to make sure you have a diverse, compelling online footprint. If you are not at least somewhat active on the Internet, hiring managers may never find you. One way to test your digital visibility: Google yourself. If doing so yields few or no search results, you may be passed over for someone with a more vibrant online persona. (And if most of the search returns are for someone with the same name, consider adding a middle initial to your profiles or some other variation that will set you apart online.)
Get active online. Spend time researching employers you’d like to work for so you can develop content that positions you as the person who can help those organizations meet their most pressing needs. Then dive in to developing your online presence.
One way to begin is by using the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform, which allows you to write and post articles that demonstrate your subject matter expertise and thought leadership. The posts become part of your profile and are shared with your connections and followers, as well as with out-of-network members who opt to receive them. They are searchable both on and off LinkedIn. Using LinkedIn’s 2016/2017 user interface, look for the "Write an Article" section on the home page of your profile to get started.
Another idea: Write reviews of relevant books on Amazon or other well-known sites. They can become additional powerful search results that support your expertise. At the same time, reading the right books can improve your breadth of knowledge and strengthen your skill set.
Having an online footprint that provides social proof indicates that you are a savvy candidate who knows how to operate in the digital age. —Meg Guiseppe
Choose titles relevant to your areas of HR expertise, and consider which books the decision-makers at your target employers are likely to be familiar with. Also look to cover publications written by people with whom you want to connect, since authors typically keep track of all their reviews.
Without being too self-promotional, mention if you’re an authority on a subject. For example, say "As an HR generalist with more than 20 years of experience in employee relations, I agree with the author that ... ." ]
[SHRM resource: HR Jobs]
Create a search engine optimization strategy. As you build an online presence, find ways to optimize the likelihood that your name will come up in searches conducted by recruiters and hiring decision-makers in the companies and industries you want to join. You can do this by researching the relevant keywords and phrases important to your target organizations and then including them in your resume, profiles, blog posts, book reviews and other online content.
Provide "social proof" to back up your resume. As those responsible for hiring realize, it’s not unusual for recruiters to Google job seekers’ names to find "social proof" that validates the claims on candidates’ resumes and other career-related pages.
Of course, HR professionals will be held to the same scrutiny. Any discrepancies between the information you provide to prospective employers and what they can find online can send up red flags, so make sure everything is accurate and consistent. Having an online footprint that provides social proof indicates that you are a savvy candidate who knows how to operate in the digital age.
Maintain your brand. Branding is not a once-and-done process. You’ll need to continually provide relevant content online and keep an eye on what happens when searches are run for your name. Google personalizes results based on your search history, so it’s a good idea to use someone else’s computer from time to time to see what comes up in association with you. Also make sure to log out of any Google accounts (Google Plus, Gmail, etc.) before running any searches.
In a competitive job market, employers demand—and get—the best of the best candidates. As an HR professional, you know instinctively what makes a job seeker unforgettable. Now it’s just a matter of putting the same effort you devote to selecting top talent into positioning yourself as the right person for the job.
Meg Guiseppi is the author of 23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search … and How Your Brand Will Help You Land (Executive Career Brand, 2011) and the personal branding expert on Job-Hunt.org.
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