I learned a very long time ago that the vast majority of people do business with people, not companies.
In most organizations, the degree of success obtained can often be directly linked back to the strength of the relationships developed between provider and client. Remember that old saying, “Price is only an issue in the perceived absence of value”?
I’ll often go to my local hardware store vs. a big box home improvement retailer because ALL of the employees of the neighborhood establishment seem to know “everything about everything” and are very willing to take all of the time necessary to explain how to use a specific tool or walk a customer, step-by-step, through the process of making a repair (using the part or tool being purchased). The large DIY stores advertise they have this same expertise, but often the actual delivery falls short of that claim.
Job seekers frequently make this same mistake. For example, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes and all too often I see statements such as, “excellent attention to detail,” only to be “supported” by a multitude of misspelled words, grammatical errors, typos, etc. Such actions do NOT demonstrate paying attention to detail, much less at a level considered to be “Excellent.” I’ve had candidates tell me that they are terrific at building strong relationships and have vast networks of contacts, only to find a poorly constructed LinkedIn profile containing very few connections.
The other thing to realize is that brand and perceived value are basically interchangeable. Your perceived brand IS your perceived value to a prospective employer. Good employers fully understand that their people are their brand and that is why cultural fit is such a critical component in candidate selection.
So, how can you project and demonstrate a strong brand/value, which is a good fit to the culture of the targeted employer?
Following are some points to consider:
All communications should be “perfect.” If your job as a hiring manager was dependent upon finding and hiring the ideal candidate, would you really give serious consideration to someone who’s written and/or verbal communications were not strong to excellent? Think of how frustrated YOU were while working with people and/or management that were poor communicators. There is no bigger obstacle to success than poor communications.
Thus, be “perfect” with that resume and cover letter. Ensure those documents, along with anything online (LinkedIn profile, Twitter posts, etc.) are engaging and professional. The same goes for any verbal communication, whether it is a phone screen, in-person interview or networking conversation.
Extensive research regarding a prospective employer allows the candidate to determine the targeted organization’s brand and company culture. Once the candidate comes to recognize these qualities, it becomes easier for him/her to adapt and customize messaging to the specific employer in order to demonstrate how he/she has flourished in similar environments/cultures in the past.
Ensure that your LinkedIn profile and recommendations truly reflect who you say you are since for many of us (hiring managers) those are the first comprehensive glimpses we have of a candidate. Many people have recommendations in their LinkedIn profile that are not much more than something like this, “Mike is a hard worker and a great guy. I really enjoyed working with Mike.” Trust me; I’ve seen hundreds of such generic recommendations, and none of them would make me believe that the subject candidate might be a potential game-changer on my team.
If you are trying to get me to believe that you are great at building relationships through networking, then I should see evidence of such in your LinkedIn profile (i.e., many skill endorsements, member of at least a few industry related groups, blog with a good number of followers, multiple LinkedIn posts, etc.).
Use social media to demonstrate you are a thought leader within your industry/area of expertise. This can be accomplished by writing your own blog or following and posting comments on other industry related blogs. By doing so, your comments and opinions can be read by anyone who sees the respective blog. Thus, you are not just telling me in your resume how smart you are, you are proving it by sharing that knowledge with others.
Here is an exercise for you, which can be helpful when figuring out your brand and how to best communicate such to a potential employer (or client):
Think about the last few experiences you’ve had over the previous couple of months, from shopping at a mall or online to a visit to a restaurant or doctor’s office.
Dissect those experiences and ask yourself these questions:
• What was the brand/value/culture of the respective organization?
• How was that communicated/demonstrated? WAS it communicated/demonstrated?
• Did what was communicated/demonstrated match my perception of the organization’s brand/value/culture? If so, why? If not, why not?
Now, take what you learned from going through this and apply it to yourself. Thus, ask the same questions of yourself:
• What would others who meet/speak with me perceive as my brand/value?
• Does everything that I’ve written, everything written about me, everything I’ve said and what is said about me effectively communicate that brand/value and do so consistently?
• Am I delivering/demonstrating my brand message and value proposition by HOW I verbally and non-verbally communicate?
Remember that a company’s brand is NOT the words framed and posted in a conference or lunch room. It is the energy which permeates throughout the entire organization, which drives everyone to be on the same page and work toward a common goal. Great companies are “all-in” regarding their brand/culture. Are you “all-in” with yours?