7 personal branding trends for job search in 2012



I’ve been in the business of helping people build their brands for a decade and each year, I publish my personal branding trends for job seekers. Take a look at this year’s trends and decide which will help give you an edge and attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.

1. Headshots everywhere

Do you have a professional headshot?

People want to connect a face with a name. We have come to expect a photo alongside a blog post, Facebook profile and online article. People are less likely to click on a photo-less LinkedIn profile; and they’re less inclined to believe Web-based content if the picture of the person who contributed it is missing. Yet many people are still reluctant to post their photo to the Web. Some fear age discrimination in hiring; others just aren’t happy with the photos they have. Since it’s becoming common for hiring managers and recruiters to use Google and social networks to find candidates, your first impression could be your LinkedIn profile or other online content.

What does this mean for you?

Ensure those who are researching you get to connect a face with a name and credentials. Because there are so many places where your photo will appear — from your Google profile to your You Tube channel or about.me page — get a series of professional headshots and upload them to your social network profiles and Flickr or Picassa account. You don’t want someone doing a Google image search and seeing one photo replicated 30 times.

2. Crowdsourcing for professionals

What do others say about you?

You’re only as good as the collective opinions of those who know you. Consultants have always understood the value of client feedback. Now, with the ease of requesting and providing recommendations, you too must be mindful of the power of external reviews. Virtually every new social network or app includes the opportunity to request and display reviews. LinkedIn calls them recommendations, BranchOut and BeKnown call them endorsements. Honestly.com calls them reviews. Regardless of what you call them, they’re extremely important to those who are making decisions about you. A Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey determined that 90% of consumers trust peer reviews. Although no research to my knowledge has been done about this topic as it relates to people, I predict we will quickly become accustomed to using crowdsourcing to make decisions about each other.

What does this mean for you?

If you are looking for a job, what others say about you will be critical to getting hired. Get out there and get testimonials, recommendations and endorsements and make them visible through various social media and your own Web site. Hiring managers will be dubious of those without any external recommendations.

3. Personal QR codes

Do you have a QR code?

QR codes are taking off in all kinds of ways that weren’t originally anticipated. For example, according to brandchannel.com, it’s now possible to place extremely large QR codes on the tops of buildings that will be photographed by the satellites that feed Google Maps. The QR code will cause a logo of that company to appear when someone looks at their building’s images on Google. Putting a giant QR code on the top of your house may not be the best way to land a job. But you do have the opportunity to use QR codes to point those who are evaluating you to your Web sites, blogs and other relevant career marketing content. I have seen QR codes on the top of resumes, on business cards and on networking name-badges. Vizibility.com allows you to customize what people see when they click on your QR code – and change it often, so you can direct hiring managers to the perfect presentation of your capabilities.

What does this mean for you?

You have a great opportunity to direct recruiters to the content you want them to see. If one of your brand attributes is \’innovative,\’ think about how you can use QR codes to tell others what you want them to know about you. If you’re a more seasoned professional and want to demonstrate that you’re innovative and on top of the latest trends, using QR codes on your resume and business card is like digital Botox. It will demonstrate that you are connected to what’s happening.

4. Job postings R.I.P.

Are you relying on job postings in your search?

Job postings are inefficient. Many unqualified candidates apply — especially in a down economy. The volume of resumes received can be unmanageable. As social networks make it easier to identify qualified potential hires, job postings will become obsolete. More and more, when hiring managers and recruiters have an open position, they’ll scour the Internet and reach out to their social networks to find the perfect candidate. When SHRM conducted research in 2011, they learned that 56% of HR managers use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to source candidates (it was 34% in 2010). The number one reason they’re using social media in this way is to recruit passive candidates (84%). The Facebook app, BeKnown, finds and recommends jobs for you based on your skills and experience (from your profile) — before you even do a search.

What does this mean for you?

It’s becoming more likely that your next job will come to you — if your virtual brand is visible and compelling. Ensure your social network profiles are engaging and up-to-date. And make sure you use all the appropriate keywords in everything you post online so you’ll be found by those who seek your expertise.

5. Professional, DIY video

Are you using video to stand out?

Professional, DIY video. Those used to be two different options for getting video produced – professional or DIY. Now, you can have both. For example, Distance Record from videoBIO (disclosure: videoBIO is a partner of my company, Reach Personal Branding) allows you to record your own video in your home and send the video file to them for editing. In addition, you can have a producer on your computer screen directing you through the video. In the past, there were two things standing in the way of using video to build your brand: 1. Self-produced video looked amateurish and didn’t always create the best impression; and 2. Studio shoots produce professional video but they come at a cost and are time-consuming. These new, hybrid services will certainly increase the use of video as a way of building your brand.

What does this mean for you?

Video is a differentiator. It helps you stand out in a job search. It allows you to deliver a complete communication. Produce a video bio. First, write your branded bio (combining your credentials, experience and successes with your personality and passions). Then, create a script. Practice, don’t rehearse. Then work with an organization to get a high quality video produced. Upload your final video to YouTube, and other video sharing sites, and use the app in LinkedIn to embed your video bio in your LinkedIn profile.

6. Permanent unemployment

Do you appear unemployed?

In a July 2011 study, CareerBuilder learned that employers prefer hiring people that already have jobs over those who have been laid off. If you’re unemployed, this must seem depressing. But it need not be. What it means is that instead of being unemployed, you need to remain active — even if you’re no longer at the company you were working for. Taking on a volunteer activity, putting your own shingle out or getting involved in a project you are passionate about are valuable ways of remaining a compelling candidate. If it looks like your full-time job is looking for work, you’ll be less attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.

What does this mean for you?

Don’t consider yourself unemployed. Be prepared to consult or volunteer if you find your name on the layoff list. In the future, you’ll probably move from being employed by companies to self-employment and back. Get in this mindset now to ensure you remain an attractive passive candidate. And be visible where hiring managers will find you. Use the right keywords in everything you post on the Web. Contribute thought-leadership content to job function or industry portals. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and compelling (this is the number one site hiring managers check according to a SHRM study).

7. Personal Qwikis

How do you present your qualifications?

Qwiki delivers interactive, multimedia presentations of information you’re researching. It’s a 3-D way of representing information – making it more impactful and easier to digest. Think of it as a multimedia, customizable Wikipedia. This is part of a trend away from text-based content — to richer, more effective communications. In last year’s personal branding trends, I stressed the importance of combining video and images with text content to tell your brand story. Soon, with a series of Qwiki-like tools, you’ll be able to create a multimedia personal brand presentation. Instead of resumes or portfolios, you’ll be able to use a personal Qwiki to present your qualifications in a more attractive way. And you can direct people to this multimedia presentation via your personal QR code (see trend number 3 above).

What does this mean for you?

Multimedia is becoming even more important to you as you build your brand. Ensure you take every opportunity to create and obtain video and images related to your brand. When Qwikis become personal, you’ll be able to put together a compelling, customized presentation about your brand — accomplishments, thought leadership, passions, etc. The more content you have to work with, the better your presentation will be. Multimedia is a must!

Credited with turning the concept of personal branding into a global industry, William Arruda is the founder of Reach Personal Branding and author of \”Career Distinction\” and the upcoming book, \”Ditch. Dare. Do!\” You can learn more about him at www.personalbranding.tv.