Branding at interviews for entry level jobs

The other element in branding is yourself. There's been any amount of literature on presentation at interviews, but it usually misses one very important point, particularly at entry level.

How you present yourself is important, but there's far more to it than that.

Entry level jobs aren't the same as career progression jobs, in one very important respect.

Even if you have a good strong skill set, employers are looking for a person, not a robot or a spreadsheet.

They have to make a judgment about who they're hiring.

This is another kind of branding, and personality is a big part of it.

Consider a situation:

There are five people going for an entry level job. They're all pretty much in the same bandwidth for qualifications, experience, and references.

Three of them are 18, one is 19, and the other is 21. The 18 year olds have just left school, the 19 year old has had a gap year, and the 21 year old is just a late starter, but he has put himself through his qualifications, and looks keen.

  • The 18 year olds present reasonably well, if shy, and one of them is very obviously intent on a career in the industry.
  • The 19 year old seems to be a very good student, a little awkward in the interview, but the references are good.
  • The 21 year old, despite being older, has also built up a pretty strong skill set, with plenty of depth, and is doing ongoing studies.

If you're one of the other two 18 year olds, and you're the last to be interviewed, you're in trouble. You can see how the branding has been applied by the employer. It's a pretty accurate assessment, but you want the job.

What are you going to do?

This is where presentation comes in.

You don't do a song and dance, or wear nice clothes, or smile endearingly.

You put on a very strong, credible, interview performance, and you literally talk yourself into the job.

How?

They're not going to give you the job because they think you're a nice person, or a saint, or because you smell nice.

They'll give you the job if you can prove you're the best candidate, and for no other reason.

Like most human beings, you come equipped with a brain, and this is where it earns its keep.

You use that brain. You show intelligence, aptitude, and you engage the interviewers.

Engage means you get them interested. Your interview material is worth listening to. You have something to say, and you say it well.

This is not a trick, it's using your resources. As you saw, all five candidates are pretty much on the same level. They're not actually better candidates, they've simply presented themselves well. They haven't actually done much more, although the 21 year old has picked up a useful skill set.

So you outclass them. You can be keen, career minded, (so you should be) intelligent, show a lot of knowledge for your level, and most importantly be a much better presenter.

Result: One of the other 18 year olds was a pleasure to interview, very good answers, interesting information, wants to progress in the career. Doesn't have as broad a skill set as the 21 year old, but how could he/she?

You've gone from a hopeless position to a possible winner. Your branding with this employer will be excellent.

Your branding is ultimately a composite image of you.

That changes over time. You'll find you learn very quickly what your best approach to branding yourself in any career situation is.

This is where career navigation starts.

Branding yourself at a job interview is like a basic training course for using branding in your career. If you understand the methods, and what they achieve, you've learned the lessons properly, and you know what you're doing.

If you're still mystified, wondering what you're doing wrong, you need to check out your branding, and do it very thoroughly. You may be making yourself uncompetitive, simply by leaving things out. Not engaging the interviewers is another situation you'll need to check. If they're not listening, you're not giving them what they need.

Branding yourself at a job interview is also a good rehearsal for doing some quality control in your career and being selective about jobs. You can also identify jobs which aren't suitable for your purposes, which won't have the right fit for your personal brand. That alone can save you a lot of time, and keep you focused on jobs where your chances are much better.

Very important and relevant to your branding are jobs which enhance your skill sets, and allow you to achieve things in your career. It's not only entry level jobs which can be risky in terms of wasting time and effort while providing no new skills for your brand.

Branding for career progression

You already know what you consider to be a good job in your career.

  • Why is it a good job?
  • What's required to get it?
  • How do you get it?

In any career, the good jobs are the big achievers. They really are great opportunities, the kind that make careers fly.

They're also very rare.

Some people can apparently make careers out of thin air, but they're pretty rare, too.

To get a job where you can achieve your potentials, you need to study that whole class of job. You also need to consider whether your branding is up to the task of going for jobs like that.

If it isn't, you've got some work to do, because those jobs attract people with the right branding like magnets. The big achiever jobs always get ambitious, career minded applicants some of whom are professional branding experts.

The issue of branding isn't just at the top of the career, or the higher levels, either. This problem can show up early in your career, too. Your first promotion above a general scale level can be genuinely tough, and it may take you somewhere that leads nowhere. That may not sound like much of a problem, but it is. You can be on the bottom floors for quite a while, if you don't solve it.

First and always, look at the career progression.

  • Where does your next step take you?
  • What's the step after that?
  • Does that get you any closer to your big achiever job?

There's a sort of naive, innocent, belief that career progression is always one step at a time, in a straight line.

No it isn't.

Actually, there's no good reason why it would be. Employers need people who can do the jobs. If you can go for a job three steps above, why don't you? Branding yourself at a job interview can be done at any level. Same principles.

Career progression is probably better viewed as a lateral thinking exercise, rather than any sort of logical series of steps. A job you really want is a good way to see how this works.

The big achiever job requires:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Good communication skills (Try doing any good job without them)
  • Credibility
  • Branding, and the right sort of branding

So you need:

  • Jobs that give you the skills and experience
  • Communications skills on the level of the job (Critically important)
  • Credibility in the form of prior achievements (The only kind of history relevant)
  • Branding in the form that will get you the job.

Clear as mud?

To clarify:

The skills are evident in the big achiever job. A bit of research will tell you what skills are required, and how the people in those jobs got those skills. In some cases, you can just go and ask for some career advice. Professionals will usually help.

The communications skills for every job are a bit different. For big achiever jobs they're sometimes extraordinary. Read what people in those jobs say and what they release as information. Learn how they do their communications. Preferably, improve on their levels.

Credibility comes with a career record of actual results. Nothing else is relevant to employers. Before these people were big achievers, they were little achievers, then middle sized achievers. Now, analyze why those achievements were so relevant to their progression. Obviously achievements matter, but how did they set the scene for the big achiever job? It should be pretty clear, after you've checked it out.

Branding: You'll find that the people in the really brilliant jobs have a brand pedigree which is almost faultless.

Their references at this stage of their careers come from somewhere near God level in their professions. They have a string of reliable, solid qualities that employers always want. They're the latter day version of the younger people we met earlier in this series who seem to be running the office from the moment they walk in the door.

They're also very intelligent, very engaging, and highly motivated, and could probably sell desert sand to a camel at job interviews, even in a desert.

There's one defining factor to people with great branding: They're all extremely talented in their fields. They work with their own natural abilities, and put them to the best possible use. Their career progression is based on talent, and good career navigation.

They create their own career brands. They run their careers from Day One. Talent is the power source, and branding is the key.

Think about your own brand, and see where it can take you.