By Meg Guiseppi
Personal branding is no longer optional for job search because it helps you differentiate the unique value you offer your target employers, over and above your competition.
Some powerful personal branding strategies for job search take a lot of time to accomplish. I wrote about them in 3 LinkedIn Insider Personal Branding Success Secrets.
However, with just minor additions and tweaks, some pieces in your personal brand communications plan can be greatly improved, increasing your chances of landing a good-fit job faster.
These three actions shouldn’t take long to do, especially if you’ve already done the job search targeting, research, and personal branding work -- a must before you seriously tackle job-hunting.
But, the payoff will make this a very good investment of your time.
Your LinkedIn Professional Headline is the phrase that lands at the top of your Profile, just below your name.
Because these words follow your name and image in most of LinkedIn, this tip, in particular, can be a game changer.
“Optimizing” means improving your personal SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. That is, using relevant keywords and phrases wisely, to increase the chances your LinkedIn profile will land higher in the search results for those keywords and phrases.
If you’ve done nothing regarding your Headline, LinkedIn’s default will be to copy the employer and job title for your current job in the Experience section, and place it in the spot for your headline. This can be accurate, but boring and an incomplete description of you and your personal brand.
Typically, the default Professional Headline lacks important keywords used by recruiters and potential clients / customers that make your name appear in LinkedIn (and Google) search results.
Optimize your Headline by identifying your most important relevant keywords, representing your areas of expertise, that will be most important to the employers you’re targeting. Then, use those keywords in your LinkedIn Professional Headline.
LinkedIn allows you 220 characters and spaces for your Headline. You may be surprised by how powerful a Headline you can create, keeping to that maximum.
In my opinion, since the Professional Headline is such an important SEO spot (because it lands so high on the web page), most of what you put there should be hard-hitting keywords.
Here are a few examples of strong LinkedIn Professional Headlines:
Senior Change Management Executive – Operational Excellence, Performance Management, Risk Mitigation, Compliance
Senior R&D Executive, Thought Leader & Chief Innovator for the Fortune 500 – Global Strategic Marketing | Data Analytics
Senior Technical Project Manager & Change Agent for Banking & Financial Services. Industry-leading BI and MDM expert.
How do you know which keywords and phrases are your most important ones? Go back to the research you’ve done on your target companies or organizations, or get going on that research.
For more details, read Fast Formula to a More Powerful LinkedIn Headline. Also check Job-Hunt's Guide to Linkedin SEO and, if you haven't identified your target employers, Choosing the Best Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile.
An often overlooked tactic, savvy job seekers take a few moments to include a little bit of concise information about them in their email signature, along with their contact information.
You can set your outgoing email message to automatically insert your signature, once you create one.
Here’s what you should consider including in your email signature:
Enhancements available to you are minimal, but anything sitting on your keyboard should work:
Pipes ( | ) and colons ( :: ) to separate the text, and
Tildes ( ~ ), hyphens ( – ), or asterisks ( * ) for bullets
Be aware that graphics and images may not display in the recipient's email. They may be required to click on something to make them appear.
Avoiding graphics and images may be the best strategy. Stick to a stripped down, plain text version with stacked content, and include the URLs instead of hyperlinked text, because the actual URL may not display if the link doesn't work.
The email signature for the candidate with the first LinkedIn Professional Headline shown in #1 above could look like this:
Senior Change Management Executive
“Operational excellence – results through strong leadership”
Performance Management | Strategy & Planning | Organizational Structure & Process Management | Talent Development & Team-Building | Risk Mitigation | Regulatory Compliance
(XXX) 000 - 0000
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/johndoe
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/johndoe
Don't forget to add your phone number and email address to your LinkedIn Profile so someone can reach you when they find your Profile.
I know that many people hesitate to include a photo because they fear discrimination, based on age, appearance, ethnic background, etc. I understand, and these concerns are certainly valid.
Hiring a professional photographer is the best option, but you may get very good results without one.
But I’d like you to consider the benefits of having a photo in your Profile vs. not having one:
Someone who has met you will be able to choose the right LinkedIn Profile if other members share the same -- or a very similar -- name to your name. And someone who hasn't met you may check your Profile before a meeting so they can identify you in a crowd.
Most executive recruiters and hiring decision makers at the companies you’re targeting will see your LinkedIn Profile before they see anything else about you, online or elsewhere. Put yourself in the shoes of these people assessing your candidacy through your LinkedIn Profile.
The first thing they’ll notice when they land on your Profile is your photo -- or lack of one. If you have NO photo, their initial thought will likely be “What is this person trying to hide?” This can easily cause them to pass right by you, and zero in on someone who does have a photo on their Profile.
Branding is all about making an emotional connection. People connect easier and believe content more when it’s accompanied by the author’s photo. They’re more likely to reach out to someone when they can “see” the person. Your photo helps to personalize and humanize your brand-driven content.
Another issue associated with not having a photo – your Profile may be flagged as a fake, especially if there’s very little content within the Profile.
And Profiles with photos typically get more views. Your photo will go with you everywhere on the site, with any of your activities, not just when people click through to your profile. If you have no photo, people may not click through to your Profile, and rule you out as a potential candidate.
According to LinkedIn, "Simply having a profile photo results in up to 21x more profile views and 9x more connection requests."
Choose your LinkedIn photo wisely.
Cameras on phones now are very sophisticated and high-quality. Most of us can easily get a good headshot. I advise against using a selfie. Have someone take several pictures, in different poses and with different expressions, or hire a professional.
These tweaks won't take much time, but the impact on your personal brand can be substantial. Ignoring personal branding is not a good strategy even if you aren't in a job search. Strong personal branding will not only attract recruiters and other hiring decision makers, it will also attract business and networking opportunities.
Meg Guiseppi, Job-Hunt's Personal Branding Expert and 20+ year careers industry veteran, has earned 10 certifications, including Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Reach Social Branding Analyst – LinkedIn Profile Strategist, and Certified Executive Resume Master. Meg is the author of "23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search and How Your Brand Will Help You Land." Connect with Meg at ExecutiveCareerBrand.com for c-suite personal branding and executive job search help and on Twitter (@MegGuiseppi). And, you may also download Meg's free ebook - Job-Hunt Guide to Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.