Your professional brand should reflect who you are, such as what drives you, your unique approach to problem-solving, and what you’re most passionate about. The better you become at understanding and honing in on your individuality and strengths, the better positioned you’ll be to land your dream job. Landing your dream job requires a consistent brand message, not just on your resume, but throughout the interview process.

It helps to visualize the interview process as a funnel. In the beginning, recruiters are looking through applications simply to weed out people who aren’t qualified to do the job. Once they have a short list of people who have the basic skills and experiences necessary to do the job, the process becomes much more personalized as recruiters and hiring managers start to hone in on the individual who will not only get the job done, but also fit with the company culture. In my 20 years of experience designing recruiting processes for companies, I’ve seen how great of an impact jobseekers’ professional brands can have on their chances of receiving a job offer. Toward the end of the interview process, when everyone is qualified enough to get an offer and qualifications are neutralized, it all boils down to one question: who is best fit to be a trusted member of our team?

As ironic as it sounds, thinking beyond actually landing a job might just be the key to actually landing one. When you consider your potential for sustainable growth at the prospective company, and what opportunities you might have to move your career and company forward, it’s easier to be authentic and stay true to yourself throughout the process. The company’s values and mission statement might indicate and communicate expectations and work environment. If you’re well-informed about the company and authentically living and breathing your professional brand throughout the interview process, you’re one step closer to landing your dream job.

The interview process is a two-way street. Not only is the company interviewing you, but you should also be interviewing the company. Here are some tips to finding the job of your dreams:

Know your professional brand

Your brand isn’t marketing speak. It’s who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for. These qualities are interconnected. In other words, what is your default setting?

By becoming acutely aware of your authentic self, you’ll begin to see what drives you and what’s most important. By living your brand, you can begin to apply your beliefs and passions to your work. Once you do, you’ll produce better results than somebody who is simply stating their values without putting them into practice. Once you identify your brand, message it. Don’t tell the interviewer what they want to hear-- embrace your brand and ensure they get to know the authentic you, during a job interview and beyond.

Interview the company

Ask interview questions along the way to ensure you’re getting a 360-degree perspective of how the company works. Be sure you craft your questions for the company carefully. Just as you’ll be asked to tell about a time when something went right or something went wrong in your last job, so should you ask behavioral questions that uncover specific situations and past scenarios to get a real sense of how the company operates.

An interview question such as “are you a cooperator” is flawed because no job candidate would be naïve enough to say that they can’t work as a member of the team. Similarly, company representatives are not going to overtly reveal that the people at the company are constantly at loggerheads. On the other hand, if you’re looking for insights into how the organization operates and if there is a culture of cooperation among the executive staff, you could ask them to tell you about the last time the leadership team disagreed and what happened in that situation. Listen carefully to the answer. The truth may be revealed in what isn’t said as much as the answer given. Watch for obvious or subtle clues buried in the anecdotes and answers they give. In short, become a competent interviewer as much as a prepared interviewee to discover a job that will be a benefit to you as much as you are an asset to the company.

Thrive in awareness

Whether you are currently working in the perfect job, or not, thrive in your professional brand by doing what you’re good at with a greater level of awareness. Once you’ve determined who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for, it becomes easier to notice when work doesn’t fit in with your goals and priorities. Become the CEO of your own life and seek out organizations with like-minded people who will allow you to become your best self and where you can experience sustainable growth through living your brand.

When you’ve “hired” the right company-- or accepted an offer from the right company-- you’re one step closer to thriving in an environment that will support and embrace you for you. It’s time to take your brand message and live it with a greater level of awareness. Now you can strategically build your reputation by design, instead of by default.

Jobseekers: Live and Breathe Your Brand to Land Your Next Job

Build a reputation

It’s time to grow, feel alive, and be infectious with your professional brand. Now that you’re in the right place, begin to be more deliberate about the conversations you set up and proactive about the relationships you build.

Let’s say one pillar of your personal brand is cooperation; you find joy in helping others achieve. You’re not afraid to deliver feedback because you believe it really makes people better. If this has been a component of your professional brand message all along, you can shift away from “marketing” it, and move toward inserting it in your workflow. Perhaps you can begin sharing or explaining various actions you take in the context of cooperation. Because you were hired for this attribute, company stakeholders and managers should embrace it. By living and breathing your professional brand, you’ll slowly, but surely, cement your reputation.

This is not about creating a cookie cutter playbook. This methodology is designed to help professionals and executives decipher what they want long-term. Career advice to date has been designed to provide exactly what recruiters and interviewers want to hear, which actually undermines thriving. It leads to a ‘mismatch’ which can prevent you from reaching your full potential.  Could you be successful in a company with people who are not like-minded?  Sure.  But you can’t reach your full potential.  So much time is spent trying to ‘convince’ people, justifying actions, defending yourself and your methodology in a mismatch situation… just think about what you could accomplish if that time were allocated to executing, envisioning, forging solutions because you’re working with people who ‘already get it’. 

When you turn the table and seek out career opportunities that are cohesive to your own career objectives and professional brand, you will begin to highlight your own strengths and values. Then, when you land a job, it’s feasible to put those strengths into play right away. Authenticity is a win-win for the jobseeker and the employer. You are really asking each other: “how can we do this together?”

Lisa Riley is a RiseSmart Certified Career Coach. She believes that the secret to thriving personally and building a thriving company are one in the same: Knowing your brand (what you believe in, what you stand for, what your strengths are) and living it, which helps you unlock your full potential, create durable, effective relationships and delivers sustainable growth.