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Creative personal branding in digital job-seeking – Tips on how to navigate the digital platforms and land a job

Digital tools are nothing new. They have been used for quite some time already, but during the past few years, they have become more common, and in job-hunting, remote interviews and digital CVs are now commonplace. Applicants need to be camera-ready, capable of producing short videos and create personal brands on digital platforms. For the Youtube and TikTok generation, this might feel like an easy task, but for older generations it can be a challenge.

Recruiters are increasingly using digital platforms when looking for the perfect applicant. A carefully written CV is still an important part of job-hunting, but different digital tools are taking it to another level. According to Professor Adam Smale from the University of Vaasa, the way applicants communicate their personal brand is changing.

Professor Adam Smale says that initial impressions in job interviews are important, and can rarely be changed later.

– It is more and more about how we brand ourselves via technology, using various digital tools and platforms, Smale says.

Speed is also an important factor. According to research, it usually takes less than 15 seconds for a recruiter to form an impression of the applicant. Changing this is difficult and it can rarely be done. According to Smale, initial impressions were important with a written CV and traditional interviews as well, only the medium has changed.

– We, therefore, encourage job-seekers to develop their digital presence and digital communication skills, Smale says.

The use of these platforms is not limited to only job-hunting. According to Smale, organisations use many of the same tools to carry out everyday tasks. If an applicant can show that they are competent using these tools, it can be to their advantage. Since organisations spend a lot of time working on their brand, it is only natural that employees spend time on their personal brand. The hiring process is, after all, about convincing each other that you have something valuable to offer. For the applicant, it is ideal to have some form of credential that can provide evidence of the proficiency level they have acquired for a particular skill.

"Considering how you stand out from the crowd and ensuring that your profile matches what an employer is looking for are both still important."
Adam Smale

Your personality matters – Tell your story in a creative way

Creativity and personality are things to consider when doing job applications. Students can begin to shape their personal brand already during their studies. Social media platforms, like LinkedIn, are very popular places/channels for this. Relying strongly on networking, LinkedIn has gained momentum and is a good place to connect with people in your own field. The advice given to students even before digital tools were available are still relevant.

– Considering how you stand out from the crowd and ensuring that your profile matches what an employer is looking for are both still important, Smale says.

There are some ethical and legal issues to consider as well. Drawing the line between personal and public information during the recruitment process can be tricky. There have been significant attempts to standardize CVs by removing personal information, like age, name, and family status from application documents. This is to ensure that the shortlisting decision is based purely on the job criteria and applicant merit.

– How do video CVs sit with that trend? And where does the law draw the line between the public digital presence of an applicant on social media that an employer can use, versus the presence they cannot, Smale asks.

Then again, the usage of digital tools from the perspective of a recruiter entirely depends on their effectiveness. If the tools are not effective in selecting the right candidates who go on to perform well, their use might be short-lived.

While remote interviews and video CVs have been more popular as of late, interviews done in person are still the most effective way to connect. This applies to both the recruiter and the applicant. According to Smale, doing a remote interview might serve the organisation’s sustainability goals, but at the same time it will be harder to build rapport with the applicant. This might be a lost opportunity to impress the applicant with future work colleagues and the physical place, especially if these are viewed as a key part of the employer brand.

Francis Oyeyiola works as a Talent Coach at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences.

The importance of in-person interviews is also shared by University of Vaasa alumni Francis Oyeyiola, who works as a Talent Coach at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences. According to Oyeyiola, you should always choose to have an interview in-person if possible, since your personality might be lost in translation in a remote interview.

– There are a lot of distractions (in remote interviews). You are not fully present, Oyeyiola says.

He also emphasises the importance of being prepared. Especially in-person interviews require a good level of preparation before the interview itself. According to Oyeyiola, reading memorized lines from a pre-prepared paper is not the correct way. This shows as poor preparation and does not show your real personality. Spending time before interviews to know who you are and getting to know the company is important.

Actions vs. Accomplishments – How to show your value

It goes without saying, that an applicant’s most important documents in job-seeking are their CV and cover letter. Spending time perfecting these is important. Familiarising yourself with the position you are applying for and the company looking for employees go a long way, but there are other aspects to consider. Being creative and telling your story in an engaging way make you stand out from the crowd. Oyeyiola says, that an important aspect is often missed by job-seekers.

– Don’t write what you did, write what you accomplished, Oyeyiola says.

Think of a production line. There is an input and an output. If you only describe your input (past positions) and not your output (the accomplishments and value of your input), the production line is incomplete.

– The output will tell the employer how you can add value to their company, Oyeyiola explains.

Focusing on what you achieved is more important than the titles of your past jobs. In essence, tell your job history in the form of a story, instead of a list of titles and positions. This will also engage the recruiter and help you get their attention and show that you are result-oriented.

– In their CV, people usually write their skills and say they are result-oriented. But when you look at the last job they did, they do not show any results, Oyeyiola says.

He explains that only using adjectives to describe yourself is not enough. You need to demonstrate that you are capable of being the kind of person you describe. This will show the recruiter that you know how to use your expertise to create value.

– If you do these things, I believe you are good to go, Oyeyiola says.

So, to be more successful in job-seeking, remember:

  • Personal brands. If you feel at home on social media, use that to your advantage. Network and show through our activity that you are a professional in your own field.
  • Be creative. Show your digital skills to recruiters and make an impression.
  • Know/Be yourself. Do not be afraid to show your personality. Being confident is healthy and shows the recruiters who you are.
  • Tell your story. Do not constrain yourself to lists. Use storytelling to highlight your skills and what you can do with them. 
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