Use Your Brand to Ace Interviews

I’ve been conducting group practice interviewing sessions of 3-4 students, during which they respond to sample behavioral-based interview questions and receive feedback from myself and their peers. Prior to the sessions, many students were intimidated, nervous and/or terrified. They weren’t sure how to answer and didn’t want to make mistakes in front of their peers. For many, it was their first time preparing for an interview.

I can sympathize. After all, I dislike interviewing myself and am not a huge fan of sounding like an idiot in front my peers. (I don’t think I’m alone on that one.)

Branding makes interviewing easier

This highlights another way in which students who have spent time developing their personal brand will benefit: You have put thought into what you stand for, what you’re good at and how this has the potential to benefit others long before (hopefully) you are in an interview situation. If you’re building your brand, you’re less likely to find yourself scrambling to mentally review how you bring value to the organization and then figuring out a way to articulate that during the few moments you have to think about it during the actual interview – you’ll already know.

Personal branding is basic interview preparation. It’s knowing your story and what you stand for. Behavioral based interviews then require you to back up your brand with specific examples that support your claims. It means you have to be authentic because employers want concrete evidence from your past behaviors that demonstrate you have the skills they need.

Social media prepares you for real life feedback

When you factor in the impact of social media, with its one-to-many capability, it means you can get a lot of practice putting your ideas out there for comment and critique. If you can handle that, you’ll be much more equipped to handle the real life communication with one or with many, with employers, peers, mentors, faculty, advisors and professionals in your field.

Branding gone bad?

Of course, there is the other side of the branding continuum. For every person who hasn’t given branding a single thought there are probably just as many who take it too far. There are those that believe personal branding is selfish, unrealistic and/or fake, probably, at least in part, because of  people who focus only on pushing their own agendas and call it personal branding (it’s not).

Recently, I was chatting with a recruiter who insisted students could not have personal brands and the idea of personal branding negatively impacts the hiring process. Obviously, I disagree, but his opinion, like a lot of personal branding criticism, is an important reminder: employers will be turned off by someone who overstates their brand, is only focused on themselves, or cannot make the connection between their brand and the organization.

Don’t let ego, self-promotion, or the desire to please others get in your way. Building a brand around something you’re not or someone you wish to be will unravel when you cannot provide concrete examples to back up your claims when speaking with employers. You absolutely have to make the connection between your brand and how it can benefit the employer because that’s what matters most.


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.

Related posts:

  1. Phone Interviews Out, Video Based Interviews In
  2. Preparing for Interviews
  3. More & Less: Two Essential Tips for Interviews

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  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

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