From McDonald’s to Apple, Coca-Cola to Toyota, the world’s top companies spend billions of dollars to establish and reinforce their identity, subject matter expertise, differentiators, and competitive advantages.

That’s why almost everyone in the world instantly knows these brands by name.

I am frequently asked to provide counsel to job-seeking candidates, and perhaps the most-repeated advice I give is recommending candidates focus on their personal brand.

Surprisingly, most candidates do not have a targeted brand, but rather come across as generalists and/or have no clear identity or subject matter expertise. I can firmly declare that every search I conduct always has a targeted profile in mind with specific requirements for experience, job function, skillsets, and qualifications. Most hiring managers and recruiters are seeking candidates that are a 90%+ fit based on an initial glance of your resume, LinkedIn profile, etc. If you do not meet that bar, you will be filtered out of consideration.

In order to get to the table for an interview loop, it's important to focus your brand so that you will get that initial interview. Your brand will also help you filter out the noise of jobs and career choices that are ultimately a bad fit and a waste of time.

Like any good marketing campaign, it all starts with having a solid understanding of your career goals and then executing properly. As Joe Jackson once crooned, "You can't get what you want 'til you know what you want." You need to know what you want in your career and the type of role that will get you up in the morning. If you don't know where you want to be as a professional, you will continue to be rejected, lost, and frustrated as a candidate.

Once you understand your career goals and how to conduct your search, the last key step is execution. Map your marketing collateral (resume, online profiles, blogs, affiliations, etc.) to your ideal role to make it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to find you.

A good exercise to conduct is to search on or LinkedIn for jobs you would likely consider, regardless of geographic area. You are simply looking for a job description that best describes the role you would like to have including title, responsibilities, and qualifications. This spec provides the outline and roadmap for your dream job. Once you find that ideal job description, map your resume to that spec by using the key words, phrases, and terminology from the job description. It's also good practice to map your resume to each specific job when you apply.

Finally, focus on and use talking points that will reinforce your brand in job interviews and networking meetings. When you have a clear idea of your brand, it makes it easier to answer any interview question or talk about yourself because you have a good frame of reference to start from.

It's no accident the top brands are highly recognizable and successful. They know what they are doing and they do it very well. To compete in any job market, you will need to be just as targeted and calculated to succeed and differentiate yourself as a candidate.

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