Stop All This “Personal Branding” Nonsense

It is hard to be in a job search today and not run across two, overused and misunderstood terms, one is “networking” and the other is “branding,” usually “Personal Brand.” How did these words become the “buzz words” the “must do” the “most important,” words so critical that if you don’t do them, you are sure to fail in your job search?

Who makes this stuff up? They’re the marketing geniuses.

The number of books, blogs and news articles written on “Personal Branding” continues to grow. If it takes that much to explain “Personal Branding” it may just be too complicated to begin with. It’s as if this is some new concept in job searching or as if the “holy grail” of conducting a job search has finally been found.


All that has happened is that some marketing person put a clever name to it. It’s as if once you “brand” yourself you will be the NIKE, Apple, Coke, Michael Jordon or Tiger Woods in your field or industry.

Silly me, for 29 years as a recruiter I’ve just referred to this as, “differentiating yourself” or “making yourself unique.” I didn’t know I was telling my candidates to “BRAND THEMSELVES.” I’m not sure that is all there is to a brand, but it pretty much sums up all you have to do in a job search.

It’s not so complicated that it takes a 200+ page book to explain it.

For the sake of appearing up to date and current, it is critical in any job search to communicate “why” you are different from your competition. What unique skills, traits, talents, accomplishments, experiences and passions do you bring to the party? If you can’t define these, you are a commodity. The problem with being a commodity is that the only thing you have to negotiate on is price. In a job search price is compensation.

Call it “branding” or something else, we can’t stress enough that every candidate needs to step back and take some time to determine what makes them unique. Often each position may require a different set of skills, experiences or talents. It is possible that you may have to differentiate (oops brand) yourself differently for different positions. It also means that you may not be the best qualified candidate for every position.

Do a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Obstacles and Talents) analysis of yourself. List them out. Once you have the list, for the S and T, identify accomplishments and examples that demonstrate these strengths and talents. For the W, develop a plan to work on improving your weaknesses and for the O develop a plan of action to overcome any and all obstacles in your way to getting the position you want.

So forget about “Personal Branding,” it is way too complicated and probably just a fad. Just get back to the basics and figure out what differentiates you from all the others like you. Then go market it.

In the future you will see articles I write on “Personal Branding.” I will even title the article using the word “branding” because if I don’t, nobody will read it. So I will reluctantly conform.

Conformity has never been a “brand” for me.

Our job search book provides a template called,”Personal Success Profile.” This will help you identify what makes you different and add guidance for completing the SWOT analysis. You can get this for just the cost of shipping $5. CLICK HERE to review the book.

Listen to our talk radio show every Monday at 11AM PDT on It you miss it, you can download all of our past shows from our Web site. CLICK HERE to review the past shows and download the ones you want. All are free.

Please give us your comments and feedback.

Brad Remillard


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Stan Cohen, September 29, 2009 @ 7:24 am

    I could not agree more. Another way to look at this is to understand that the consistency of quality in the work you do, products you make and other positive traits in your business or career will build your brand. Let your customers brand you as a reward and it will much more powerful than trying to create one for yourself.

  • By Sam Diener, September 29, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

    You are right, personal branding can be complex. I have searched for a good definition of the topic. I always equate it as being all things equal with “online image management…” At least that term makes a little bit more sense to the laymen.

    However, when you think about it, it used to be that only the companies could afford to “brand” themselves. Now, there really is an opportunity to do it for yourself. Commercial branding is what companies have always done.

    It just made sense to call it personal branding.

    Just like anything else, personal branding makes sense to some people – and some it doesn’t. Therefore, advice, just in any other career or business related topic is needed.

    Some people know how to network much better than others – but that does not make trying to to provide as much advice as possible to people who don’t know how, “nonsense.”

    Great thoughts though. I like your blog!

  • By Jose Ruiz, October 1, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

    I agree that personal branding is complex and maybe it’s the term that is nonsense. What I do believe is important to stress is that “branding”, “making yourself unique”..or what ever the term is something that needs to be taken into consideration at every step of a career. Not just when you are looking for a job. What defines you? Is your current job or your next job in line with that? It is about career planning not just about job hunting.


  • By Christine Horold, October 2, 2009 @ 12:27 am

    Finally there is someone out there who makes perfect sense out of personal branding. While it is very important to stress your strengths and personal abilities when searching for a new job or even when one is in the process of changing careers. It is very helpful to obtain some guidelines. Many mature workers are very unfamiliar with the required terms; in addition these individuals who are working full time and are going to back to school (at everyones advise I may add)are having a hard time with personal branding.

  • By Lorraine, October 2, 2009 @ 4:50 am

    Totally agree. I tell my readers that, for now, forget about the advice from self-proclaimed “experts” about branding, perfect covers letters, career coaching, and the like (that will come later). You’ve seen these folks on Larry King and other shows touting their “expertise” on how to find a job. While their advice IS helpful at some level, it doesn’t lend much to the job search process if you can’t get in front of a hiring manager!

  • By Jan Thomas, October 7, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    Well ~ the way the “personal branding” movement came about was by lots of people blogging about it ~ pretty much like you’re blogging about not understanding it!

    Seriously, though ~ it’s just a new way to label differentiating yourself, which you acknowledge as important. It’s an important concept and just a fresh way to look at it. It’s neither complicated or a fad, and the fact that it’s talked about a lot or that people write books about it shouldn’t denigrate it. If you look at it that way, why does ANY self-help book succeed? Why does anyone read YOUR blog? I could just as easily ask, why does anyone need a book to do a SWOT analysis ~

    And networking? How can anyone possibly object that that as a critical piece, not just of job searching or career advancement, but of any endeavor? Networking is how everything in life happens, whether personal or professional.

    Just sayin’ ~

  • By Kent V, October 14, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

    When asked what my personal brand is, I say I’m not a brand, I’m a custom product. I have a unique combination of traits and experiences that define the package (face it, is any one trait truly “unique” unless it’s indigo colored hair or something equally valueless?)

    A favorite gift shop in the town where I grew up had a set of unique personalities and a quirky layout and great service. It actually carried trusted, solid image brands like Wedgewood and Waterford, but those could be obtained at any number of places. The custom, rare traits of the shop were what kept me coming back.

    Even if I recognize Tide detergent from across the store as a trusted, steady performing cleaning agent, when I have a challenging, professional washing job to do, I’ll probably look into something less recognized, less branded and homogenized, and just maybe more “customized”.

    Similarly, why not settle for someone, anyone from a top tier brandworthy school sight unseen for an entry level job? No, it’s the custom personal and professional characteristics that convey value more than just the branded ones.

    That said, there are a few individuals who get known and produce books and tapes and courses that operate in a reliable consistent way for them on many store racks even when they are not there. They can claim a brand perhaps that still sells and delivers in many venues when they sleep. But I’m not sure it’s a useful construct for anyone else.

  • By David Wit, March 23, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    So very often we put more emphasis on the form and not the subject. Worrying about a personal brand is like spending more time on the color of your resume paper than on the content.

  • By debra feldman, jobwhiz, executive talent agent, August 23, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    Brad…and the next hackneyed term that needs to be discredited is the hidden job market. Have you noticed how many experts tout their uncanny abilities to find unadvertised jobs, those positions that are only listed for all the world to find on corporate websites??!!

  • By Barry Deutsch, August 24, 2010 @ 9:27 pm


    Not sure I would consider the phrase “hidden job market” to be hackneyed. It refers to a concept that has been in existence since I started recruiting 25 years ago: those jobs that are not advertised but rather filled through networking, word of mouth, and referrals. Studies show that the number of jobs filled through this channel (as opposed to advertising in the paper – company website – or job board) range from 70-85% of all positions.

    Almost all retained executive search assignments are NOT advertised on job boards or company websites. The vast majority of candidates who get these jobs usually come from 2nd-3rd level referrals. 99% of all candidates I have placed over 25 years came from referrals – not answers to job boards or advertisements.

    So, in summary, I would suggest that the phrase “hidden job market” is alive and well today as it was 25 years ago. Candidates unwilling or unable to tap into this market will have a very difficult time finding a job since they are only looking at a little tiny slice of all the available positions.

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