Personal Branding a Resume: Tricks of the Trade

Tricks of TradeYou’ve all heard the term establishing a Personal Brand before, but how many of you know what this means? In my book, finding the means to visually have a resume stand out from dozens of others in the hopper is a start to establishing your personal brand.

I will share with you some of the subtle and more provocative things I have started to do over the past few years to turn a client’s resume into an eye catching presentation that gets noticed. The trick is in knowing what is appropriate for the candidate’s job title, their industry and their personality and knowing how to pull it off with style and panache.

CAUTION: If you’re a DIY resume writer (or new to the business) you can’t just incorporate this information into a resume without prior thought, a degree of proven career services acumen and proper guidance.

SYMBOLS: In order to draw attention to a resume I started adding symbols to the contact information at the top of the resume i.e. a globe before the address (I usually put city/state/zip), a landline phone and/or cell phone before the appropriate phone number, an @ or similar symbol before the email address, and the LinkedIn logo before the LinkedIn hyperlink. This has been accepted by most decision makers I know and I’m now seeing symbols incorporated by others in the resumes I’m sent for jobs referrals and to critique.

PHOTOS: You may have read and been told that a photo is verboten in a resume, and in most cases this is true. However I’ve used a photo on certain resumes I’ve written over the past 5 years, and these clients have had success increasing their submit to response ratio and also told me the interviewer seemed to treat them as someone they already know rather than a complete stranger at the outset of the interview. Since most interviewers look you up on LinkedIn beforehand, this is not as taboo as it once was. I also find it works well in quasi bio senior level bio resumes I write, for attractive people seeking customer facing positions, and for resumes that do not adhere strictly to conventional formatting.

DEFINED SECTIONS: As most of you are aware readers only scan a resume; they do not read it cover to cover. So, a few years ago I started to break up the various sections in a resume by dividing them with a 2pt bold black line and I am told it works well in drawing the scanner’s attention to the areas of prime concern and the information contained therein.

TEXT BOXES & GRAPHS: Again, I use text boxes on certain resumes because I’ve been told by many reliable sources that the eye will naturally gravitate to them. I have also been warned by these same sources that the information, positioning and color scheme must be carefully thought out in order for this to work for and not against my client. The same holds true when inserting graphs in senior executive and sales professional’s resumes.

LOGOS: I first saw company and school logos inserted into a Guerrilla Resume sample I viewed a number of years ago and found it to be an a real eye-opener, especially when the company / school brand was well known and had gravitas such as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Princeton or Stanford etc. I use this technique extensively in my Bio-Rez format but I caution you that doing this is an arduous and time consuming process in terms of formatting, editing and customization and it is not something that works for everyone.

COLOR BACKGROUND: A preferred way, and the only way not long ago of having a resume you physically presented on an interview stand out is to print it on colored resume stock paper. On rare occasion I use this technique on Word or PDF format resumes. Again, I caution using this tactic because it only works in a limited number of cases, but when it does it is a stunner.

All of these nuances can help to establish a unique physical Personal Brand in a resume. However it is important to first know your audience and how they will react to any one of these techniques prior to incorporating one or more into the document and whether it will turn the reader on or turn them off to your candidacy.

These are all just physical means of drawing attention to a resume. The difference maker is, and it will remain forever, the content of the resume. So before you get excited that you are now a better resume writer if you use some of these tricks of the trade, I caution you to remember that excellent branding coupled with mediocre content and the wrong formatting and resume style is meaningless and can be more detrimental to your cause than you can imagine.

As a courtesy to all readers, I am happy to offer a no cost / no obligation resume critique if you forward it along to me at

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