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I'm currently nearing the end of my degree and I'm going through the process of applying for various graduate programs in my field (technology).

A common question amongst all the companies that I've applied for is "What is your personal brand?" or some variant of this question.

I generally fumble through these kind of questions and answer with a couple of my personality traits and say that I'm passionate about my chosen field and progressing it even further. But I'm never 100% sure if this is what the interviewers expect when they ask for my "personal brand".

Most recently I've been invited to an assessment centre where I literally need to present to everyone in the room on the topic of "what is your personal brand?".

So, what is this concept of "personal brand" that companies are talking about and why is it so important to them?

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    What kind of companies are you interviewing at and for what jobs? Because in 17 years I've never been asked that in tech, and my answer would have been "My what? I'm a programmer, not a company. I don't need a brand." – Gabe Sechan Apr 19 '17 at 6:47
  • I'm interviewing and applying for a number of technology companies. These tech companies include things like telecommunications, tech consulting, networking, and fintech. I've noted that with 90% the graduate programs I've applied for, technical skills have fallen behind things like personal brand, ambitions and passions – JuniorPerson Apr 19 '17 at 6:50
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    After reading about it, my answer would be "I don't have one. I'm me. I don't spend my time worrying about how people think of me, I just live my life to the best of my ability. What people think about that is their business". Then tell them that the question concerns me because it sounds like the company cares more about perception than reality. – Gabe Sechan Apr 19 '17 at 6:58
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    Alison Green: As for personal branding more broadly, that’s a perversion of the concept of reputation. Reputation matters a great deal, but it’s not created by a three-page website with little content; it’s created by doing great work and operating with integrity and generosity. Of course, that’s not a concept that the personal-branding evangelists — who are looking for something to hawk in an already overcrowded marketplace — can make money off of, so they’ve turned to gimmicky concepts of “branding” instead. – Lilienthal Apr 19 '17 at 8:33
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    This is one of the pretentious hipster questions that makes me feel like ending the interview there and then (and I have done more than once). I know that any company that has the kind of culture where those kinds of silly questions are considered right for an interview is not somewhere I would enjoy working. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Apr 19 '17 at 12:48
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"Personal brand" boils down to a set of values and ambitions that express your career goals at that point in time and give insight into who you are and who you want to be.

As a graduate recruit, the companies won't focus too much on your tech skills because, to be blunt, you barely know anything and are thus a blank canvas to be molded into shape as quickly as possible to add value to their business.

So for values you could say things like:

  • I aim to produce efficient, well-designed code for desktop-based business environments.
  • I want to be known as "Mr Web App" because of my expertise in web application design.
  • I want to focus on data analytics and become an expert at flexible multi-dimensional schema design.
  • I want to become an expert in Agile methodologies and how they are practically applied to business problems.

For ambitions you could say things like:

  • Within 5 years I want to be the person people turn to when they need social media network analytics done.
  • Within 5 years I want to be able to design and implement a scaleable cloud-based micro-services grid from front to back on my own, knowing that I am doing things the right way for the business.

Of course, as the commenters on your question pointed out - if you're wanting to do purely tech stuff, a place that is asking about your "personal brand" may not be the best fit for you.

In my own experience, companies are needing fewer purely technical people and more technical people who have soft skills. The days of being a loner, coding away in a basement are gone - the world is quickly becoming made up of coders who can actually talk to and work with people.

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    +1, I'd only suggest changing Mr Web App to DeveloperMcDevFace. – user66194 Apr 19 '17 at 8:09
  • Regarding your last paragraph: If that's not your thing, it is sometimes possible to become otherwise T-shaped. – Weckar E. Apr 19 '17 at 8:37
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    @DanielJames Let's vote for it. We can ignore the vote afterwards, of course. – Vers Apr 19 '17 at 12:30
  • @Vers agree. I vote yes. – user66194 Apr 19 '17 at 12:46
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So, what is this concept of "personal brand" that companies are talking about and why is it so important to them?

Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a image or impression in the mind of others about an individual. The idea is to gain recognition of your name or brand associated to your work ( or what your all about ). Personal branding is the application of one's name to various products.

For a thorough review of the subject, check out this article: Personal Branding

This article also had an interesting take on the subject: Neil Patel

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This is your opportunity to learn about the first-level recruiters in the company. If, after this, you still want to work for the company, find an engineer who will recruit you directly and bypass the non-technical aspects. If none exist, the company is not a good fit for you (based on your asking the question).

You can see my personal brand is fairly evident in this answer...

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