If you want to be taken seriously as a job candidate, and stand out as someone who really knows what they’re doing, and that you’re plugged in, you need to have a few personal branding tools.

They’re all easy to get, they’re all inexpensive, if not downright free (except #4; you’re kind of stuck there). But having these tools can help you stand out from the middle-of-the-road job candidates during your next job search.

1) Your own domain name.

If you want to look tech savvy and forward thinking to your potential employer, get your own name as a domain name, or at least a variation of your name (choose your “professional name,” not a nickname). For one thing, this will help you place at the top of the search results when people Google your name. For another, it will make your website or blog easier to remember. As long as people know your name, they’ll know how and where to find you.

Point your domain at your blog, your About.me page, or even your LinkedIn profile. You can do that on the site where you bought your domain name.

2) A real email address on your domain.

If you can at all help it, do not use Hotmail, Facebook mail, or any other free email service for your job hunt. ESPECIALLY if you picked something juvenile for your user name. No employer is going to hire someone with FoxyLAChick@hotmail.com as their email address. (My one exception to the no free email rule is Gmail, but that’s only because I’ve been using it since 2005. And it’s wildly useful, because you get access to all Google properties.)

When you purchase your domain, some providers will give you a free email address. Use that address, especially on your résumé. But don’t just use their onsite email interface. Set up your regular email account to sync up to your Gmail. (That’s one of the benefits of Gmail — you can pull every email you have into that Gmail window, and reply directly “from” that address as well.)

3) A local phone number in the city where you want to move.

A problem I had before I moved to Indianapolis was getting anyone to call me for an interview. Any time an employer saw my old area code, they knew I was from out of town, and didn’t want to have to deal with the logistics of bringing me down. Never mind I was already coming down. The area code was a huge red flag for many employers, and I know it cost me a few opportunities. When I bought a Skype number with an Indianapolis area code, people thought I was local, and they were more willing to talk to me.

If you’re planning or willing to move, get a Skype number for the city you’re moving to. You’ll look local, and you’re more likely to get the call for an interview than if your area code is from a city two hours away or more.

I like Skype for this, because unlike Google Voice, I can buy several numbers, not just one. Believe me, I love Google Voice, but I think Skype is going to be the better choice for job seekers, because you can change it as you need it.

4) A smartphone.

If you don’t have one, consider this a reason to get one. If you have one, learn how to use it for more than just texting and Facebook updates. Learn how to use QR codes, mobile search, and geo-location networking. Go beyond just scanning, searching, and checking in. Learn the basic principles of these tools too. Use some of the publishing tools like WordPress, Tumblr, or Posterous. Use it for LinkedIn.

Believe me, I know this sounds like the most remedial piece of advice I could give. Even as I write this tip, I feel guilty for bringing it up. But believe this too: it works, especially when you’re talking to someone who is still using a flip phone. You look smart and capable because not only can you make a computer do some amazing stuff — your blog, Twitter, etc. — but you can also do some amazing stuff on a damn cell phone.

5) Thank you cards and postage stamps.

When you’re done with a face-to-face interview, send a handwritten note to the person or people you spoke with. Don’t send an email, don’t send a text, don’t send a DM.

If you ever send a note that says “Thanx 4 ur time. Gr8 time talking w/ u,” I hope they hire you so they can fire you 30 seconds later.

You need to hand write a thank you note to the people you just interviewed with. In fact, as soon as you get out to your car or the taxi, write the note, stick a stamp on it, and drop it in the nearest mailbox you find. Twenty years ago, this was standard operating procedure for job seekers. Nowadays, this simple tactic is all but forgotten. You can stand out from the crowd if you just use it.

While these are still rarely used for a lot of job seekers, you can stand out from the crowd — especially if you’re looking for any kind of position that calls for some tech know-how — just by using even a couple of these tips. Before you apply for your next job or go on your next interview, put them into action and see what happens.


Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, which he wrote with Jason Falls, is in bookstores and on Amazon now.