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Here's Why You Don’t Need a ‘Big Brand’ on Your Resume to Land the Job You Want

It’s common knowledge that most recruiters and hiring managers spend mere seconds glancing at each resume that comes across their desk, so it can be tempting to jump to the conclusion that having a big brand on your resume is the best way to land a great job. But a brand name isn’t a sure ticket to success, so don’t despair if you don’t have one—and rest assured that there are countless other factors that play an important role in hiring decisions.

Network your way in

In the eyes of companies, brand names act as stamps of approval, lowering the amount of due diligence needed on a candidate as someone else has already done the work. But there are other ways of getting that stamp of approval, including through an employee of the company.

Employee referrals are increasingly important to tech companies, with many of them—both big and small—not even considering candidates who don’t come through a referral or some other trusted third party. Rather than applying cold to a large number of companies, spend your time trying to speak with current employees, as being referred can often fast track your application to the phone interview stage.

Whether being referred by a friend or someone you’ve met recently, be sure to speak with them about your passion for the company and role and walk them through your work experience. You want your referrer to vouch for you if the recruiter or hiring manager asks (as they often do), so give them the tools to do so.   

Focus on upward trajectory

While moving up quickly at a big brand can be challenging due to established processes and hierarchy, working at a smaller company can be a chance skip some of the bureaucracy that goes into promotions—and this is a great thing to highlight as you apply for new jobs. In addition, upward moves can act as another type of approval stamp, as they show that someone else valued your work highly.

On your resume, be sure to highlight any promotions and/or changes in title, the associated timeline, and additional responsibilities taken on in each role. Similarly, when you speak about your experience, focus on upward moves and what enabled them, which help to paint the picture of your achievements beyond individual projects or KPIs.

Highlight adaptability, self-motivation

One thing that big brand employees don’t have—or at least can’t provide tangible evidence of—is comfort with ambiguity, as big companies generally move more slowly and operate with more certainty in day-to-day operations. This adaptability, however, is an asset to companies and teams of all sizes, and a unique value that your background can provide—so be sure to give examples that demonstrate as much.

In addition, every company wants to hire employees who will be self-motivated to do their best work, and experience in a less structured environment is a good way to showcase this quality. While employees with highly scrutinized KPIs and a high level of management oversight (as tend to be common in larger companies) may struggle to demonstrate this, success in ambiguous environments is solid evidence of your ability to stay motivated without external pressure.  

Consider your goals

If you’re deliberating between a job with a brand name company and one with a smaller player, don’t let the brand be your only deciding factor. While a big name can be beneficial for a number of reasons, a smaller team and company can often be more conducive to reaching specific goals if they offer more flexibility, so take a good look at where you want to be in the future and consider how both opportunities will (or won’t) help to get you there.