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Does Your Online Identity Say: “Hire Me?”

Are you looking for a job? Hiring trends are changing and recruiters are increasingly turning to social media and networking sites to identify potential applicants. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal details the growing use of Facebook and LinkedIn for this purpose. Waste Management, Inc. is just one company that posts job announcements through company social media accounts and encourages recruiters to get involved in online groups and discussions. And companies like VMware, Inc. are hiring recruiters with social media expertise to focus on these efforts.

If you are a student or recent graduate who wants to be found by a potential employer, think about how your online presence can help you with this process. Review the many facets of your online presence and consider making a few modifications to help you in your job search. With this post I'll describe several techniques you can use now to make sure that your online identity is working for you, letting others know more about you and your career goals.

Present Your Professional Story

Before making any changes to your profiles, take some time to inventory what you already have in place and plan for the changes you need to make. Ideally, your profiles will do more than just announce that you are looking for work, they'll present you in a way that tells a story about:

  • Where you have been
  • Where you want to go, and
  • What you have to offer.

This story can be found somewhere between "Tell me about yourself "and "Why should we hire you?" These are two typical questions encountered in a formal job interview and each one allows you to share relevant information. But to be effective, the sharing needs to be tailored to market yourself and your experience. Avoid the temptation to over share information that isn't relevant to your search.

Tweak Your Profile(s)

Which accounts are you currently using? There may be more than one among Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. Any profile that might emerge as part of a recruiter's search may benefit from several small changes that help you market yourself in the best possible way. How can you use your online profiles to share your story?

  • Highlight your relevant work experience 
  • Describe your areas of expertise 
  • List your education and training accomplishments
  • Link to examples of your work

Be unique. Let the reader know what is unique about you. Is there some combination of skills and experience that increases your value on the job market? Are there specific projects you've worked on that helped you gain the skills and confidence necessary to succeed in your field? Reflect on your past educational and work experiences and identify instances when you were recognized for your accomplishments. What personal characteristics, soft skills (e.g. communication, organization), and technical skills (i.e. related to your particular career field) led to your success?

Be yourself. Your personality is important, too. Health care staffing firm allMedical reminds you that it's okay to "inject some of your personality into your response" to the "why should we hire you" question. It is okay to be yourself online and your social networking profiles make it easy to present topics you are interested in, books you are reading, and hobbies that interest you. Keep in mind though that your primary focus should be on professional activities and remove anything that might be embarrassing or inappropriate in a hiring conversation.

Use a professional profile picture. Select an image that is both professional in nature and of high quality. Multiple pictures are recommended for sites, like Facebook, that present multiple images as part of the profile. Use a standard headshot, as well as pictures of you in a professional setting and engaging in professional activities. Remove or hide any existing photos you wouldn't want potential employers to see.

Keep it current. Make the process of maintaining your online accounts an ongoing appointment on your calendar. Add new information as appropriate and be willing to continuously revise based on any changes in your job search and career goals.

Create a "Hire me" Page

If you have your own website or blog, maximize the "About" page by highlighting your skills and professional accomplishments. You may even want to create a separate page or tab specifically for your job search. This "Hire me" page is a great way to clearly state that you are looking for work. This is your page, so you decide how your information is presented.

Organize your presentation. You can use subheadings similar to a resume (i.e. skills, education, work experience) or make it more narrative, telling your story and emphasizing what you have to offer. You can even explore the use of media by including images and video. A question and answer format is also possible – provide brief answers to anticipated interview questions, such as "Tell me about yourself" and "Why should we hire you?"

Stay focused. Resist the temptation to include everything you can on this page. A brief bio, a summary of qualifications, and a description of your related experience may be all you need. 

Include your contact information. Provide some way for interested parties to make a connection with you. LinkedIn and Facebook both have built in messaging systems, but a stand-alone webpage or blog will require you to provide some contact information. This could be an email address or link to a social networking account. You can also use simple online forms as a way for others to submit their information for your reply. Consider opening an email account specifically for your job search to keep this communication separate from your personal and work related accounts.

Get feedback. Ask one, or more, people to take a look at your online information and provide their impressions. If your network includes professionals working in your career field, they will be helpful resources in this process and able to provide insight and advice specific to the type of attention you are trying to attract. These reviewers may also be more likely to immediately see mistakes and typos.

"Hire me" pages are particularly popular with those who are always looking for new work opportunities, like consultants, small business owners, and freelancers. If you are currently employed and your organization is unaware that you are looking for a new position, you should proceed with caution. While it is becoming standard professional practice to maintain social networking profiles as forms of virtual resumes that are up-to-date with the latest about your work experience and skills, posting a "hire me" page or a direct statement that you are looking for work can raise red flags with your current company.

Get the Word Out

Don't assume that your network knows: 1) that you are looking for a new job, 2) what type of job you are looking for, or 3) how you might be qualified for the positions you are seeking. And don't wait for your name to come up in a search. Take the initiative to get your "hire me" message out there in a professional way, via your online presence. Take the opportunity to present a professional pitch that communicates that you are not only looking for a new opportunity, but also qualified and ready to work.