Perfecting Your Online Persona
With the advent of LinkedIn, Facebook, and dozens of other websites requiring your profile, the old-fashioned written resume is simply an artifact of a hiring practice that is slow to change and should be abolished. In fact, if your profile is not already on one of these sites, it probably means that you aren’t in the business market anyway.
Today, most HR departments readily admit that they already use the Internet to cross-check what they see on your resume. You can bet that if the stories don’t match, they will more likely believe the online version. That’s why I emphasized in an earlier article how important it is to keep your online image clean.
In reality, it doesn’t matter whether you are preparing an online profile for your favorite social network, or a written resume (Curriculum Vitae) in the old-fashioned sense, you need to make certain that it helps your case rather than hurts it. Here are some tips on how to make yours stand out from the crowd:
- Focus on results. By focusing on results produced and on the needs of the employer, you’ll stand clearly apart from 90 percent of other applicants. Their profiles say, in effect: “I worked these jobs.” Your profile should say: “Here are results you can expect.” That’s much more refreshing and enticing.
- Make it look professional. You only get one chance for a good first impression. Choose a couple of readable font styles and sizes, and no bright colors or highlighting. Spell check and proofread many times – a single typo or incorrect word can get you rejected.
- Include a current picture. Every professional needs to look professional. You can’t hide, so be proactive and look your best (online or on paper), with a small headshot, rather than force the recruiter to find some not-so-attractive shots on Facebook or Twitter outside your profile. A cartoon picture or picture of your pet won’t impress anyone.
- Don’t leave time gaps. Big time gaps in your professional life are a red flag. Did you skip those years because you were raising a family, unemployed, or in jail? A short entry for the period, stated as positively as possible, will leave a better impression, and avoid embarrassing questions later.
- References on request. Mention that references are available, but including them in the profile can leave the impression that these are very generic. Personal references should be customized to support specific requests from a potential employer, and confirmed by you prior to employer contact.
Executives tell me that they are continually frustrated that most of the resumes they see still sound like “job descriptions?” We need to know what you did, not what you were supposed to do. Words like “assisted” and “supported” are not results. Fuzzy words will hurt you.
Offline, it’s a good strategy to customize your resume to match each opportunity. For example, if you are looking for an entrepreneurial position, show a background in leadership. Mention entrepreneurial groups, and highlight groups you started all the way back to college. If it’s an executive position, highlight your results in that context.
I suspect the day is near when Wikipedia will make even social network profiles obsolete, meaning that every professional will have a public profile entry, maintained by a vast number of “online volunteers” (see Bill Gates, for example). The “open source” cross-check process seems to keep these fairly accurate, and the constraints on who is a “public person” go down every day.
Based on what I see today on Facebook, a lot of people have a long way to go in building that professional resume to show the world. Now is the time to check yours and make sure it highlights your strengths, rather than your shortcomings, before it shows up on Wikipedia and your employer’s desk.