Your Online Presence
More and more employers are using the Internet to conduct background research on any applicant that they are thinking about interviewing. It’s a good idea to put an effort into creating and maintaining a professional online presence that an employer can find. Such a presence is a great way to bring your CV to life, and to show the employer that you’re someone who does stand out from the competition for the job.
How Employers Search
Most employers will use Google to search for you online. They’ll look through the first few pages to see if anything promising turns up. If that doesn’t work, they might look through your CV to see if there’s anything they can add to the search to help find you. Unless they find something interesting, they’ll normally give up searching after a few minutes.
What Employers Can Find
If you search for my name, Stuart Herbert, you’ll see that most of the entries on the first page of results are about me, and that they all point to websites and profiles that I control. From these results, you can learn more about my professional career to date, and even see videos of me presenting at conferences. You can also see things that are on my CV, but which are easily overlooked, such as my experience as a martial arts teacher, and my passion for digital photography. Many examples of my work are just a click or two further away, allowing you to see some of my opinions and thinking, and also the consistently high quality of everything that I do.
I am lucky, in that I don’t have the same name as a celebrity at all. Not everyone is as fortunate. But you can easily get around that by including your online addresses in your CV and covering letter so that the employer doesn’t have to search Google in the first place.
If you want to be easily found through Google, you need your own website or blog. You don’t have to host your own website or blog. If you can, you should learn how to, but they do need regular maintenance. There are many free hosting services that you can use, such as Wordpress.com, Tumblr and Posterous to name but three.
The algorithm that Google uses to decide which results appear first is a closely-guarded secret, but there are some very straight-forward things that you can do to make yourself easier to find.
- Make sure that your name is in the URL of the website.
- Make sure that your name is in the title of your website’s pages.
- Post new content on your website on a regular basis.
- Get people to link to your website.
It’s a good idea to purchase your own domain name (my portfolio lives on stuartherbert.com). That allows you to build up a long-term presence online at the same place. There was a time before Wordpress, before Tumblr, before Posterous. There will probably be a time in the future when these services no longer exist too. If the URL for your portfolio or blog is under their control and not yours, then the day these services get switched off is the day that Google can no longer find you.
When it comes to content, first impressions count. That’s why, on my website, the home page is very professional, and is all about my career, skills and experience. There is more personal stuff on my website too, but that’s off to one side, where it will get looked at afterwards.
Just like your covering letter and your CV, your website needs to sell you to an employer.
LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional networking website. It’s a good idea to sign up for a free account on there, and to setup your profile. If there are people you know on LinkedIn, you should add them to your LinkedIn network. If you have worked with them before, ask them to write recommendations for your profile.
Is a LinkedIn profile essential? I wouldn’t say that it was. It’s something that you can look on as a tool, and it is definitely something that you can grow as your career progresses. Build up your recommendations from other people, and the number of skills that other people are willing to endorse. It all adds a little more credibility to your CV.
Recruiters are always searching LinkedIn for people who might suit the vacancies that they are advertising, and plenty of people find jobs that way. You can’t find a job through LinkedIn if you don’t have a profile on there.
Twitter, Google+ and Facebook
Here in the United Kingdom, the three big social networks are Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Twitter (and Google+) tend to be used more for professional conversations and relationships, whilst Facebook is normally used for your personal and private life. This distinction isn’t a hard and fast rule, and there’s more and more overlap each year.
You tend to find professional communities favour one social network over the other. For example, I can reach out to many of the core PHP people worldwide via Twitter if I need to. As I’m writing this chapter, I’m also in a three-way conversation with one of the two co-founders of Zend Technologies (one of the companies behind PHP), the publisher of the php|architect magazine, with an international conference speaker and trainer chipping in too. (Hi Zeev, Marco and Rob!)
I’ve had many professional opportunities come my way over the years through social networking. I wouldn’t have the job that I have today without them.
Online Source Code Repositories
There are free services online where you can host the source code for personal and open-source projects that you are working on or involved with. GitHub has emerged in recent years to be the main site for this, but there are others too.
Employers love finding your code on places like GitHub. It allows them to see what you’ve done, and how you’ve done it. They can also look at how complete your project is, and whether you’ve started to build a community around the projects that you have released. There are some employers who will happily accept the address of your GitHub account instead of a CV.Tweet