Though Amazon’s one-click shopping makes picking out a gift dangerously simple, I have a tendency to research a product, think about it, and then research some more to make sure it’s exactly what I want. If spending a decent amount of money on something, I’ll read it’s description on the manufacturer’s website, maybe look at a third-party site’s user reviews, and then check out a video review on YouTube. If I’m still not convinced, I may go check it out at a brick and mortar location before pulling the trigger online.
This is excessive, I know. But it got me thinking: this is almost identical to the process employers go through when selecting a new hire. With this realization came the fear that I might not be the new iPad of this recruiting season. Or if I were, that I wasn’t marketing myself through the right outlets to make this clear to recruiters. If you’re thinking the same thing to yourself while reading this, don’t stress out! I’ve put some extra time in to develop a rundown of the tricks and tools to transform you into the must-have candidate.
First, there’s your resume. This is equivalent to a manufacturer’s website, and should have all the same characteristics. It should be aesthetically pleasing, informative, and paint you in the best light possible. It’s also going to be taken with a grain of salt. Just like when you read a product’s website with “Best Choice of 2011” and “Better Than The Leading Brand” plastered all over it, you’re probably going to look for a second opinion. Expect employers to do the same.
Employers from a more traditional background may request a list of references. The more likely outcome is that an employer is going to use the computer right in front of them and Google you. I was skeptical of the true power of Google until I typed my name into the little search box for the first time in a couple of years. I went with just “john wilke” first. The results focused primarily on a well-known reporter for the Wall Street Journal. I thought I was safe.
I use my middle initial on my resume header, so the logical next step was to try “john m wilke.” Boom. The top result was my own LinkedIn profile staring back at me. I had been caught. I felt like someone had placed it there as a trick. I mean, I have an uncommon name but it’s not that uncommon when considering the far-reaching capabilities of Google.
At this point, I decided test my luck further and look up “john wilke uga.” The top result? A column by my friend and fellow CDI Nicole Peterson where I’m quoted discussing of all things: social media. This is pretty meta, I know. And I wish I could say I planned that back in November just for this blog post, but I didn’t. The results continued with my LinkedIn, Twitter, Freshman Connection mentor profile, and Google+ account to name a few.
Luckily, I only came across things that were positive or neutral in their depiction of who I am, but this might not always be the case. It’s up to you to look into your online brand before potential employers do. Here’s a quick rundown of a few ways to sculpt a seamless online biography of who you are and tell your story to employers:
- Create a LinkedIn profile. And not one that has your name at the top, no picture, and no “links.” Take some time to make it professional and something you’ll be proud of it becomes your top Google result like mine is for me. You can begin by adding friends, classmates, and former employers. Keep up with it and don’t wait until you’re scrambling for an internship to begin frantically adding folks. LinkedIn will be a great tool down the road and help with career transitions.
- Create a Flavors account. This free service is mostly used by those in creative industries like photography, web design, and journalism, but is a wonderful tool for anyone. In a half hour or less, you can have a great looking page with your name as the domain. It’s definitely worth checking out and can be a great way to establish a professional email if you don’t have one yet (Ex: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Set your Facebook to “Friends Only” for all settings. This one seems pretty obvious, but with the privacy settings changing so much it’s not a bad idea to double-check. With the advent of Timeline, there may be easily accessible content you’d prefer to remain hidden. This is a precaution I follow myself, and as a general rule, Facebook should be kept for personal uses with the understanding that what you publish is permanent.
- Keep in mind your Twitter feed is set as public to everyone by default. Having parents or family members as followers is a good incentive to think before you tweet a spontaneous rant or pull an Anthony Weiner.
- Finally, start a blog! This is something I see a lot of Grady students including on their resumes more and more. Use it as a way to focus on something you’re interested in but at the same time create something you’ll be proud of when other people read it. Examples include: documenting a study abroad trip, an outlet to critique Athens eateries, or a way to opine on the recently underway MLB season. The CDI blog uses WordPress.
My final and most important tip is to create an interlaced, complete presence online. Link your Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog to your Flavors page. Use the same or very similar username on all social media accounts to make it easy for future contacts to find you, make referrals, and build relationships.
Keep in mind that social media and your online presence can be great tools. It’s easy to think of recruiters as just trying to find a flaw in your background, but in reality what you make available online can do wonders for credibility and, in turn, job worthiness. By following these steps, you’ll establish the groundwork for a strong and trustworthy background that will only boost your reputation and have employers standing in line to have a shot at you!