Make Yourself A First-Choice Candidate
Your résumé is on point and under two pages. Your work experience is impressive and shows you’re a well-rounded candidate. And your cover letters are always impactful and customized to the position you want. However, you aren’t the only candidate who knows how to present him- or herself in a positive light. So what can you do to get from good to great—and position yourself as a first-choice candidate employers can’t wait to hire?
The key is to first, collect supporting materials that speak directly to your outstanding qualities, and second, find the best way to showcase them. Here’s how:
- Create a personal website. A 2016 survey by CareerBuilder found that almost two-thirds of employers use social media to research candidates. (And if you haven’t scrubbed your social media pages of any information you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with an employer, do it right now.) But even if your social media presence is fine, it might not provide the top quality professional representation you deserve. That’s why you need a website that clearly communicates your professional persona. Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Sitebuilder, and DudaOne are all free, easy-to-use website builders. Each offers customizable themes; a simple drag-and-drop interface; and responsive design so your site looks professional on screens of all sizes.
- Create great content that’s visual and user-friendly. Your content should be powerful, engaging, and easy to digest. Avoid reams of text, and instead, look for ways to communicate your message in a visual manner. For example, instead of a written “about me” section, why not create a short video that intersperses images questions with clips of you answering those questions? If you prefer to write, include pictures and icons that break up the blocks of text. To demonstrate the quality of your work, list your most important projects on a main page, and create subpages with more comprehensive descriptions and—if applicable—images. Don’t forget to include references! Create a separate page that features engaging excerpts from three to 10 testimonials. If you really want to impress potential employers, start writing a blog. Since you want to showcase your professional knowledge, it’s okay to go in-depth and create longer posts—but keep them under 1,000 words, otherwise the reader might lose interest. Try to make each post as timely and relevant as possible to your profession. If writing isn’t your thing, you can discuss the same topics in a vlog (video blog).
- Showcase accomplishments and certifications on a separate page. While an online workshop about communication preferences of Gen Z customers isn’t as impressive as earning your Master’s in Communication, it’s still something an employer needs to know about. Similarly, if you participate in a (virtual) community or group where you make use of your technical and/or soft skills to help others, list it. For example, if you’re an IT professional, being ranked a Top User on StackExchange is a huge accomplishment and one that speaks to your technical skills. Or if you’ve been named “Volunteer of the Year” at your local soup kitchen, it’s important for employers to know about it because it illustrates your values and soft skills.
- Make it easy to contact you. After a hiring manager has learned more about you, you want to capitalize on his or her enthusiasm and make it super easy to contact you. Include a “contact” page with a form, or place an email link in the header of your site so it shows on every page. Including your full address and phone number isn’t recommended, since it can compromise your privacy.
Because not every employer wants to see a personal website, you’re best advised to keep your portfolio and references on a zip drive to bring with you to job interviews. That way, you can still provide decision makers with top-notch supporting materials that show you’re the best candidate for the job.