What’s the first thing you do when you start looking for a job? If your first response is to update your resume, work your professional contacts, or sign up for some job fairs, you’re on the right track, but arguably the most important task is starting or updating your personal website.
Whether you’re looking for a full-time gig with an established employer or want to land new clients who hire you directly, a website offers some job-hunting advantages that other tools simply can’t. Here are seven ways a professionally focused personal website can jump-start your job search.
1. Give hiring managers and recruiters what they want
The most important reason to have a website is that people who may hire you want to see one. Forbes reported in 2013 that for 56% of hiring managers surveyed, candidates’ personal websites were the thing that impressed them most, but just 7% of applicants had a site. Your website will give you an immediate edge over applicants without one.
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2. Make the most of employers’ online searches
Searching candidates’ names online is part of hiring managers’ due diligence. When your website turns up in the results, the search is no longer a screening chore. Now it’s an opportunity for the hiring manager to see your skills and learn more about you.
Your website is an always-on marketing tool to help prospective employers find you, too. Many open jobs never appear on job boards, in part to keep hiring managers from drowning in a sea of applications from people who don’t meet the requirements. The higher up the career ladder the job is, Forbes reports, the more likely it is to go unadvertised. Many times these unannounced jobs are filled through network referrals, but sometimes recruiters conduct their own searches to find likely candidates.
To show up in these searches, make sure your site copy and tags include the key words people use when they search for your type of job, such as “retail site design” or “residential architecture.”
3. Show your work in its best light
A site that shows your skill can put you on a prospect’s shortlist. For example, Portland makeup artist Ellie Vixie uses her portfolio as her site’s homepage, to capture the attention of brides-to-be who are searching online for service providers.
You can share as much of your work as you like on your website, rather than just writing about it on your resume or submitting a couple of samples with an online application. Depending on the type of work you do, your portfolio can be as simple as a list of links to your articles or as cleverly crafted as this portfolio by designer and animator Robbie Leonardi. (We found it on in a list of cool personal sites on ReBrandly.)
Put in the work to make your online portfolio shine, no matter what recruiters are using to view it. Navigate through your site using different browsers and devices to make sure it displays well on all of them. Overlapping text, disappearing sidebars, and wonky graphics can smudge your professional image.
4. Demonstrate your connections and social proof
Testimonials show recruiters and hiring managers that people in your industry are happy to vouch for your work. Testimonials are especially effective when they include headshots, names, and company information. Ask the people who’ve given you references or glowing reviews for permission to use their images and names to enhance your testimonials page. Network for Good has detailed advice on collecting and using testimonials; it’s aimed at nonprofits but useful for job-seekers, too.
Have you been featured in the press for something work-related or interviewed about your area of expertise? Link to or embed those media mentions on your site. Being a source for a news story or feature article goes a long way toward establishing you as an expert.
5. Establish expertise
Don’t worry if you haven’t been quoted in the New York Times just yet. Your website can serve as the home for a blog, podcast, or video channel where you discuss your work and your industry. Author Laura Vanderkam, who writes extensively about time management, keeps a blog on her personal site that invites readers to participate in time-tracking challenges, chronicles her own efforts to balance work and family, and offers practical tips for dealing with daily time crunches.
If you have a job now, a regularly updated, well-written blog shows you’re interested in your field beyond what happens in your own workspace. If you’re between jobs, your content shows prospective employers that you’re keeping up with industry developments.
6. Make it easy to contact you
You may want to include icons linking to each of your social media accounts, but the purpose of your site is to get hired. Recruiters and managers are busy people who need to reach you easily and get a timely response. To avoid missed connections and delayed responses, it’s a good idea to provide only the contact methods you check frequently, whether that’s email, phone, LinkedIn, or something else, and put them near the top of the page so they’re easy to find.
7. Your website shows initiative
Besides everything listed above that a website can do for your job search, it also shows prospective employers something else. Initiative, moxie, gumption, a can-do attitude – however you want to describe it, your website shows you have it. Employers want people who can solve problems, get things done, and add value. Your website does all that and more, which makes it a job-search tool that’s hard to beat.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.