How can you stand out in a competitive market? Whether you want to look for a job or you’re planning to start your own business, making a good first impression is key. People will turn to Google and online tools to help them form first impressions of you. When you apply for positions or vie for opportunities, it’s likely someone will check you out online before considering to invite you to an interview.
That can be good or bad news, depending on what that person finds! The good news is you can influence what people find when they search for you online. One way is to create a stream of professional content via social media tools, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Using these tools is free, does not require a lot of technical skill and, once you understand social media basics, makes it easy to showcase your information.
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One additional strategy many job seekers overlook is building and maintaining a personal website, also known as a “social résumé.” Domain.ME – provider of the “.me” domain extension – conducted a survey of 600 professionals who own their own websites. Eighty-four percent of respondents reported receiving tangible career benefits from their personal website.
A Forbes article, when referencing Workfolio, noted that “56 percent of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool – however, only 7 percent of job seekers actually have a personal website.”
How can having your own website help your career? Predrag Lesic, CEO of Domain.ME, offers these insights:
1. It helps you clarify your brand. Can you think of a brand you respect that does not have a website? Would you hire a service provider who didn’t have a strong online presence?
“Today, a web presence is a measure of credibility and a powerful tool for communicating what you are all about to your target audiences,” Lesic says. “While it may seem unusual to consider yourself a commodity, as a job seeker, you are marketing yourself to meet a need. Like every good brand, your personal brand should live online.”
2. It gets you noticed. In the Domain.Me survey, 70 percent reported believing that employers review their online presence prior to an interview. In fact, a 2014 Jobvite survey of human resources professionals reveals that 93 percent of recruiters will review a candidate’s social media profile before making a decision, and that candidate information found on the Web influences their hiring decisions.
“As employers increasingly turn to the Internet to identify and research potential candidates, you want to be searchable. Your Facebook page may entertain family members and friends, but it isn’t designed to highlight your strengths as a job candidate. Conversely, your LinkedIn profile, while providing professional credentials, can be dry and impersonal,” Lesic says. “Not only is your website a fully customizable platform to showcase your personal brand, the savvy you demonstrate in owning your Web real estate and building a site can impress potential employers.”
Creating this online real estate is not difficult, and there are various ways to accomplish it. One way is via “hosted” sites, such as About.me or Flavors.me, which allow you to design your own landing page on their directories. These options result in an online presence, but the URL will not be in your name only.
If you want to own a memorable, personalized domain, you can purchase an address using any of the major domain registrars. Lesic explains: “With .com availability dwindling, a popular choice for personal websites is the .ME extension.”
Once you own a domain of your choice – ideally, “YourName.com” or YourName.me – you can turn to various tools to populate and publish the site, such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or Jigsy.
3. It’s more than a résumé. In Domain.ME’s survey, respondents were asked which is more important for long-term career success: a personal website or a résumé. The majority (63 percent) favored websites. “A website is interactive, evolving and dynamic,” Lesic says. “Your portfolio, writing samples, testimonials, images and more add color to your professional history. And your site’s design aesthetic and tone of voice help to convey your personal brand.”
4. It networks for you. While in-person networking isn’t going out of style, digital networking can help make the job a lot easier. More than half of survey respondents believe their personal sites help them achieve professional recognition, connect them with a network of like-minded professionals and attract new customers.
“Your website never sleeps or takes a day off,” Lesic says. “It makes you accessible to an enormous audience and invites people to engage with your content and to contact you.”
Originally appeared on U.S. News & World Report.