Many of us who read Tim Ferris’ “4-Hour Work Week” have dreamed of the opportunity to work remotely; however, the mandated shift to home offices and social distancing isn’t quite what we had in mind.
Regardless, it has changed the modern workplace forever and things will never entirely be the same. Employers have seen what works and what doesn’t, yet the decrease in overhead is sure to be appealing to the number crunchers. Working remotely may become the new normal for some industries, which will come with a new set of best practices for landing employment in our extremely competitive job market.
As such, it’s essential to figure out how to become more employable online. This may come as a challenging paradigm shift for the generations of professionals who have trained their entire lives to shake someone’s hand and look them in the eye, however, there are a few key things you can do to better position yourself to have the advantage.
Customize your resume for each application
Constantly re-tooling your resume may sound incredibly tedious and time-consuming, particularly after you’ve already crafted the perfect resume, however, it’s not as easy to find success nowadays with the “one resume to rule them all” approach. The reason? Those damn robots.
With the simplicity and accessibility of applying online, employers now get 100s, if not 1,000s, of applicants for jobs at every level. The cost to have a person sort through each individually would be astronomical, so instead, they filter resumes looking for specific keywords. This means that, even if you are the perfect candidate for the job, a human may never see your application if it doesn’t have the right terms weaved into your work narrative.
Fortunately, you can usually identify what some of those phrases might be from the job posting. With applications on LinkedIn, sometimes the listing will even specifically tell you what skills they are looking for, which is a wealth of information. In the absence of anything quite so obvious, search online for “Top 10 Skills Every _______ Needs” and figure out how to interlace those into your resume where appropriate.
All of that said, it’s important not to lie on your resume; however, you can get pretty creative with how you package your experience. The same time you would spend spamming out 50 versions of the same resume may be better spent carefully crafting five resumes that make you look like the perfect candidate for that job.
ProTip: Use Grammarly to look for typos and grammatical errors, which may be a red flag for the filters. It’s like having a personal editor, and the premium version can even guide you on tone and intent. The free version is still a lifesaver when you’ve been staring at 14 different versions of your resume, and you’re tired of bugging other people to look at it.
Spend some time on LinkedIn
Many of us are regularly embarrassed when we get our weekly notifications from our smart phones about our average screen time over the last 7 days. Might as well shift focus and spend some of those social media hours browsing LinkedIn.
Not only will you learn about trends in your industry, but interacting with other people will help you network and alert the algorithms that you are an active user, which can increase the likelihood that other people might see your name circulating. Interact in LinkedIn groups in your industry and continue networking from the comfort of your own home.
Want to stand out? Write some original content on LinkedIn.
Maybe it’s a thought piece about your industry or sharing what you learned during a challenging part of your life. This little bit of effort puts out writing samples of your work, shares some of your experience in a non-aggressive way, and gives someone a feel for the type of person you are. Just remember, this isn’t Facebook, so carefully curate what you want people to see.
Speaking of Facebook…
Audit your social media
Employers will search for you. Period. For most people, your social media is your brand. What does your brand say about you?
We live in an era where many have had social media accounts for longer than we’d like to admit, and your emo LiveJournal may still be floating around. Google yourself and see what pops up, because often part of HR’s job is to eliminate as many candidates as quickly as they can to narrow the number of people they actually talk to. Will your social media be a deal killer?
View your profiles in Incognito mode on Google Chrome or view them from another browser where you’re not logged in so that you can view what strangers see when they visit your profile. Strong public political opinions, tasteless vulgarity, or past controversial statements can all be reasons that you don’t get contacted for an interview.
Facebook features have had slow but continual evolutions over the last decade. Even if everything you’ve posted over the previous ten years has been only to your private network, the things that still show up might be your notes or awkward posts from your late-teens and early twenties. Similarly, go back and eliminate asinine Twitter posts. Maybe your Instagram is private, which is better than embarrassing, but a public profile with a good representation of your character is bonus points.
And what if they find nothing? That can seem a little suspicious and may very well frustrate HR reps. Consider having a website, particularly if you opt-out from social media.
Build a website to optimize for your name
Websites are a great way to own your personal brand. Even if you aren’t tech-savvy at all, a modern website builder can make it quick and easy to build a handsome website from templates. You may end up spending a little bit of money, either monthly or annually, however creating a digital homestead for your professional presence can be a huge asset.
Not only can it help you optimize for your name, it allows you to take control of a static landing page with all of your information, experience, work samples, interviews, and awards. Having an online portfolio is a must in some industries, however even if you’re a teacher, an accountant, or a blue-collar worker, having a website is something that can help you stand apart from other candidates in almost any job category.
Pro Tip: Chances are, you aren’t the only person with your name, which can be an amplified issue if you have a fairly common name. Think of what other words employers might search in tandem with your name to find you and consider adding those to your URL in the branding of your website. Registering your domain name as www.johnsmithaccountant.com or www.joebrownteaching.com can go a long way.
Your social network is more than just a collection of websites
Do other people know that you are looking for a job? If not, how can they advocate for you?
You have an entire lifetime of contacts that you may be underutilizing. These contacts might be past co-workers, teachers, family, friends, enemies, acquaintances, landlords, members of your online raiding guild… literally anyone.
You don’t want to pester people about it and avoid laying on some mopey guilt trip, but let people know what you’re looking for and what your skillset is in case they hear of anything. A well-placed introduction from an unexpected place may get you farther than hours of applying online.
All of that said, there are a multitude of additional things you can do to amplify yourself. Attend webinars and virtual events to keep up with trends. Find industry-specific certifications or courses that might potentially shorten the learning curve in a new job. Whatever it is, just keep moving forward.
Michael Magnus is a digital marketing lecturer and principal consultant at Magnus Opus.