In the modern job search, online presence can be as important as an in-person interview.
Whether it’s a dubious picture from your college days or an impressive portfolio of presentations, the hits off an Internet search of your name could make or break your employment efforts.
According to a June CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Putting concerted effort into your Internet presence can turn this potential source of stress into a real asset.
LinkedIn profiles, in particular, add to a potential employer’s perception of an applicant.
“I look at almost every LinkedIn profile and Google search the candidate name for any candidate,’’ said Patty O’Neil Messer, Executive Recruiter at Insight Performance Group. “I typically do it early in the interview process – usually before the first interview. It’s great to see if the resume and profile match up, see a picture of the candidate and check to see if you have mutual connections.’’
The popularity of searching LinkedIn was echoed by Jonathan Stone of Stone Consulting Group, a Boston-based human resource consulting company.
“We use somebody’s LinkedIn profile almost immediately. It’s really an entrée into somebody’s background,’’ said Stone. “In this day and age, it’s an absolute prerequisite.’’
Stone said profiles serve to verify an applicant’s resume. It also enables a potential employer, or consulting company, to immediately look into a cold caller.
“If someone calls out of the blue, I can pull it up, and probe it as public domain,’’ said Stone.
If it’s so important, what can you do to spruce up your page?
Visuals, it seems, are important. While an (appropriate) candid photo is acceptable, a professional photo can stand out, according to O’Neil Messer.
“A professional LinkedIn picture is important. Candid shots are fine, as long as they are appropriate, but a professional picture is more impactful,’’ said O’Neil Messer.
“I’d say a picture wouldn’t likely “make it,’’ but a bad picture could potentially “break it.’’ I remember one candidate wearing what looked like pajamas; another woman made up for an evening social event. Those things don’t represent candidates at their best professional self,’’ O’Neil Messer said.
Statistics support her opinion. According to LinkedIn’s own advice to spruce up your profile, pages with a photo are seven times more likely to be viewed by others. A recent experiment with Google+ demonstrated a 35% increase in click through rate, and articles from Forbes, Business Insider, and more all recognize the value of linking a face with a name.
Stone was less emphatic about the importance of the photo, and underscored the value of a narrative with bullet points, rather than a rambling paragraph.
“We would never judge someone simply by the photograph. We’d look at their work experience first and foremost, secondly their educational background, and thirdly their industry affiliation,’’ Stone said.
Still, if candidates are equally qualified, certain aesthetic tricks can help your odds of being noticed or remembered.
Adding a good photo is a great way to enhance your appeal, and it’s an aspect of a highly unpredictable experience that you can control. You can’t change where you went to college, or fabricate a stellar employment record, but you probably have access to a camera, a friend to take the photo, and some online editing software.