10 Ways to Optimize Your Personal Website and Jumpstart Your Job Search

by Charles Pooley

Personal Website

Nine months is a long time - just ask any expecting mom. Nine months can feel like an especially long time when you are unemployed. According to the US Labor Department, the average job search now lasts more than 36 weeks: a little shorter than the average pregnancy.

Why so long? The economic downturn means that there are fewer jobs available, which means that competition for every job opening has become fierce. Hiring managers receive an average of 150 resumes for every position advertised. It is now more important than ever to make a lasting impression on hiring managers, and also far more difficult.

If you are looking for a job in this tough market, you have likely read endless career advice and done everything according to the books; you have created a polished resume, your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, and you have made sure your Facebook profile is well-curated. But you can bet that other job-seekers have, too. So how do you stand out? A personal website just might be the answer.

According to Right Management, a leading outplacement firm, 95% of employers now research candidates online (sometimes referred to as "cyber-vetting"). Additionally, according to research done here at Workfolio, 56% of hiring managers find personal websites to be the most impressive hiring or self-marketing tool a candidate can have.

It's obvious that a personal website is a tool that every job-seeker should have in their arsenal, but surprisingly few people have them -- when we surveyed a pool of job-seekers, we found that only 7% of candidates have a website, despite 77% of candidates saying they wanted one. Other than being intimidated by the technology, the biggest reason people cited for not having a website of their own was that they simply did not know what content to include.

So what information should you include on a personal website? We created a list to help get you started.

1. Summary. A short, descriptive bio will help visitors and potential employers understand what your skills are and how you can help them grow their business. If your skills match their needs, visitors will keep exploring your site and learning more about you. A summary should generally be written in the third person.

2. Headline. When someone asks you what you do at a networking event, you probably have a one- or two-sentence description prepared. This can be your job title or a more general description of the role you play. When listed as a headline on your website, it will give visitors a chance to remember you when they are seeking someone with that particular skill set. This also acts as a valuable search engine optimization tool to help employers, clients, or customers find you when searching for talent.

3. Results. Sharing quantifiable results from past jobs shows the value you are capable of creating for a business in absolute terms. If you brought in 30 new clients last month, that is a powerful statement about your sales skills. If you can attach rough dollar amounts to those results, that will add even more of an impact.

4. Examples of your work. Whenever possible, use your website to showcase any projects you have worked on in the past by providing links, along with any images or documents you have authored. This allows visitors to immediately review the quality of your work.

5. Professional photo. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, it could make all the difference in helping you to land a job. Use a high-quality, preferably, professionally taken, headshot or wide shot. It is best to avoid the temptation to use a smartphone photo, especially one you took yourself. Also, be sure to crop the photo below or near the top of your head to present the best version of yourself.

6. Blog, Twitter, and writing samples. A blog can be a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, as well as your communication skills. If you don't blog, provide a list of links to samples of your writing, such as white papers or presentations. If you use Twitter for professional purposes, add your latest tweets, as well - this demonstrates that you are involved in your industry and keep up with the latest trends.

7. Testimonials. Short, well-written testimonials, especially from people you've reported to in the past can have a significant impact on potential employers. Having a former boss or co-worker publicly vouch for your skills and abilities helps employers feel more confident that you are someone they should talk to.

8. The next steps. Whether you're looking for a job, new clients, volunteers, mentors, or anything else, be sure to display this prominently on your site. This lets visitors know whether you have skills or experience that matches their needs, and can prompt someone to contact you.

9. Contact form. If someone likes what they see, they need to be able to get in touch with you. A contact form is a great way to allow visitors to get in touch while still keeping your contact information private.

10. Focus. Make sure the content on your website presents a clear, compelling picture of your skills and abilities. After visitors leave your site, they should know what you do and how well you do it.

If you decide to build a personal website, be sure to keep it up-to-date and promote it well. Include a link to your personal website on your resume and in the footer of your email, and list your website on all your social networking profiles.

In a difficult job market like this one, you need every tool you can get to land your next job. Branding yourself well -- both online and off -- can mean the difference between spending nine months shot-gunning resumes and confidently stepping into the next phase of your career.

Charles Pooley is the Founder and CEO of Workfolio, an online personal branding company.

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