Todd and Christine Benton of BentonWebs
Todd Benton, co-owner of BentonWebs, explains the importance of an online presence to boost your job search.
First, please tell me a little bit about BentonWebs.
BentonWebs (bentonwebs.com) helps individuals and small businesses with website design, video production, and relationship marketing. We believe that real, authentic communication is at the heart of building thriving relationships in business and in life. We take this philosophy and apply it to the web that exists beyond interpersonal interactions — to the public messages that are communicated through our clients’ websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media properties so that these messages are congruent with who our clients are and what they’re building.
Is a paper resume enough these days?
A paper resume is out of date because recruiters and hiring managers are online. They are social media savvy and spend time conducting online searches for candidates based on keywords. If your qualifications are literally on paper or in a PDF file or Word document on your computer, they are not searchable online. In essence, you are hidden from many potential opportunities.
What are some ways that people are using the Internet to expand the reach of their resume?
There are many free resources you can use to share your work history, your skills and to showcase your talents and accomplishments. I think most people are familiar with LinkedIn, which is the leading site for this purpose. However, people are also using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and add-on applications for these networks like BranchOut (which was connected with Facebook but just became a stand-alone service) to make connections, establish themselves as an expert in a topic and share when they are looking for work.
There are also industry-specific platforms like Behance and Deviant Art, which showcase creative work — including photography, graphic design, illustration, and so on. And, there are others that are industry-specific for other fields.
One idea people may not have considered is to create a personal website that not only includes the things that LinkedIn or BranchOut feature, but gives you greater control over what recruiters and hiring managers find when they search for you and makes you stand out. But that depends on your profession. It certainly makes sense for freelancers, for some people who work part time, and for those who work in the creative fields such as advertising, writing, editing, or other audio or visual realms.
Creating a personal website sounds like an expensive undertaking for the less tech-savvy. Are there any budget-friendly resources for something like this?
We offer an affordable option for people who want to create a personal site for showcasing themselves in a unique way. It’s a mix of do-it-yourself and my coaching on design, copy and technical fine-tuning.
Not everyone needs a personal website for a job search, however. I would say this would be most important if you have something visual to display or if visuals would really distinguish you from other applicants. For example, if you are a public relations professional, having a visual collection of media coverage you’ve worked on may make a bigger impact. Or, if you are a writer you can showcase your work. Other examples would include designers, graphic artists, sales and marketing professionals and broadcasters. However, these aren’t the only ones. If you think having a website would enhance your chances of standing out, you should consider it. On the other hand, if you are an accountant it would probably be sufficient to update your LinkedIn profile.
There are also some free sites that aggregate your information, such as About.me, where you can create a visual representation of yourself if you don’t need more than a page. The site offers registered users a simple, but visually-stunning platform from which to link multiple online identities and popular social networking websites such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Tumblr. It features one-page user profiles, where you can upload a large background image and post an abbreviated biography.
For those who want to create their own website for free or nearly free (depending upon if you want your own domain or not), and do the work themselves, they can utilize these resources. There are many more, these are just some of my favorites:
Wordpress.com is a free, hosted version of the popular WordPress.org blogging platform where you can create a multiple page site/blog.
Wix.com is a free service for creating and hosting really good looking websites without much design knowledge.
Weebly.com is another free service that enables you to create high-quality sites.
For those do-it-yourselfers, what are the necessary pieces of a personal website?
To me, simpler is better, so you don’t have to have a lot of pages, but what you do have needs to be well thought out and well organized. All of the elements taken together paint a picture of who you are, so be honest and real about who you are, what you have accomplished and who you’re becoming versus trying to prove something.
Think of it this way: you’re looking to help someone capture the essence of who you are, because when managers look to hire someone, they want to see more than just experience. They are also looking for that person’s process, how they do their work, who they collaborate with and how they test ideas.
You’ll want to include samples of your best work, including articles, reports, PowerPoint presentations, and links to blog entries.
Consider, at minimum, the following pages:
About Me (Biography)
Portfolio or Accomplishments
Links to your social media profiles (but think carefully before linking to your social media. If you use Twitter to tweet about industry topics, definitely link to it. But if you tweet about your dating, or partying, or political rants, don’t.)
What if the job seeker is in the middle of a career change and doesn’t have much experience in the new field? What might he or she want to consider that would differ from someone seeking work in a field they’ve worked in for a long time?
I’ve faced this myself. And what I asked myself was, “What experiences from my past are relevant to what I am doing now that enhance my credibility in this new area?” For example, when I first started offering web design services and my portfolio consisted of only two websites, I focused on my coaching skills and my other marketing skills — the fact that I had 15+ years of media experience like writing, editing, video production, and public relations. These are all relevant to creating a website for someone. I also utilized the fact that my father was nominated for four Academy Awards for Art Direction for feature films, and that I worked with him on one of his last projects. And, I got very strong testimonials from those first two clients about what it was like working with me — how I helped them beyond just delivering a well-designed site that met their specifications.
And is there anything to avoid? Any big no-no’s?
The biggest no-no is creating a website that looks like you did it yourself. What I mean by that is using pixelated images, colors that don’t work together, having one image overlapping another image, typos and so on. This is the biggest problem I see when people create their own sites — a lack of attention to details that make the site look unprofessional. The other big problem I see is people trying to oversell their skills and hyping what they have done.
Let’s say I’m looking for someone to help create my personal website. There are so many web developers out there. How do I pick the right one?
That’s an important question, and for me this is one of the best parts of the process from my end — discovering if I’m truly a fit for who the person is and what they need.
One great thing about hiring a web designer is that they will have examples of their work to show you. So I would start there. Does the quality of their designs and their “design sensibility” match what you’re seeking? If it does, then I would set up a time to talk with them. You can learn a lot about a person just by spending a little bit of time on the phone or on a video conference with them. Do they listen? Are they connecting with you and what is important to you — your ideas, your challenges, your fears, your aspirations? Or are they simply trying to sell you their service? Observe and trust your intuition.
Do you have any further advice for those looking to create their own sites?
I would recommend having a professional review your site or tutor you if you are going to create it completely on your own, just so you can avoid the pitfalls I mentioned in the no-no’s section above. And, make sure you test your site on all of the widely used browsers to make sure it works correctly (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari) and on mobile devices and tablets.