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Contractor Quick Poll: Do You Have a Personal Website

Paper resumes are all but useless in today’s digital job search economy, with virtually all employers and recruitment agencies demanding an electronic copy of your resume. These files are the only way their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) can quickly scan through resumes and shortlist the best IT professionals for the job.

But while computers are doing much of the upfront prescreening, recruiters still want to get to know the top applicants more personally to ensure they’re not hiring a psychopath, and you can be certain that they are researching you in every way possible. Building your online presence is the only way you can control what recruiters learn about you and one of the best ways to do so is to build a personal website that communicates your brand.

Personal websites that include a digital resume go a long way in differentiating you from other IT contractors, yet so few people decide to build one. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re curious to learn if you have a personal website and, if not, do you plan to?

Why Every IT Professional Needs a Digital Resume

Guest Post by Victoria Greene, Ecommerce Marketing Expert

As technology has developed over the last twenty years, more and more parts of our lives have moved into the digital realm. The iPod supplanted CD players, then streaming services like Spotify took all our music into the cloud, allowing ready access from anywhere. And if you need to book a ticket for an event, you don’t head down to the venue or a ticket office — you visit the website (or use a booking app) and get what you need without needing to move a muscle.

So why are so many of us still putting so much time into the tired old paper resume? If you’ve ever spent any time applying for jobs (probably a safe assumption), then you’ll know how irritating it is mess around for ages trying to get everything formatted in a certain way, and how frustrating it is trying to tweak things for specific roles. Then you hand it out, and… nothing.

It’s particularly silly if you work in the IT industry, because your skills are electronic, computational, complex. How are you supposed to stand out in 2-3 pages of blandness? Well, the winning move is not to play. Instead of trying to make your regular resume creative, keep it standard and throw your creativity into a digital resume to accompany it — here’s why:

They’re faster, easier, and cheaper to share

Want to share a paper resume? No problem! But you’ll need to print it first. Better make plenty of copies, because you won’t know how many you’ll need. What if you go to a networking event and you want to show your professional qualities? Maybe you should take a hundred copies just to be safe, but then you need to carry them around, and face the indignity of rustling around in your bag for a few sheets to hand to someone.

Digital resumes are infinitely easier in a time of 24/7 online connectivity and advanced smartphones. Just have your resume as a website — find a short URL that suits your personal branding, or (if you can’t) just use a URL-shortening service and pick something memorable. You can put the URL on a T-shirt, or a business card, or just tell people.

And when you go through a standard application process that allows some freedom in your submission, or email a recruiter, you only need to advance that one thing. Let them know that anything they need is on that one site. No copying needed, no printing expenses to get glossy versions made, just the cost of hosting.

They naturally supplement standard resumes

In a perfect world, you’d only need one comprehensive resume to apply to any position — but this isn’t a perfect world. Plenty of recruitment services and company portals still require you to submit a .PDF, or even a .DOC (or .DOCX) file, with no room for compromise. Sometimes it’s because they want to run every submission through an automated assessment service, and sometimes it’s because they’re just behind the times and don’t understand digital resumes.

This can be frustrating, yes, but needing to submit an electronic resume needn’t totally hamper your efforts. Not only might you have some design flexibility allowing you to pull over some stylistic elements from your digital resume (though it’s something to be careful with, since an Applicant Tracking System might not be able to parse complex elements), but you can also simply add a shortened URL to the content.

If your resume gets automatically rejected, then it won’t help you much — but if at least one actual person gets to read it, they might be willing to head to that URL to see what you have to offer, giving you a great chance to add to what’s on your regular resume without trying to stuff ill-fitting copy into a two-page document.

They’re quick to revise or customize

Have you ever found yourself furious after an interview because you realized too late that you’d missed a typo on your resume? When you go to the printing stage, you commit to the copy you have, and that’s it — it’s fixed in place until you get a fresh batch printed. And if you want to provide a custom resume for an application (which is often advisable, since you should cater to the specific job you’re applying for), you’ll need to print a separate version for it.

When you provide a digital resume, you don’t need to worry about that kind of inflexibility. If you notice a typo as you’re heading to an interview, you can log in and change it on the fly. And if you want to provide different versions for different places, you can simply make duplicates of your site at different addresses and change them as needed.

They’re natural segues for other web projects

If you have a personal website you’d like to show people, or a program you developed, or a big live project you worked on, you can include a URL on a standard printed resume, but there likely isn’t much point. Do you really expect someone to go out of their way to head to a computer and type in that address?

A link in a digital resume, though, is much more powerful. It just takes one click to see what’s on the other end. That probability that a well-placed (and presented) link is going to get clicks gives you ample reason to look for other things you can achieve online. The more you can link out, the more compelling your overall candidacy becomes without adding any weight whatsoever to your main resume page.

Imagine that you were trying to attract interest at a really large company, possibly someone you’d wanted to work for a long time, but you felt that your current accomplishments weren’t up to scratch. Instead of simply trying and trying again in the hope that something would change, you could do something new, such as:

  • Document your efforts. Showing personal and professional development is incredibly important, but it isn’t always easy to showcase that kind of work on a resume. A one-liner about a new language you’re learning won’t go too far — you need to actually chart the challenges you face. If you set up a blog, or even a talking-to-camera video series about what you’re trying to achieve, you can link to it on your digital resume and add some meaningful character context.
  • Run a side business. IT and business savvy don’t always correspond. If you set up a freelance business and get even just a few clients, you can turn the site into a testimonial of sorts. Or you can run an ecommerce store. Set one up, or buy one — if you have money saved, there are top businesses for less than $10,000 that you can turn into meaningful sources of income. Link to your secondary sites, and you’ll be able to show entrepreneurial hustle without adding any clutter.
  • Collaborate on content. Networking is obviously vital in most industries, and though IT demands more of a close focus on your skills, it has its fair share of personal recommendations. If there are influential figures in your niche that you think you could work with, you can reach out to them and pitch some collaborative work — team up for a blog series on their website, for instance. You can then link to their site on your resume, lending authority to your case.

Think of a digital resume as your personal homepage, and turn it into a fleshed-out hub telling a professional story that spans numerous sites and resources.

They’re creatively fitting and freeing

Perhaps most importantly, a digital resume gives you the opportunity to show off what you can do with your career skills. Are you a web designer? Build a finely-polished resume website that will impress prospective employers before they even get to your conventional resume content. Are you a software developer? Make your resume an interactive application of some kind.

Instead of being stuck with whatever you can fit on a few sheets of paper, you have complete freedom to go in whatever creative direction you want. Now, you can go too far with that kind of creativity and sabotage your chances (limitations are important), but that’s not an issue with the medium — that’s just the added responsibility of controlling your own destiny.

With everything we’ve looked at, why wouldn’t you want to have a digital resume? Because times are still changing, you’re going to need to retain your basic paper and electric versions too, but leave all your creativity for your digital showcase. The more freedom you can exert in your candidacy, the more you’ll expand your opportunities.

Victoria GreeneVictoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who loves having so much of her writing available online. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.