Employers who cut their teeth doing quick internet searches on old high school boyfriends and girlfriends in years past now turn their attentions to you, their potential employee. A Microsoft study shows that a full 80% of employers regularly check job applicants out online before deciding to move forward with the time-consuming process of bringing people in for an interview.
For someone with a robust digital footprint (lots of social mentions, membership in professional groups, an updated LinkedIn page. etc.), this will come as good news. After all, employers are checking you out online to make sure that your work and educational history matches up with your CV and also, presumably, to make sure there are no red flags wilding about that might make you a bad hire.
However, honesty and not a bank robber , are not enough to land you your dream job. What if there was a way to help your potential employer come away with the perception that you are all of the above as well as knowledgeable, an authority in your field, analytical, creative, well-connected, and strategic? If you have a blog, or contribute to a blog regularly, congratulations! A well-executed blog can achieve all of this and more.
Here, we take a look at how a blog can help you land your next dream job. Along the way, we’ll also stop to consider some of the best blogging practices as well as some pitfalls you certainly want to avoid.
How can a blog help you in a tight job market?
Increase online visibility:
While a LinkedIn profile is a must-have for 2014 job-seekers, simply showing up on LinkedIn is not enough to wow that potential employer. Why? Because, well, everyone who is looking for a job has a LinkedIn page! A blog, on the other hand, is something that can help you stand apart from other, blogless candidates. Nowadays, blogging technology is so simple and user-friendly (consider Tumblr, WordPress or Blogger) that there is really nothing standing in your way if you want to start flexing those wordsmith muscles of yours.
Highlight your skills:
To be clear, there is a difference between a blog that complements your online and professional persona, and one that relates to more personal aspects of your life, such as a hobby, your family, or your favorite dog breed. Blogs of this stripe can be immensely personally satisfying, but may not help employers see you as the professional that you are.
The blogs that really help those on the hunt for a new job are blogs that show you, the professional, in action. Whether this is a blog that doubles as a portfolio for a copywriter or photographer, or an educational blog for other educators, employers will be intrigued to see you doing what you do best, even before they interview you.
Showcase your professional network:
In addition to allowing you to show off your professional chops to prospective employers, blogs are useful ways to demonstrate the professional connections that you will bring with you to your next position. Guest posts from high profile individuals in your field, a post that garnered shares and comments from bigwhigs, and even your Blog Roll are all ideal ways to show employers that you are a somebody who knows lots of other relevant somebodies. Your professional network of colleagues, friends, and associates is a valuable asset and a professional blog can set this asset off to strong effect.
One thing that employers consistently look for in their employees is their stick-to-it-ness. There are many ways to demonstrate this, some of which include long periods of employment with the same company or organization, as well as a demonstrated commitment to gaining new skills in the field via certificate programs or continuing education credits. Want to know another way to demonstrate your ability to commit? You guessed it…your blog.
One of the Best Practices in Blogging that we’ll discuss below is to post regularly and to avoid going into radio silence for long periods of time.
Let’s say you are a wine buyer, and for the past four years, you have posted weekly on a topic of interest to your field. Even without reading the post you have toiled over so carefully, a potential employer can glean that your interest in wine is no fly-by night passion. Additionally, your weekly posts demonstrate that you are a person with follow-through who can stick to a schedule, something that employers care about.
Provide useful talking points during an interview:
While we don’t recommend making your blog that star of the show at your interview, there are many ways to tactfully bring your well-curated blog up in conversation. For example, if you enjoy delving deeply into your blog’s analytics and have used data to improve views, SEO ranking, or readership, why not mention that as an example of an accomplishment? Or, if you have encountered a problem while blogging that you solved in a typically clever fashion, it might be appropriate to bring this up as an example of your problem-solving skills.
Finally, even if your experience in the blog world doesn’t extend to analytics and celebrity guest posters, if an interviewer asks you about hobbies or what you like to do for fun, your blog on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or baking a new French pastry each weekend can do much to show that you’d be a fun person to join the office community.
Blogging best practices:
Now that you are convinced that a blog can help you win the job, you’ll want to make sure your blog is in tip-top shape before you start sending out those CVs. Below, a list of blogging best practices:
- Post frequently: As mentioned earlier, posting frequently and on schedule is a must. Failure to do so may alienate readers or suggest that you aren’t that committed to your topic.
- Integrate your blog with other social media: Give your blog its best chance to be visible — link to it from Twitter, create posts that you push to LinkedIn, make sure people can get to it from Google+. The best blog in the world can’t do much for you if no one can find it, after all!
- Optimize for mobile: Nowadays, web users are glued to their smart phones and expect to be able to view content on their mobile devices in the same way that they could on a desktop. Make sure your blog is set up for mobile use or risk losing readers. (Take into consideration that 58% of mobile users check their phone at least once an hour and you will understand how crucial it is for your blog to be optimized for mobile!)
- Make use of about me: The About Me (or similar) section of your blog is an ideal place to provide key information about yourself to potential employers. If you decide to post a picture of yourself on your blog, consider using the same photo you use on LinkedIn or Twitter so that employers will know you are one in the same.
- Maintain a narrow focus: One of the guiding principles of blogging is to maintain a tight focus on a topic. If your blog is focused on educational reform at the K-12 level, it probably should not also be about your garden.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread: This may seem obvious, but one of the quickest ways to lose authority in a reader’s eyes is to confuse their and they’re and there or too and two.
Blogging worst practices:
Just as there are several must-dos in the blogging world, there are also a host of Do Not’s that it is important to be attuned to, especially if you are hoping to impress potential hiring managers. These include:
- Offensive language: Whether this is swearing heavily or calling that old so-and-so an idiot, it is best to keep your language polite in your blog. Not only will you come off as fair and balanced, but you will do much to suggest that you will be an appropriate and tactful member of a team.
- Attacks on colleagues/employers: Nothing will make a prospective employer turn tail quite so quickly as attacks on colleagues, past or present. Not only is it unprofessional, but it is one quick step of the imagination for the hiring manager to imagine his or her own employees cast in a similar rageful post sometime in the future.
- Dead links: Dead links are links from your blog (or anywhere) that simply do not go anywhere. Whether this is because the site no longer exists or because you entered a link incorrectly, a bunch of dead links can appear sloppy and unfinished. A good rule of thumb is to check for these dead ends once a month as part of your general blog maintenance.
- Selfie overloads: Unless you are a fashion model and your blog is also your portfolio, selfies aren’t the way to go on a professional blog.
The right kind of blog can be a tremendous asset during a job search. Not only can your blog demonstrate your skills, but it can provide potential employers with a much fuller and more genuine representation of you than your CV could ever do alone. Whether you are an experienced blogger or have simply been wondering whether or not a blog could help you in your job search, there has never been a better time to blog than right now, when blogging platforms are cost effective and employers are cruising the internet for someone just like you.
Author: Rosie Scott is a digital content strategist at an online marketing company and an avid blogger. Lover of everything craft, you can find her and her knitting at The New Craft Society or on twitter @RosieScott22 where she’s always up for chatting!