The world of work has rapidly pivoted to going all-remote. And job searching has also transitioned from in-person meetings to virtual events and video calls. “Networking events—even coffee chats—aren’t happening, so how do we make an impression now?” asks Jaime Klein, founder and CEO of Inspire Human Resources in New York City.
That’s where a personal website can come in. “People need to do things to differentiate themselves because they can’t meet in person,” Klein says. In this online-only hiring environment, having your own website that showcases your work (and personality) can go a long way in bridging the gap between you and a hiring manager or recruiter.
After all, most of what happens in an interview isn’t a careful rundown of your resume. Rather it’s the chance to showcase your personality, your dedication to the work, and all the seemingly little things—being on time, dressing for the part, positive body language—that create that essential impression of you, Klein says. “A personal website helps candidates create that first impression virtually,” she says.
A website can even serve as a competitive advantage, say experts. Hiring managers view them as the most impactful personal branding tool a candidate has, according to a survey by Workfolio. And while in certain fields personal websites have been de rigueur for years—think art, design, and web programming—other candidates can also use them to stand out in a crowded field.
“Personal branding is more important today than ever,” Klein says. “Business leaders are thinking more about their personal brand, what they stand for, and what's next in their career, and how to share their unique perspective on their industry. And personal websites are growing within this group, too.”
Here are seven ways to optimize your website to appeal to recruiters and show off your resume.
1. Spotlight Your Personality
The current situation has pushed our work and social lives online, blurring them in ways we’d never have imagined just months ago. “Because of this video-conferencing moment we find ourselves in, we’re bringing more of our full selves to work,” Klein says. “The way we interact with colleagues is shifting in real time.” Accordingly, the new normal will be for personal websites to show more authenticity and personality than ever. A site, she says, shouldn’t just be an abstract list of credentials. “You want to captivate the recruiter, let them get to know you a little more.”
Klein suggests talking about books you’re reading, presentations, or talks that have influenced you, or organizations you’re passionate about—and all as they relate to your job hunt, career, or profession. Include this information on an About Me or Bio page. “Consider a section for ‘My Influences’ or ‘How I Got Here,’” she says. “It offers great insight into what you think is important.”
2. But Keep It Polished
Even when you’re adding personality, remember that a personal website is still about making a professional impression. “A personal website should not blend in with your blog about home cooking,” Klein says. “It should support your potential employment.”
“Employers still don’t have time for a lot of extra information,” says Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers, who has pushed her clients to build smartly crafted personal websites for more than a decade. “Keep it relevant to your professional goals.” Hobbies you talk about on your site, for example, should be limited to those that relate to the job, she says. And Klein points out they are less of a priority than your other interests, so should be towards the bottom of the About Me page.
3. Streamline the Design
Even though you’re not limited to a page or two, like on a resume or CV, keep your site sharply edited. “Make the website easy to navigate,” Salpeter says. “Put the most important information first, and design the site to provide more details for those who want to learn more.”
Prioritize substance, not style. “I wouldn’t make it too artistic in design,” Klein says. For example, scripted or stylized fonts are popular now but can be hard to read on screen. “You don’t want the look to take precedence over navigating and the presentation of information.”
To stay focused and make the build go faster, start with a template. The good news: Anyone can create a beautiful site. At The Muse, we’ve partnered with Squarespace for years, and several editors on the team have built their own personal websites on the platform—so we can vouch for it being easy to use, even if you’re not design- or tech-savvy, and plans start at less than $20 per month. You can choose from tons of their templates for photographers, portfolio sites, personal websites, and CV websites.
4. Make it Easy to Contact You
If a recruiter has made it to your personal website, they want to learn more. Make it easy for them. “Your contact information should be very easy to find, and in multiple places,” Klein says. Consider including a simple Contact Me button as the main call to action on your home page, and also include it in the header and footer, as well as on a contact page that includes the various methods to reach you.
5. Put Key Information First
Spend most of your energy on the most important elements: the title, headline, bio, and professional summary. “We need to be real: A recruiter might just read the headline—and likely won’t look at your whole site,” Klein says. Figure out the right keywords according to your role and industry and use them in your professional summary and headline. Keeping the text concise throughout your site will also help you boost your site’s search engine optimization (SEO)—a critical factor for being found online.
“Write a great bio, make your resume available to download, and make sure all images look professional and show you in professional settings, such as speaking at a conference or event,” Salpeter says. “When appropriate, link to your social media profiles so people have access to your complete profile.”
6. Include Impact
Call out how you add value as a team member or employee. For example, talk about how you decreased customer service wait times by 24%, how you saved the company $100,000 by sourcing a new vendor, or that you were responsible for the launch of a new product six months before the deadline. Quantifying your achievements in this way makes them more tangible. “Especially now, you want to call out on your personal website the times you’ve had a growth mindset, and show that you can be a Jack or Jill of all trades,” Klein says. “Show how nimble you are, how flexible, and how agile you are.”
To showcase your work, include case studies and portfolios—but leave off the testimonials unless they’re also on a networking site, advises Salpeter.
7. Update Your Site to Mirror Your Search
Your site needs to constantly reflect your job-hunting goals, and sometimes the accountability you need is in the form of an easy-to-use website building platform. Updating your website should be a consistent (and simple!) process you get in the habit of doing regularly. “Your site should not be an evergreen billboard,” Klein says. For example, if you’re seeking a job with a startup, your site should focus on how you’re a generalist and self-starter who can take on any challenge. But if you’re looking to join a large, traditional corporation, you’ll need to highlight the specialized skills you have that fill a niche role. Keeping your site up-to-date will ensure that hiring managers can see you’re a perfect fit with a short glance.