Gone are the days when applying for a new job entailed writing a cover letter, uploading your resume, hitting submit on the job application site, and hoping for the best. Today’s fast-paced, competitive job market requires candidates to put their best digital foot forward from the start.
But before we get into how to do just that, go ahead and Google yourself. For the most accurate results, Molly Reiniger—a search engine optimization (SEO) consultant—recommends using incognito mode. “It will show you clean search results as opposed to ones based on the algorithm and your search history,” she explains.
All of the links that appear—such as your LinkedIn profile, social media accounts, and website (if you have one)—are exactly what a recruiter or hiring manager will see, too. That’s why you want to make sure your online presence is showcasing you and your skills in the best light.
Here, several experts share how to get your online presence ready for you to land your next dream job. Your search results will thank you.
1. Conduct a Comprehensive Social Media Audit
Before you dive into improving your online presence, make a list of what accounts already exist. Then, deactivate the ones that you’re not actively using (do you really need that Myspace page from 2004?). Similarly, lock any accounts you don’t want a prospective recruiter or hiring manager to see by switching your profile to private. While this isn’t foolproof, it does place an extra hurdle in place for people to find you.
Next, check the active profiles you plan to keep open for any inconsistencies (think display name, your handle, headshot, and bio). If they don’t match, update them in order to communicate the same message about who you are and what you do across all channels.
2. Create a Personal Website
While a personal website will likely include much of the same information as your resume, it can go a long way in helping you land your dream job. Plus, you’re not limited by space constraints, and you can be more creative in how you display your experience.
“When you have your own website, you get to decide what gets shown where and what gets prioritized and highlighted,” says Mallory Ulaszek, co-founder and lead project manager at Week of the Website, a design firm specializing in Squarespace websites. “You have full control over the design and layout.”
Squarespace has a variety of resume and personal website templates that are easy to customize. Whether you opt for a simple one-page site or resume website, you can have it up and ready in no time at all. (Need some website inspiration? Here are a few of our favorites.)
3. Clean Up Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the most important social media platform when it comes to your career. Rather than thinking of it as a digital version of your resume—where you simply recount past positions—it’s best to approach it as a dynamic space where you can bring your professional story to life.
Start by updating your headline, the blurb that immediately follows your name, to better reflect your background and expertise rather than using a generic job title. For example, you could say “Strategic Communications and Digital Marketing Leader” as opposed to just “communications director.”
“The goal is to grab the attention of hiring managers,” says career coach Karen Arrington. “What is it that you want them to know? What is your value-add? What can you offer? Maybe you include your mission statement or add some of the key skills from your overall skill set.”
The LinkedIn summary is where you can further shape your story by summarizing your experience, expertise, and personal interests. There are different approaches you can take when writing the section, but the overall goal is always the same: to grab the attention of recruiters and those in your network.
Finally, when creating the Experience section, “think about some of your high-level career achievements and what you’re most proud of,” Arrington says. “This is the place to expand and elaborate on points you didn’t get to cover in your resume.”
4. Optimize Your Online Presence
Now that your social media is current and your website is live, it’s time to draw people to your page. On LinkedIn, that means adjusting your settings to let recruiters know you’re looking for jobs. (There’s even an option to do so discreetly without tipping off your current employer.) You’ll also want to start actively engaging with your network so your name and profile are top of mind when opportunities arise.
To get eyeballs on your personal website, you’ll need to optimize it for search. “Squarespace has a great SEO checklist that walks you through what you should be doing to take your site to the next level,” says Kelsey Gilbert-Kreiling, co-founder and lead developer of Week of the Website.
Finally, spread the word by including links to social media and your website in the signature of your email. And send them to anyone you network with in case they want to share them with someone else who might know of an opportunity.
5. Keep Your Information Up to Date
Once your online presence is in tip-top shape for your job search, be careful not to “set it and forget it.” If you complete a big project at work or get a glowing review from a client, add it to your profile or website. And that goes for after you land your dream role and you’re no longer on the job market, too. Because if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready when it’s time for your next move.