July 5, 2008

The Social Media Resume

By Fernando, Angelo

tech talk Do you know what's floating around in your data cloud?

Recruitment consultants like to say that the time to work on your resume is when you are not looking for a job. But that was around 2005. In the intervening years, Facebook has become de rigueur for networking, and resumes stuffed with keywords are not as sexy as domains that are optimized for search engines. Talent scouting on sites such as Linkedln goes on at a clip.

This is not to declare the death of resumes. Many recruiters think the resume is still the ticket to get you past the turnstile. When you compare a resume to another pre-Web 2.0 device, the press release, which wandered off into the digital deep end to become the social media release, or SMR, there is a pattern worth following. After all, isn't a resume a persons press release? It tells a story, has a call to action and is highly targeted. Could a resume pick up a thing or two from a social media release? Marketing guru Seth Godin, author of Meatball Sundae and Purple Cow, worries that a traditional resume is spectacularly ill-equipped to make someone stand out. "Your Facebook page tells me way more about you than your resume does," he says.

Defining your personal brand

That's why it is time to consider the "social media resume" (unfortunately using the same initials as the other SMR). It isn't formatted to be printed, so your life and your data are not trapped in an 8.5-by-l 1-inch box. It isn't set in chronological order, and you don't have to dress it up with fancy fonts and resume words. Your social media resume is instead a collection of links, notes, images, attachments and contact points that lead a hiring manager to the real summary of activities of your professional life-online and off-line. It's your reputation system that defines your personal brand.

Try this out. When you google yourself, are you coming up with your resume, or are you coming up with a thread of items that build a more cohesive picture of yourself? How you work, whom you link to, what you publish and what conversations you have all feed your "data cloud," comprising bits of data trapped in old media, new media and social media. Google and other search engines deploy web spiders (sometimes called web crawlers) to grab bits of this cloud quite efficiently. What if this cloud was just one click away?

A data cloud? It is the substance that makes up a social media resume. The concept of the data cloud has been around for a while. Lexicographer Orin Hargraves suggests it has indistinct boundaries, and much like a real cloud, it hovers over us. It can be fed, navigated and mined. Think of this as a reputation system that you create with data either deliberately (in "about us" pages, social networks, Wikipedia entries, etc.) or unwittingly (when someone links to you or tags your content, or when a search engine spiders your blog or web site). Every PDF document, PowerPoint slide and white paper that bears your name, anywhere you are listed on a committee, any award won feeds this cloud.

Digital due diligence

A report from a U.K.-based business social network last year found that HR personnel searched, found and were influenced by online reputations. These "Net reps" are left behind like digital fingerprints. They get cached and live on long after the individual has purged the information from a web site. Most people's clouds comprise benign information. Some have unflattering bits of digital flotsam culled from message boards, social networks like MySpace, and even public records that could affect your Net rep.

Some recruiters such as Jim Simcox are more forgiving of those "stupid things people said or did.. .when they were immature." Others such as Christina Liga, HR business partner at HTC Europe, says she does google candidates, even though she knows some information online may be unreliable. Why? Because it can provide "insight and potential probing ahead" before a face-to-face encounter, she says.

Peter Cunningham, a human resource consultant, thinks social networks have an element not found in resumes: trust. He trusts online reputations because, counterintuitively, resumes are what enshrine dishonesty. "You can never really verify qualitative info like, 'I increased sales 400 percent" but you can find out that X actually did work at KPMG at those dates," he says. Also, it is not uncommon for candidates to "customize" their resumes for the job they applied for. It is easy to change product management to business development, because the job had asked for it, sprinkling the word digital all over it!

Recruiters are not the only people who scan a social media resume when conducting digital due diligence. A potential business partner is meeting your company? He probably accesses your data cloud. A journalist wants to do a story on you? She is probably looking for some patterns and story angles-even dirt-in your data cloud.

The good thing about your social media resume is that it cannot easily be tinkered withand I mean hyped. You build it, color it and reshape it every time you interact socially with people in the analog and digital worlds. Unlike in your paper resume, if you swap things out, you could be found out, especially if it does not sync with other bits in your data cloud that you have no control over. The bad thing about a data cloud is that it cannot easily be repaired. An offcolor remark about an employer, or a less-than- flattering photograph taken at a party and posted on someone's MySpace page or Flickr site, might be cached and show up on a Google query many years later. Maybe recruiters are not looking for "dirt," but you don't want to send them the wrong message.

Where do you start working on your social media resume? Presumably you have already begun, but now is a good time to think strategically about it. The data cloud that gives your resume substance, color and connections is a work in progress. Says marketing guru Godin: "You need to start your job search by building a trail of successes and a tribe of fans."

When you google yourself, are you coming up with your resume, or are you coming up with a thread of items that build a more cohesive picture of yourself?

facebook screening

According to a 28 March 2008 article on PersonnelToday.com, "Most employers don't check Facebook when screening applicants."

search engine for people

Zoominfo.com searches more than 37 million profiles of people and businesses on social networks.

learn by example

To see a template of a social media release, go to www .shiftcomm.com/downloads /smprtemplate.pdf.

about the author

Angelo Fernando is a marketing communications strategist based in Mesa, Arizona. Read his blog at hoipolloireport.com.

Copyright International Association of Business Communicators Jul/ Aug 2008

(c) 2008 Communication World. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.