How to Implement a Pull Approach, Employment Seeking

In previous blogs, I defined what a pull approach is in employment seeking and provided evidence that it could be effective (Pull Approach, Employment Seeking, Evidence A Pull Approach Is Effective). I would like to discuss how you actually implement a pull approach, what do you need to do to get potential employers to visit your professional website. Many of the tactics mirror what businesses do to increase traffic to their websites, though there are some subtle differences; these tactics include: SEO (search engine optimization), social media and job board landing page, participation in blogs related to your field of interest, and presentation of a skill set. It is also worth mentioning that the idea of a pull approach is evolving, so there may become new tactics as web service companies develop technologies to work with a pull approach.

A professional website is built with strong SEO fundamentals, including: the use of meta tags, content rendered as HTML text, and the structure and naming of pages. Meta tags can be used to lure potential employers when they search on keywords in a search engine; you can create meta tags that describe your field of interest, past employment or education, where you live, core-competencies, something you worked on, and any other keywords a potential employer might search on. You can and should use Google Analytics to monitor traffic to your professional website; keep an eye on how many hits you are getting, where the hits are coming from, and what search keywords are driving the traffic. Understand that it may take a few weeks before your website gets fully indexed by the major search engines.
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GroupShare, Counsel Review

A common thread we try to incorporate into the fabric of a professional website is the notion of a skill set; you can present it with your educational, employment, and interest sections and it can be searched through by internal and external sources. In a previous blog, Skill Set Approach, I suggest a progression of establishing your skill set in four stages: planning, building and cultivating, presenting and validating. With Counsel Review, you can invite someone from you support channel to provide insight regarding the planning stage of establishing your skill set.

Like the other GroupShare functions, you can invite anyone to the Counsel Review interface where they login and provide guidance. They can make a general comment or synopsis  – an open-ended statement about career objectives, advise what skills you should consider having as part of your skill set, and suggest what actions you can take to gain experience in these skills.

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GroupShare, Cover Letter Review

A cover letter compliments a resume when applying to an employment opportunity by giving you a chance to tell a short story about yourself in a paragraph. You have a lot of latitude in expressing yourself and in most cases it is drafted for the particular position you are applying to. Since it is a short composition, the objective is to have proper grammar and sentence and paragraph structure while you tell your story. In the administrative interface of your professional website, you can draft cover letters and have them peer-reviewed using Cover Letter Review within the Group Share interface.

Through the administrative interface of your professional website, you can send an email invitation to anyone in your support channel – it could be a career counselor,  classmate, friend, relative, etc. In the email you send them, they receive login credentials to access GroupShare which then leads them to an interface where they can use a rich text editor to give you feedback on your cover letter. You can review their feedback from the administrative interface of your website once they have saved it.

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GroupShare, Resume Review

The content on your professional website should be absolutely perfect and one of the best ways to get there is by using peer-to-peer reviews. While attending a MBA program at the University of Maryland, I remember spending countless afternoons working in small groups providing and receiving feedback to improve the effectiveness of each statement on our resumes; our objective was to maximize the punch of each statement. From my personal experience, it took months before my resume was finished and I think maybe fifteen to twenty of my peers made a contribution. There is no question regarding the value of peer-to-peer reviews.

Resume Review, within GroupShare, is meant to facilitate the process of conducting peer-reviews with your professional website (and your resume considering most of the content is the same). Through the administrative interface of your professional website, you can send an email invitation to anyone in your support channel – it could be a career counselor,  classmate, friend, relative, etc. In the email you send them, they receive login credentials to access GroupShare which then leads them to an interface where they can provide line-by-line feedback of your resume. You can review their feedback from the administrative interface of your website once they have saved it.

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A Data-Centric Approach, Professional Website

From the beginning, I envisioned our service would be built with a data intensive backbone – meaning our databases would play a major role in all facets of our service. Our approach was to build interrelated MS SQL databases that could easily be accessed by SQL queries, procedures, and functions across many different platforms; it was also clear that our professional website service would not only be accessed as a website on a computer but also as a website or app on  mobile devices such as a mobile phone or tablet. There are many advantages with our adoption of a data-centric approach, including:

  • Accessibility from various platforms and devices
  • Flexibility to create apps
  • Interchangeability with templates and page layouts
  • Searchability from internal and external sources
  • More comprehensive, yet efficient way to store information
  • Capability of outputting various types of files, XML or PDF resume
  • Connectivity with support channels, GroupShare
  • Adaptable for all different types of templates, which act as “skins”

Essentially all possible platforms and devices can connect and read data from a MS SQL Server database; in addition our native ASP .Net environment can serve content to most platforms. A XML file may have to be created as a conduit file for some platforms – like a Java app for Droid – though this is an easy transition from data stored in a database.

We have already created a few applications that take advantage of the data stored in databases. For example, we have created a timeline application that shows a professional’s experiences, body of work, and communications over a period of time. These applications draw from data already collected from your professional website and convert it into highly functional content – without any further effort spent by you.

Our data-centric approach makes it easy to change between templates. Barring  possible changes to fonts and colors, you can change from one template to another with a click of a button. Let’s say you are a recent college graduate and had a template with your university colors and logos. You spent a few years building your professional website and now you are ready to change your template. Simply select from our collection of templates and  the change will be made instantaneous. Your database remains intact as you switch between templates.

You can easily change back and forth between page layouts without having to make modifications to your content. For example, perhaps you want to have a tabular layout of your employment experience while you are seeking employment and once you are employed want to have a page layout. Simply toggle between layouts and the same data will populate the page.

We have built an internal search mechanism based on the data collected in our databases. The tables within our databases are interconnected making searches more effective, while providing richer content in the resulting table. You can search on a particular skill and get a results page displaying when that skill was used in employment, educational, and other experiences. In addition, our data-centric approach makes our service more integrated for external web applications – such as a job search board.

We would like for you to keep your professional website throughout your career, so as you can continually add more content, it acts as a repository of all your professional content. If content becomes outdated or irrelevant, you can simply hide it from view (perhaps you will apply for a security clearance or background check where it could be useful at a later time, however).

With our data-centric approach, it is possible to output various types of documents – like a PDF or XML resume – without having to make any further modifications. The resume content will be populated from the data collected from your professional website.

GroupShare, where you can connect with your support channels for peer-reviews, depends on our data-centric approach. Interconnectivity, communication features require data being shared accross different interfaces.

As we develop new templates, we will have more flexibility because of our data-centric approach. If you consider a template like a “skin”, there are almost limitless ways we can develop it. A data-centric approach gives us the opportunity to create a “next generation” of templates in the future.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a data-centric approach to building your personal professional website.

An alternative to the data-centric approach might be where everything is stored on a page as a control and you design and develop each page. You have more latitude in the development of the page, but since there is no preconceived framework (such as a resume), it is difficult to build a relational-based database; to improve searchability, you can add “tags” and categorize the elements. Many of the “build your own” website services use this type of approach.

We use this alternative approach with our “custom pages” interface  for two reasons. First, it is impossible to cover all the possible content a professional might want to put on their website. Second, with our early beta testers, we discovered some mid-career professionals wanted to sacrifice the benefits of a data-centric page for complete control over the style, layout, content, and aesthetics of the page.

Layout of Admin Interface, Professional Website

The first step in setting up your professional website is walking through the setup wizard, which helps you build the basic foundation of your website and setup some of the configuration settings. Everything seems alright, the wizard interface is simple. But when you are finished with the wizard and taken to the next screen, the main page of the Administrative Interface, it might seem daunting and you will probably ask yourself: What should I do now? I think one of the biggest reasons it may seem complicated is because there are so many things you can do with the system.

You may want to read or watch a tutorial and learn what to do next; these tutorials are accessible from the main website (Support). However, if you are like me, you just want to “dive in” and figure it out yourself.

The rest of this blog will discuss how to understand the menus and structure of some of the pages, which should help you figure things out.

The basic navigation/functionality structure is based on three separate menus.

  • Top menu in black, which represents all of the different sections or pages that appear on your website. To read, create, update, delete, or hide content for a particular section, click on the menu link.
  • Left menu in blue, which has links for all the functionality and configuration of your website.
  • Right panel in green, which displays functions relevant to the particular section or interface you are working with.

As you work through the development of your pages, accessing them by the top black menu, there are some common threads and structure in the pages.

All of the pages have the following header:

  • A layout option. This is where you can choose between a tabular or page layout for the related section. You can learn more about this option by viewing a previous blog: Page and Table Layouts.
  • A display Social Media checkbox. You may decide to include social media links (Google + and Facebook) to appear on a page for the related section.
  • Preview Website Button. You can preview how a page is going to look by clicking on this button, and you must click on this button to design a page with the page layout option. The page that appears also has functionality to develop the style and layout of your tables too.
  • Understanding the Use of… By checking on this box, you will get a detailed description of each field used in a particular section.

I will discuss the structure of the pages based on my favorite acronym CRUD, which represents Creating, Reading, Updating, and Deleting records. The READ page will always be the one that appears when you click on the top menu.

The experiences interface (employment, education, and interests) is built with the same structure:

  • The READ page is structured like a resume. There are links to create, update, and delete elements. You can drag and drop elements into a sort order. The green menu has tabs for Navigation, Content, and Space. The navigation tab is used to jump to specific elements on the page. The content tab is used to help with the use and frequency of action verbs. The space tab is used to manage space allocation for uploaded files.
  • The UPDATE and CREATE pages for an employment responsibility or education project or an interest has functionality to add basic content and interactive elements. You can learn more about these interactive elements by reading a previous blog Experience Section.
  • The DELETE page will prompt you whether you are sure you want to delete a record and any related files.

The READ page for the portfolio and blog pages have a header element where you can describe an objective and configure settings. The page also has an interface to CREATE individual elements and has links to UPDATE and DELETE items.

The rest of the pages (Publications, IT Skills, Certifications, Languages, and References) are built with the objective of implementing CRUD effectively on a single page, so as you work with related records, it never feels like you leave the page. This should make managing your content seem much faster and more efficient. Moreover, as we start to develop mobile applications, we will use this same approach.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a professional website service which has an administrative interface described in the above discussion.

Evidence a “Pull Approach” Is Effective

In a previous blog, I introduced a “pull approach” to employment seeking – where you “pull” potential employers to your professional website to find employment (Pull Approach, Employment Seeking). The effectiveness of this approach hinges on whether potential employers seek employees. For many reasons, I think this is where the landscape of finding employment is going and there is evidence that it has already gained traction.

One of the biggest reasons why employers are increasingly seeking employees is because the current approach – where employees seek employers –  is so inefficient. Potential employers are required to post employment opportunities in many places, such as job boards, newspapers, on their corporate website, etc. This is expensive because of overhead, time, and the use of other resources. However, the biggest problem is that strong candidates who did not find the job posting will not be considered for the opportunity. Evidence that the current approach – where employees seek employers – is on a serious decline can seen by the precipitous loss of market value of the major players offering related services, for example, MonsterJobs has lost a staggering 81% of its value over the last 5 years (according to a Forbes article in the July 12th issue).

There is a faster pace in finding talent for immediate needs. Much of this comes from the velocity of information technology development in the service industry. The current process can take months to hire the right candidate; a posting is added, candidates submit their resume, resumes are evaluated, and interviews are setup and conducted. With a “pull approach”, the first three of these steps go away. Theoretically a potential employer can be at an interviewing stage within a few hours.

Viewing a professional website is much faster and easier than a standard resume for evaluating a potential employee. A professional website is essentially a multi-dimensional resume with rich content (and multimedia), communication features, and an internal searching mechanism. Moreover, it is easier to evaluate among a team – simply share a professional website URL among colleagues.

With an effective search mechanism in place, a potential employer can quickly get a finely-tuned search result (or list) of talented professionals in a manner of minutes. A professional website, built on a skills-based foundation, has the necessary structure and keywords to be searched through.

The evidence that potential employers are seeking employees can be found in the success of LinkedIn and their flagship product Recruiter. It is one of their biggest revenue generating services and can cost as much as $8,000 per user (according to the same Forbes article mentioned above). Clearly, companies are purchasing this service and using it to find employees.

There are some issues in relying on a LinkedIn profile to represent you. First, you do not own all the content with your free profile, and LinkedIn can use the content to generate revenue with third party marketers. Second, it does not necessarily represent everything about you. Third, it currently does not support all multimedia content such as video, audio, etc.. Fourth, it does not have the stylistic appeal of a website. In summary, it is not necessarily setup as a way for you to project yourself in the best possible way. There is a place in your LinkedIn profile where you can share a link to a website – I suggest using it to share your professional website.

Finally, there is one subtle difference with the LinkedIn approach. The idea of a “pull approach” is to give you all of the functionality you need to best market yourself and effectively lure potential employers to your professional website. You are always in control. It does not mean just having your profile getting found in a search by an employer.

TheProfessionalWebsite provides a professional website, which is the ideal platform to “pull” potential employers to.

Read more from the July 2012 Forbes article referenced above: How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine.