The Truth About Including External Links When You’re Looking for a Job
This piece is a part of ‘The Career Strategist’ blog series
To create a better idea of what you have to offer as a job candidate, a lot of career websites allow you to upload your résumé and links to other online profiles, such as your Twitter, LinkedIn, GitHub, or blog. As you think about how to highlight your skills, including these links can be a double-edged sword if not done strategically. Of course, while linking to your online portfolio can show off your design skills or your Twitter account can give a glimpse into your social clout, they can also negatively influence the hiring manager’s verdict. For these reasons, here are some guidelines to use as you make a decision.
A rule of thumb
Here are two questions to ask yourself when deciding which links to include along with your application:
- Does this help my job candidacy?
- Is this relevant to the role I’m applying for?
If the answer to either is no, then you should omit the resource or link in question.
Let’s get specific: résumé or LinkedIn?
Using the guidelines above, here’s how we can put them into practice with a few scenarios you might encounter. Should you include your résumé or LinkedIn profile along with your application? Generally, it’s encouraged to include both. When looking for a job, you should have a customized résumé on hand catered to the role you’re applying for, ensuring that the skills and experience surfaced are aligned with the job description.
Say you studied computer science in college and began your career as a software engineer. After working in this role at a large tech company for a few years, you wanted to dabble in data science, soon honing your skills in Python and R and landing your first gig as a junior data scientist. After a few years in data science, you still have a strong love of software engineering and would be happy working as either a software engineer or data scientist. In this context, you would prepare one résumé for being a software engineer and one for being a data scientist.
In general, your résumé is the best reference for helping a hiring manager understand your career path. It does an effective job of laying out your education and work history in reverse chronological order, delineating how you moved from point A to point B. When edited down to a page, it provides an excellent snapshot of what skills and experiences you have to offer in the role you’ll be evaluated for.
Your LinkedIn, on the other hand, can be seen as a living document of your experience. If you’ve worked at startups that lack immediate name recognition, hiring managers can learn more about their mission, employees, and leadership from their company profile. Don’t underestimate the social element of LinkedIn as a network. Hiring managers can see the types of content you’ve share, how many connections you have (and if you have any mutual connections who can speak highly of you), and recommendations you may have received.
In most situations, I recommend including your LinkedIn on an application as a second look into your career path apart from your résumé. But, if you’re not presenting accurate information and updating your profile as needed, don’t bother including it. Although it may seem trivial, incongruencies will make hiring managers skeptical and discard your candidacy all together. Before adding your LinkedIn, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.
Let’s get personal: including a portfolio, personal website, or blog
If you’re a designer, it’s often required to include a portfolio of your work. This can be in the form of a portfolio website you’ve created or a profile on a design site like Behance or Dribbble. Like your résumé, a site dedicated to your work can be the main reference point for hiring managers evaluating your skill level and style. As a best practice, make sure you have the following three sections: about me, detailed examples of your work, and a contact page.
The about page is an opportunity to provide a career summary of what you’ve done and what you’re looking for in your next role. This is your chance to show off your writing skills by injecting some personality and establishing your brand for the reader. The contact page serves as the be-all and end-all of where to find you elsewhere and how to contact you for opportunities directly. Along with sharing your email address (typed out or accessible through a contact form), you can link to other design and social media profiles that showcase your work. Although the about and contact pages can be combined, make sure to present the information clearly without overwhelming the viewer with too much detail on one page. The work section is the meat of your portfolio site, where you’ll display high-quality examples of your work and describe your process on each project. It’s best to create a separate page for each project and include detailed information about your vision, approach, tools, challenges, and result. Providing as much detail as possible will validate your candidacy in the minds of hiring managers as someone with clear communication skills, foresight, and the ability to execute.
Make sure that your domain is accessible and paid for regularly. If your site is password-protected for legal or privacy reasons, be sure to include the password on your résumé or along with your application so hiring managers can access your work. If you’ve been working for a while, showcase the most recent work first and omit displaying any dated designs. Design is a subjective field that’s constantly evolving and if you want to be hired for your vision, you need to show how you’ve kept up with the times.
If you’re a software engineer and your work is hard to display in a visual format, deciding to include a link to your work or portfolio can be tricky. If you’re a backend engineer, focus on explaining how you’ve contributed by outlining your various workflows and providing details about features you’ve helped create. This is your opportunity to list coding languages, skills, and tools you’ve used in each role. In fact, it might be easier to include a link to your GitHub or Stack Overflow profiles, where fellow engineers and hiring managers can see the code you’ve written and how often it’s sampled by your peers.
How social is too social?
The internet age-old question of including links to your social media profiles, such as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in a professional capacity is a crucial. Before you decide to include that URL, consider how you use each platform.
Is your Facebook a way to share photos of your tipsy friends or is it a public-facing record of how technology is used to solve important issues? Do you share links to how your favorite companies are trying to eradicate the wage gap or YouTube videos of the celebrity-fueled conspiracy theory du jour? If it’s professional and paints a positive picture of you as an employee, share it. If it establishes confusion or distortion in the minds of the hiring managers, exclude it. In general, refrain from linking to your Facebook unless it’s extremely polished since there’s most likely something hiring managers can find from your decade-long journey on that site.
These same guidelines apply to your Twitter and Instagram. Unless they’re your professional profiles, you most likely shouldn’t include them. Twitter can be a great way to share content about your field of interest and how you engage with members of that community. It can also be a great way for hiring managers to dig into your psyche through your “likes” and retweets. The potential for employers to misconstrue a sarcastic, internet-based humorous tweet you’ve “liked” to backfire is higher than it helping your candidacy. Similarly, employers can’t really get much information out of the selfies, photos of sunsets and dogs, and memes you post on Instagram. Unless you’re a designer showing how your design skills extend into the realm of photography, this doesn’t make you stand out and could just show you know how to link content.
While social media can show off your personality, it can easily be used against you. If you choose to include such links, either separate personal and professional accounts or keep your personal profiles as relevant and manicured as possible.
The external links shared with employers can make or break your candidacy for your dream job. To show your strategic approach as a candidate, choose your external links wisely or improve the ones you have through careful maintenance and pruning.