[Ask an Archivist] Q: How valuable is an online presence during a job hunt?

Our first Ask an Archivist question & answers are in!

We often hear how valuable it is to have an online presence like a personal website or a portfolio. When looking at job applicants, do you actually look at these sites, either from a mention on the applicant’s resume or from Googling the applicant? Are they are much of a benefit as some people say?

Ask an Archivist Answers:

At my institution, I do not consider outside websites or portfolios in the initial screenings. I would advise candidates never to depend on these to transmit information essential to the recruitment process: anything the search committee or recruiter needs to know should be included in the application packet (cover letter/resume/so forth). Unless, of course, the application process requires the submission of an ePortfolio! Since very often these portfolios or websites are generic to the job search process and not tailored to the position I have on offer, I don’t know that they would be a huge benefit. That’s not really a no, however, I’m just not sure I’d advise a job candidate to focus on this to exclusion of, say, tailoring the application materials to the job for which you are applying. If you choose to create a site that may be provided to or stumbled upon by a recruiter, you will want to make sure it’s clean, clear, and in no way can give that recruiter a bad impression of you or give them the idea that your real interests in the field are in polar opposition to the job for which you are applying.

– Arlene Schmuland (of That Elusive Archives Job)

This is a real “it depends” question. Some factors would be how personal is your personal website? What is the relationship of the portfolio to the work you are seeking? What kind of work culture are you seeking to join? How do you want to present yourself to potential employers, colleagues, donors, etc. The first thing we all know is that if you have something on the internet, someone can find it. So if you already have a personal website, tumblr, facebook, twitter feed, linkedin account or even a myspace page (!), people will look at them. Job selectors are looking for a number of things in applicants, but the key ones in my mind are a) what does this person know about the work we need done, 2) what can we train this person to do as they continue on the job, and, maybe most important, 3) is this person going have a positive or a negative effect on the work group. Unless your online presence adds a significant dimension to the answers to those questions, most potential employers will look at it, but its influence will be limited. If, on the other hand, your online presence has a strong positive (or negative) relationship to your desired work, potential employers will absolutely use it to help differentiate a pool of similar applicants.

– Terry Baxter

Particularly for archivists, I don’t think it has a great benefit yet. I’m on LinkedIn and while people go to my site to check my info, nothing much comes of it in a positive way, re: jobs, as far as I see. I’ve tried using it to communicate with colleagues and ask for informational interviews, and haven’t gotten very far. Often the other person doesn’t reply (so far, hardly at all) which makes me wonder if they check their mail or if they are ignoring requests.

I think that too many personal websites just means more places to keep up, so for right now, I don’t see many benefits of having them.

– Michala Biondi

I will probably echo my fellow respondents in saying that “It depends.” It depends on the position, employer, etc. If you are applying for a position which requires a certain amount of web work, I would definitely encourage having an online portfolio or providing links to websites on which you have worked. The added benefit to having an online portfolio is the opportunity for an interested in employee to get to know you. In a job market in which employers speed through applications, that is a good thing. Of course, no matter how wonderful your web portfolio is, employers will not look at it if you do not have a cover letter and resume that communicates your genuine enthusiasm to work with the employer and information on how you fill the requirements and preferred qualifications for the position. In addition, it is important to note that a web presence can also refer to information on the world wide web that you or other people have posted. In the age of Google and Facebook, an employer can trip across all sorts of information. It is fascinating to see how Google sees you.

– Mariecris Gatlabayan


One thought on “[Ask an Archivist] Q: How valuable is an online presence during a job hunt?

  1. Jackie Dooley

    I agree with those who said that portfolios probably aren’t very useful at the outset of your candidacy, but selected content could be helpful after the employer has determined that you’re a viable candidate. One possible example is that they want to know more about xx classes that you took, and you might be able to give them the URL for a relevant paper that you wrote.


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