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Heather Hamilton, a senior recruiter for marketing talent at Microsoft, recently performed an unusual recruiting experiment. As creator of the Marketing and Finance at Microsoft Blog, Heather asked her readers to link to a post on her blog from their blog resumes, and committed that she would check out her reader's resumes by reviewing her blog's referral logs.

The implication of this? For one, if you don't understand how to do what she's asking you to do, you're probably not qualified to work in the marketing department at Microsoft.

Of course, blogs are today an integral part of Microsoft's marketing, so familiarity with the technology is an essential skill for that role in a way that it may not be for many other jobs. Nonetheless, Heather is one of a growing number of recruiters who see blogs as a way to learn far more about a person than a résumé and even a short interview may show, and to build relationships with professionals in their field. The blogosphere is also one of the first places that research firms like Nitron Advisors look when they need an industry expert.

"Blogging is a great opportunity in the staffing industry, both for the recruiter and the job seeker (or future job seeker)," Heather says. "Through a blog, a recruiter can understand not just the experience of the candidate, but how they work, their passion, the quality of their relationships with co-workers, their opinions. This creates a more dimensional snapshot of a candidate than a résumé."

A well-expressed blog provides insight into your thought processes, creativity, and communication skills. It can demonstrate to your reader how involved and interested you are in your field, and this presence can make all the difference to a potential employer.

Besides creating a richer personal profile, blogging also offers job seekers the opportunity to build relationships with recruiters and hiring managers over time. "As a professional, the best time to build a relationship with a recruiter is before you start looking for your next position," Heather says. In an environment where large corporations can receive thousands of résumés a day, establishing a relationship through blogging (through your blog or the recruiter's blog) can greatly benefit the seeker because blogs establish a dialog, which can create an advantage over the thousands of other applicants vying for the recruiter's attention."

A few examples of bloggers who took significant career steps forward because of their blogging:

  • Matthew Yglesias' blog proved to be the crucial factor in getting him a journalism job out of college.
  • Similarly, Rick Klau was hired as the VP of business development for SocialText after the company's CEO, Ross Mayfield, visited Rick's weblog.
  • Terrance Heath was not even searching for a job when he received an employment opening from a company who had read his blog.

As a result of this rise in blog-facilitated job opportunities, there are now entire blog networks dedicated to job searching and recruiting.

Just as when using conventional resume and interview techniques, there are certain characteristics that a jobseeker should strive to demonstrate on a Weblog. A potential employer can determine the degree of your industry interest and expertise by reviewing your discussions and the types of blogs and sites you link to. They can also get a feel for your personality and communication skills based on the style in which you write your blog. A blog provides permanently available insight into your character.

That can be a negative as well as a positive. Just as people have gotten hired because of their blogs, they've been rejected or even fired because of them, too. Of course, you probably should not write in your blog that you lie, cheat, steal, or party all night and call in sick to work. But a recent story in The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that other not-so-obvious behavior patterns may have an impact.

In a recent faculty search at a small Midwest liberal-arts college, the search committee was optimistic about certain finalists. However, upon review, they found that of the bloggers among their finalists:

  • One's blog demonstrated that his true passion was not his field of expertise and the subject he would be teaching, but "the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica."
  • Another's was entirely personal, including political rants, comments on certain people's fashion sense, and the author's recovery from childhood trauma. Any one post on its own might have been okay, but in aggregate, it didn't paint a picture of a stable person to the selection committee.
  • A third turned out to have overstated his expertise. In this case, it wasn't the candidate's own blog, but that of an admiring colleague, that showed that "the candidate's research was not as independent or relevant as he had made it seem."

In the end, the blogs were not the deciding factor for any of the candidates, but they did play a role in the committee's impressions, and they weren't always positive.

Here are a few simple do's and don'ts to keep in mind:

  • A blog is forever. Even if you delete or edit a post, many people will have already read it and possibly commented on it, and an archive of it may be available in many other places. If there's any possible negative consequence of something you might post, it's best left in your head.
  • Make sure that all your posts are technically accurate. It's much better to err on the side of fewer, higher-quality blog posts, than many blog posts that do not represent you well.
  • Be "personally professional." Blogs are by their nature informal and personal. If you're overly formal, you may not connect well with other bloggers or potential readers. On the other hand, venturing off into every dark corner of your life may not sit well with prospective employers.
  • Don't list your blog on your résumé unless it is relevant. If you're seeking employment as a risk management analyst, list your economics blog if you have one, but not your political rant blog.
  • Make sure your blog is reasonably attractive and presentable. It is part of your personal appearance every bit as much as your résumé, your clothes, or your hygiene and grooming.
  • Read and connect with other job search and recruiter bloggers. You can get relevant, current tips to help with your job search, share leads with others in the same and similar fields as you, and connect with recruiters who specialize in the type of jobs you are seeking. Use your blog both to build and leverage your network.

With your expertise, some decent writing skills and a little bit of common sense, your blog can be a powerful tool for finding your next job.