Want to stand out from other job seekers? An online profile may be one way to do that.
These days, you can send a link to your online profile in an e-mail to prospective employers. Ziggs.com, a company that launched in October, offers online profiles for $25 a year, with the first year free.
"The online profile gives so much (more information than) the resume. It's a great point of differentiation," said Tim DeMello, chief executive at Ziggs.
The profile you create includes a snapshot page complete with photo and quick introduction, a more detailed biography and a faux interview, where the applicant decides which questions to answer.
Unlike networking sites such as LinkedIn and Ryze, Ziggs' profiles are also a means to maintain a semblance of control over one's online "brand."
For $50 a year (on top of the $25), the company will ensure your profile tops the list of sponsored searches when anyone searches your name using a major Internet search engine such as Google or Yahoo.
"Your name being in search listings is important and the information attached to it is important," DeMello said. Employers are "going to look at that, even before they invite you in for an interview.
"The way Ziggs got started is I found out that out of 100 random search-engine queries, about 5 out of 10 are proper names," he said. "They're looking for us and we need to make sure we are presented right."
Some job seekers have no online presence to worry about, but even those who do should consider this: Employers conducting online searches may be more interested in finding information that you're not about to reveal in a profile.
"We've had instances where we were ready to hire and a Google search revealed (this lawyer) had been released from jail a year earlier," said Ira Halperin, co-head of the corporate practice unit at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, a business law firm based in Mineola, N.Y.
"That was not on his resume," Halperin said, adding that the company conducts Internet searches on every potential employee, from janitor to lawyer.
For Halperin, an online profile makes little sense from a hiring perspective. Since the profile is written by the applicant, "obviously it's going to be filtered."
Internet searches "are a free opportunity to do some checking that takes minimal effort," he said. "I have a sense that it is common not only among law firms but anyone who's hiring these days."
Some note that those posting online profiles should avoid adding photos. "Recruiters do not want to see the ethnic background of an individual prior to the interview," said Mark Mehler, co-author of CareerXroads, a directory of job sites. "They could be accused of discrimination."
Whether or not you decide an online profile is worth your money, there's no doubt you'll still need a resume.
"Most hiring managers still want to see a very pristine, clean, good-looking resume," Mehler said. "It's not going away."
Before submitting a resume, applicants these days often face an online questionnaire, which large companies increasingly use to more easily compare candidates.
Those who advocate these online questionnaires say resumes should only be used toward the end of the job-search process, to inspire questions during the interview.
"They're useful, but they're useful at the end of the process, not at the beginning," said Joseph P. Murphy, principal and co-founder of Shaker Consulting Group, a firm that develops analytical models and questionnaires for companies to use in the hiring process.
Resumes are "so inconsistent. It's so unfair and subjective (to make) decisions on this highly subjective creative-writing sample," he said.
Given that large companies are increasingly turning to standardized online forms, it behooves job seekers to get smart ahead of time. "They should prepare for the completion of the online application. You can't just wing it anymore," Mehler, of CareerXroads, said.
"You have to know the company, know the culture, know the environment, know what they're looking for," he said, "prior to completing the online questionnaire."
Given that the resume remains a powerful force in hiring, consider avoiding these all-too-common mistakes:
Avoid jargon, and generalities. "Put results on your resume, the ways you've made a concrete difference," said Andrea Kay, a career consultant and author of "Greener Pastures: How to find a job in another place."
Kay cited examples of phrases to avoid, such as "led marketing efforts for brand among this market segment" and "built mind share for products among finance industry."
Instead, consider phrases that demonstrate your specific contribution: "I cultivated relationships with a multi-million dollar company that resulted in X dollars in sales," she said. Also, avoid hackneyed phrases such as "out-of-the-box thinker" and "win-win situation," Kay said.
Stick to relevant information. "The biggest mistake that I see is people put too much information on there that doesn't resonate" with hiring managers, said Jennifer Johnson, director of recruitment at Wisnik Career Enterprises, in New York.
Job seekers "have about 10 seconds to catch a potential employer's eye. They have to make the first word of every bullet point an action word: coordinated, managed, facilitated, organized. That will make the reader keep reading."
Don't rely on e-mail alone. "Some company networks are flat-out deleting e-mails that have attachments," said Kevin Donlin, president of Guaranteed Resumes, based in Edina, Minn. This "gives you a perfect excuse to call the employer."
Make the call brief, along the lines of "since e-mail is not entirely reliable, I just wanted to call to make sure you got the resume I sent," he said.
"Make sure they know your name and that you're calling to follow up. You're not being a pest. You just want to make sure it got there. Just taking 30 seconds to call will set you apart from 99 out of 100 candidates."
Get to know ASCII. If you don't know already, figure out how to save your resume in ASCII format, which is the plain text version that employers increasingly require. "Be aware of what an ASCII version of your resume is and know that more and more employers are asking for it," Donlin said.
Do a test run before sending it, he said. "You want to save it as plain text and open it again using your text editor," he said. For instance, if it replaced all your bullets with question marks, replace them with asterisks.
Include keywords in your ASCII resume to ensure your resume pops up when hiring managers search resume databases. To figure out which keywords to use, "you want to reverse-engineer job postings," Donlin said. "Take the relevant key words and put them into your ASCII resume."
Find a proofreader. Often, job seekers trust their own eyes - without realizing what they're missing. "Send the resume to three friends," Donlin said. "Ask them: "What's your first impression? Do you see any mistakes? Would you call me?' You're getting free proofreading, but you're also networking at this point. Now your resume is in the hands of three other people."
Get someone in the company to refer you. "Thirty (percent) to 60 percent of employees in most companies in the U.S. get hired by employee referral," Mehler said. "Don't leave home without it."
Donlin agreed: "There's no need for a resume if you've been doing your networking properly. A job can be created for you. The key is to try to short-circuit the whole hiring process by getting into the hiring manager's mind before he places a want ad."