Net diarists blog their way to a job

Employers increasingly turn to blogs to learn about prospective employees, whose efforts offer on-line portfolios showcasing their talents, RANDY RAY reports

By RANDY RAY

Special to the Globe and Mail
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, Page C3
Full text on Workopolis

Computer programmer Joey deVilla blogged his way to a job.

Mr. deVilla is among 30,000 Canadians who write on-line diaries known as web logs, or blogs, where they regularly share their thoughts over the Net.

Net diarists blog their way to a job

Employers increasingly turn to blogs to learn about prospective employees, whose efforts offer on-line portfolios showcasing their talents, RANDY RAY reports

RANDY RAY Special to the Globe and Mail
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly version

Computer programmer Joey deVilla blogged his way to a job.

Mr. deVilla is among 30,000 Canadians who write on-line diaries known as web logs, or blogs, where they regularly share their thoughts over the Net.

For Mr. deVilla and an increasing number of other bloggers, their pages are becoming more than a soap box for personal views on issues ranging from the U.S. election to music: They’re also playing a growing role in helping bloggers land jobs.

Employers are increasingly turning to blogs during their recruitment process to learn more about prospective employees — and for the growing number of bloggers, their efforts have become an on-line portfolio to showcase their talents, says Jim Elve, publisher of BlogsCanada.ca, a guide to blogs.

“If I am an HR director and I receive an application that says a person has a blog, I am going to take a look at it . . . I am going to see that this person is not hiding himself because he is saying ‘go ahead and read my diary.’ It gives me a pretty good glimpse into the personality of a person and shows how well he can put words onto paper,” Mr. Elve says.

That certainly worked for Mr. deVilla, 37, who found his way to Toronto-based Internet company Tucows Inc. in July, 2003, through a chance encounter with company executives at a meeting of bloggers in Toronto, which he had heard about through his own popular blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

At the meeting, he chatted with the Tucows’ executives; he learned that they were looking for a programmer and they learned he was a blogger ready to be recruited.

The company’s human resources staff surfed over to Mr. deVilla’s blog, liked what they saw and, after the usual round of interviews and background checks, offered him a job as technical community development co-ordinator.

“The fact that he had a blog was absolutely a factor,” says Ross Rader, Tucows’ director of research and innovation, who hired Mr. deVilla to develop relationships with other computer programmers who could be potential buyers of his company’s products.

“His web log really gave us insight into how he was a great communicator, how he has a gift for the gab, his understanding of technology and his writing talent. It enabled me to drill deeper and get a better look at the kind of person he is,” Mr. Rader says.

Before landing the job, Mr. deVilla posted his résumé on-line and linked it to his blog — a strategy that attracted calls from companies and headhunters as far afield as New England, Chicago and California, he says.

“It is the interview that makes or breaks you but my involvement with a blog played a major role in getting the job” at Tucows, says Mr. deVilla.

“It functioned as . . . a way for the company to do a background check on me and figure out what kind of person I am. It is a very helpful tool that widens the circle of people you can reach.”

Since joining Tucows, Mr. deVilla’s job has included writing and editing the company blog, known as The Farm, which is a resource of technology news, links and tutorials for software developers.

He also still regularly updates his own blog, which attracts 250,000 page views a month. “It is part of my job to use my pull as Accordion Guy” to interest others in Tucows’ products.

University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist, an Internet law expert and blogger himself, agrees that the diaries are an invaluable job-search tool.

“If you are going to keep a blog running, you must show a real commitment to keeping it current. You must also demonstrate writing ability,” says Prof. Geist, whose blog updates readers on his writings and thoughts on Internet law.

“As you attract readers, you can also develop a name and demonstrate in a new and unique way your expertise in a particular area.”

Beyond demonstrating expertise, blogs enable job seekers to show the type of work they enjoy, and the quality of work they can offer, says Lynn Lochbihler, owner of HR-Fusion in Hamilton, which handles companies’ HR needs.

“Past behaviour is always a good indication of future behaviour. The material on a blog, such as videos, graphs and graphics, may be a good indication of the talent this person has and what he or she will bring to a company.”

Prof. Geist says blogs can not only help bloggers get jobs, but also assist their rise up the corporate ladder. “People who want to move up in an organization or industry can position themselves as an invaluable resource to others in a field by tracking developments and providing commentary on a particular issue,” he says.

“They can attract the attention of people who work in your industry and who rely on your work to keep up on what is happening.”

That was Toronto blogger Amber MacArthur’s strategy when she started a blog in August. At the time, her Internet expertise had already landed her several spots as a guest on Call for Help, a nationally televised technology program on a digital cable station.

A month later, she landed a part-time job as co-host of the show, thanks in large measure to her blog, she says.

“My blog showed the people that produce the TV show that I am serious about technology and that I am on the cutting edge of what is going on the Web,” says Ms. MacArthur, who now works full-time as a new media strategist at iPrimate, a Toronto high-tech marketing and research company.

One key appeal of blogs over other technology, she says, is that they are often free to set up, and faster and easier to maintain than websites. Updating her blog with information about her tech work and TV show takes five minutes, compared with up to 90 minutes on a website, she says.

Ms. MacArthur also sees her blog as a tool to help promote herself as a technology expert, and advertise iPrimate as a provider of technology services.

“The blog helps to set me apart from others who have not adopted technology as quickly. It lets people know I understand technology and the Web and that I practice what I preach,” she says.

“I see it as a way to advance my career . . . If my blog helps iPrimate get more business, that should help me move up in the company.”

Make your blog a part of your job-search toolbox

Want to make a blog part of your job-search toolbox? Consider these tips from some experts:

Blog authors are publishers, so act responsibly. Don’t slander your current employer, its staff or other people.

Write frequently to demonstrate your commitment to blogging.

Use a personal style to build relationships with readers by writing as a human being rather than an anonymous entity.

Post a picture of yourself to create a personal touch, but ensure photographs are tasteful.

Keep entries to a maximum of 400 words and, when possible, include illustrations, graphics and charts.

Invite comments and respond to feedback .

Link your résumé to your blog to give interested employers more in-depth details about your background.

Post content on your blog that clearly demonstrates your expertise in the field you are trying to get into.

To gain maximum exposure, submit your blog to as many indexes and directories as possible. A list of links can be found at www.blogscanada.ca/submitblog.aspx.

Make your blog only one of many tools in your job-search arsenal. Once it is set up, continue sending out résumés, phoning prospective employers and networking.