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Cut Out the Creativity In Your Online Resume

With the job market tight, some applicants are trying a little too hard to stand out.

Big companies like Dell Inc., Abbott Laboratories and Sprint Corp. say that resumes increasingly are turning up that contain links to the applicants' personal Web sites, which include everything from baby pictures to political rants to sample cuts from favorite bands. For companies, this is often more than they want to know about a candidate. In some cases, applicants that look good on paper wind up in the reject pile after a case of over sharing.

This has become a bigger problem as more people decide to set up their own Web sites to showcase their personal musings and memorabilia. The trend also is being fueled by resume-advice companies that offer to help people create personal Web sites to feature on their resumes. The links are especially easy to include in resumes submitted by e-mail, which is now the most common way to apply for a job.

Here Comes the Groom

Last December, Tom Day, president of Healthcare Management Council Inc., a small medical benchmarking firm in Needham, Mass., clicked onto a link on a candidate's resume hoping to learn more about his computer skills. But in addition to samples of the applicant's animation work, he also stumbled upon wedding photos. This window into the man's relationship with his wife made Mr. Day feel uncomfortable. "I didn't know this person," he says. The company wound up hiring someone else. "It wasn't that Web site," says Mr. Day, "but that didn't help that person at all."

To be sure, these Web links sometimes make sense for both the applicant and the prospective employer. They can provide an easy and cheap way, for instance, for artists, writers and Web masters to share samples of their work, which give a company a better feel for their skills. Headhunters estimate that about 10% of applicants include these links, a figure that tends to rise when the economy gets tougher.

Still, plenty of people are volunteering personal information to potential bosses even when it's not remotely related to the job opening. Some do so inadvertently -- simply because they don't want to pay for two separate Web addresses.

Lost in Translation

"To just assume that somebody's going to have a positive reaction to your site is a mistake," says Trudy Steinfeld, director of career services at New York University. Even something as basic as a sense of humor may not translate -- or may mistranslate.

Shujun Tian, a junior at the University of Virginia, created a Web site -- distinct from her personal site -- to show off her computer abilities. One sample feature on the site is titled "Why I Would Make a Good Political Wife." It shows photos of political figures and soldiers merged with pictures of herself. The text begins: "I like orphans, I'm very comfortable around politicians, both crazy and not ...." Ms. Tian, who is doing an internship at a law firm this summer, says she made the photo feature as a joke and that one interviewer, from an ultraviolet- light company, told her he liked the site.

Recruiters agree that flagrantly personal items, such as vacation photos or diaries detailing your love life, are inappropriate to link from résumés. But there is debate on some other items like personal mission statements or professional-looking headshots. And of course, employers these days have plenty of ways to dig into a candidate's background even when a Web link isn't served up to them. Some companies now Google applicants as a routine part of the hiring process.

Just the Right Candidate?

Even if applicants create wonderfully creative Web sites, it may not help them land a job. Many hiring managers said they simply don't have the time to visit candidates' Web sites. Sprint, for example, receives about a thousand resumes every day, says Scott Biggerstaff, Sprint's manager of sourcing strategies.

But sometimes managers do take the time to peek at a candidate's Web site, and what they find doesn't end up working in the applicant's favor.

Eric Jaquith, lead recruiter for Recruiting Choices, a headhunting company in Atlanta, thought he'd found just the right candidate for a front-desk receptionist job. But when he clicked on the link on her résumé, some nude photos leapt onto his screen. The candidate, a former model, didn't get the job.

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