Choosing metrics that matter: the Top Two KPIs for Job Hackers

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been slowly absorbing ‘The Book’ on modern web analytics, Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. It’s taking a while due to the depth and detail which the author goes into on the subject, while covering everything from how to choose a web analytics platform (perhaps slightly dated now – the book was published in 2010) to the intricacies of how platforms define and track individual metrics. Don’t be put off by the exhaustive detail; the major strength of the book is that it outlines a universal process for understanding and using web analytics instead of presenting a one size fits all formula to copy. In that spirit, lets use the process to identify and understand the best metrics to use for job hacking, and share some tips on avoiding common mistakes Job Hackers may encounter along the way.

To combat the overwhelming amount of data gathered in the old “track everything” mentality, modern analytics best practices has shifted to finding one or two metrics that best represent the overall performance of your business. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be different for each website and each business, depending on the business model you are operating on or the specific outcomes and goals you are hoping to achieve.

So which KPIs should Job Hackers use to measure the success of their portfolio. I have identified two…

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Creating an online portfolio: the essential tools and resources

Newcomers to the Job Hacking blog will quickly realize that the central theme of what we focus on revolves around using an online portfolio to showcase your talents and skills, and integrating modern web analytics techniques to track and analyze data that helps us optimize our job applications. So far we’ve discussed the analytics side of things in some detail, including using UTM trackers to capture visits to your portfolio, how to segment that data, and using A/B tests to uncover the insights you need. This blog post will wind back the clock and start at step one by looking at the most common ways to create an online portfolio if you don’t already have one, or are looking to improve what you’re currently using.

Whatever type of work you’re looking for, an online portfolio is a great way to share your projects and talents with prospective employers. My immediate reaction to the word ‘portfolio’ involves images of starved art students dragging spattered canvases across a freezing city (it’s always winter at art school) and trying to trade their oil paints for cheap rolling tobacco and rusty cans of Chef Boyardee. However, those more enlightened than me have pointed out that a portfolio is really just a showcase of someone’s work, whether that be an engineering grad project, a custom designed database, an article that you published, or your collection of Calder inspired wireframe figures made from discarded coat hangars that represent man’s fragility in the face of an uncaring corporate enterprise. In short, any piece of work that you produce that showcases your talents can and should be considered as viable material for sharing.

Not all of us (including me) are professional computer programmers or web savvy enough to create an online portfolio, but the good news is that there are many options out there, ranging from easy to more challenging, for anyone who wants to learn how! Based on the old saying “Good, fast, cheap: pick two”, here are your options:

1. The easy and quick way of creating an online portfolio

Pay someone to do it for you. If time is of the essence and you don’t have any interest in learning how to code, there are plenty of paid services that will make the process quick and painless. The one I like best is Format, partly because their team is based in Toronto and I like to support local businesses, but mainly because all of their portfolios are dynamic (will display equally well on mobiles, tablets and desktops), fully customizable, and most importantly has Google Analytics and Webmaster tools support for all your data gathering needs.

Shut up and take my money picture

There’s no shame in this, if you can afford it.

If you want to shop around, 10 seconds of Googling “online portfolio builder” will give you hundreds of other options. Just make sure that whatever service you choose has analytics support built in, preferably Google Analytics, otherwise you won’t be able to practice any of the Job Hacking tips and leverage insights and exciting data.

2. The easy and cheap way of creating an online portfolio

For minimal effort, WordPress is the best way of creating a portfolio. will give you free hosting and a bunch of templates that you can access and easily customize without knowing a single line of code. This blog is built on WordPress and is currently running on the Sorbet theme, but there are plenty of responsive portfolio themed templates available for free that will let you upload and showcase your work effectively without it looking like a blog. WordPress also has built in analytics dashboards, and can also be integrated with Google Analytics with a bit of tweaking. If you are in any kind of communications, public relations or marketing field, WordPress has also become the de facto website/blogging service for many companies and organizations, so knowing how to use the platform would be a great skill to add to your resume.

Purity WordPress theme picture

Example of a portfolio built on WordPress

A word of warning: the customization options for the free version of WordPress are limited, and if you are picky about changing your template to have a certain look or functionality you may have to pay for their Premium package in order to make your portfolio look exactly how you want. Do your research before moving ahead, and take a good look at their plans in order to get the best choice for you.

3. The slow, cheap (and best) way of creating an online portfolio

Build one from scratch. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, even if you’ve never coded in your life! If you’re a complete newb like I was, I can’t recommend Treehouse Learning highly enough. They offer a Web Design course that teaches you absolutely everything you need to know about HTML and CSS programming, and by the end of the course you have built an online portfolio (from scratch!) that can be uploaded to the web immediately. They do charge a monthly subscription fee, but offer a free two-week trial which is long enough to complete the web design course if you’re serious about finishing it. It took me 10 days to get my first portfolio finished, but I was so happy with their courses that I decided to become a paying customer once the 14 day free trial expired.

For those who have some basic HTML skills and are just looking for a quick refresher, Codecademy is a free service that offers interactive coding lessons designed for beginners and experts alike. With the release of HTML5 and CSS3 there have been a lot of changes in web design technology and best practices, and Codecademy is a great way to quickly get up to speed with the latest updates.

Time permitting, this is the method I recommend to most people and the one I used myself in creating my portfolio. Apart from the benefit of having complete control over how your site looks and feels, basic programming is a great skill to have in almost every field out there. With more of our socializing, buying habits and entertainment sources shifting online, knowing the basics of how a web page is built and functions will give you a huge advantage in the job market. If you’re not sure whether coding is for you, sign up for a free account with Codecademy and start their HTML/CSS track. Once you feel things are going well, switching to Treehouse will ensure that you not only know how to code, but have all the tools for getting your website online.

Just remember to stick the Google Analytics tracking code into the <head> of all of your pages, otherwise you’ll miss out on a lot of juicy data.

What types of online portfolios do you like? Share examples of cool portfolios you’ve come across (or built yourself!) in the comments below for inspiration.

Note: I’m in no way affiliated with any of the products or services mentioned here, or anywhere else on the Job Hacking blog. I like to share resources that I have personally found helpful or feel are good value, but always do your own research before paying for any kind of service on the internet.

Segment your data: creating valuable insights for your job search

Building on the previous Job Hacking blog posts where we use UTM trackers and A/B testing techniques to track interest from potential employers in our applications, lets now look at how to configure Google Analytics to take the data we’re gathering and turn it into meaningful insights. This blog post will explain how to segment your job search data and set up custom reports that give you the information you need quickly and effectively.

You’ve tagged your links, created specific campaigns for a group of resumes and applications, and have sent them out to prospective employers. Logging into your Google Analytics account tied to your online portfolio or website, you see that you’re getting visitors – awesome! People are clicking the links, which means they’re interested in finding out more about your skills and experience. The next question is, who is checking you out?

Google Analytics default home screen

Google Analytics’ default view

At first glance, this looks great. Over 30 sessions, 26 unique visitors, nearly all of which are new visits from English speaking people (nothing against Russian speakers, but if I’m applying for jobs in Canada my applications shouldn’t be getting many visitors from overseas). On the other hand, it doesn’t show me any of the information that would be helpful to my job search, such as which employers are checking me out. To fix this, we can segment our data to show visits that originate from the geographic area of our job search campaign.

To show sessions from visits in your area, click the “+ Add Segment” outline directly underneath the Audience Overview report heading at the top of the page. Create a new segment using the Location field at the bottom of this list. Since I am applying for jobs in the Greater Toronto Area, I select City from the first drop-down menu, is one of for the second, and type in all the cities around me in the text box separated by hitting enter after each one. Hit Save, and you should see something like this:

Google Analytics segmented data view

Visits segmented by visitor location

Ah, this is better. The orange line now shows the visits from users in the specific locations I added to my segment. I can now see that most of my traffic is coming from inside the Greater Toronto Area, and therefore more relevant to my job search. Segments can be applied to any of the report views offered by Google Analytics, and are essential to understanding who is coming to your website. To read more about creating data segments, check out Google’s help page.

It’s great that I can see exactly where my visitors are located, but it still doesn’t tell me if those clicks are originating from my applications. We’ve spent a lot of time tagging our applications with UTM trackers, so lets put them to good use! Under the Acquisition section on the left menu, select the Campaigns report. Campaigns tracks visits from all clicks that have been tagged with a UTM tracker, in this case our job hunt campaign we’ve been embedding in all our resumes and cover letters.

Graph of Visits segmented by campaign

The gold: website visits by employers you’ve applied to

The primary dimension of this report is the Campaign Name field from the URL builder, which in our case is ‘Job Hunt’. Select the secondary dimension drop-down underneath, and choose Advertizing > Ad Content to add a second line that shows the Campaign Content field from the tracker, which in our case is the name of the employer (blurred out here for privacy). This is only possible if you’ve been diligent in filling out all the fields of your campaign, but the payoff is huge! I can now see exactly which companies have clicked the links to my work in my applications.

This is far more valuable than relying on Google Analytics’ default reporting, and a powerful source of information in your job search. Click the Shortcut button at the top of the report and the report is now available in your Shortcuts menu every time you log in.

By knowing exactly which companies are checking me out, I can see which applications are working and tailor future ones with more confidence. Next, we’ll explore how to dig deeper into our data and leverage our insights to become more proactive in our job hunt.

What kinds of segments will you use in your job search, and how will it help you improve your application process?


Use A/B testing to optimize your job search

A/B testing is nothing new – online marketers have been using this scientific method for years to track the effectiveness of digital campaigns and advertisements. What may be new however, is applying it to our job search in order to find the most effective resume and cover letter combo that gets employers’ attention. This blog post will show how you can optimize your job search using A/B testing in conjunction with an online portfolio, resume or website.

For our purposes, A/B testing is simply an online two-sample hypothesis test where we take two versions of similar content and track which version gets the most views, clicks, or visits. We’ve already covered how to use UTM trackers to gauge employer interest in your resume, so lets take things one step further and use that data to create an organized and optimized job search technique. The best way to explain this is to use an example, so here goes…

I’m looking for a job in the communications industry, and I’ve found four positions that I’m really excited about. The positions all have different job titles, but the responsibilities and qualifications are very similar. I’ve done my research and have only targeted companies that are looking for entry-level or recent graduate candidates (or have a history of hiring them), found jobs that are in-line with my experience and skills, and positions that are in the same industry or sector with similar responsibilities and roles*. For the science and engineering types following along, what we’re doing is establishing a control for our experiment: a set of unchanging base-line conditions to which we will apply the test.

Now for the testing, where we create two different versions of our applications for the group of jobs we’re interested in. Ideally, since all of the positions are similar, for four positions we should be able to create two versions of our resume and cover letter, since the responsibilities and skills required by all four jobs are similar. Context and common sense is key here – each application should still be tailored and tweaked to the position you are applying for. Rather, we’re taking a broader approach and creating different themes, formatting or tones and seeing which one resonates more with employers. So if I was unsure whether its better to go with a more creative, highly formatted resume or a pared-back basic one, I’d create two versions of the URL links to my portfolio/website/resume with Google’s URL builder with unique Campaign Content identifiers, like so:

1. Fancy formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)

2. Basic formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)

ab testing graphic map

A/B testing for job postings in action

Because the UTM trackers we’ve embedded in our applications will tell us exactly which links are being clicked, we can analyze which versions (or even portions) of our applications are the most popular, or enticing enough for hiring managers to click on. Using the example above, we would see if the links in the fancy resume got more clicks than the basic version to determine which formatting style is the most effective for your job hunt.

Examples of how A/B testing can help you optimize your job search include:

  • deciding between two or more different resume formats or layouts
  • getting the right tone (formal/casual) for your cover letters and applications
  • deciding which skills or projects to highlight in your resume
  • deciding which projects to highlight on your portfolio

The possibilities are endless, but it’s important to note that A/B testing will only be accurate if you maintain a strong control and use a sample size (ie. # of job postings) of four or more. This means that the jobs you are applying for MUST be similar in terms of responsibilities, qualifications and experience.

In real life, A/B testing in online marketing is a continuous process of tweaking and adjustments, with marketers constantly testing and improving versions of ads, campaigns and digital media in order to create content that will be widely seen and shared. Using the same approach in your job hunt will give you valuable feedback as to what’s working in your search and what’s not, allowing you to tweak your applications until you find the sweet spot. Employers who are checking out your work online are probably interested enough to call you in for in interview!

How would you use A/B testing to improve your job search?

* Real life job titles I have used for this experiment include Communications Coordinator, Community Manager, Insights Analyst, Marketing Analyst and Digital Marketing Specialist, all for small to medium sized companies looking for someone with less than 5 years of experience.

How to track employer interest in your job applications

Does sending out endless resumes to employers sometimes feel like dropping small pennies into a vast abyss?

You spend weeks sending out dozens of carefully tailored applications, and never hear anything back. Ever wonder if they’re even getting read?

Here’s a neat and simple trick I’ve started using in order to see if intrepid HR managers are actually checking out the applications I’m sending them. We can use Google Analytics and UTM codes to rig our resumes to create a digital breadcrumb trail that lets you see if employers are clicking links in your applications.

This technique assumes that you have some kind of website or online portfolio set up with Google Analytics, and are comfortable with basic HTML coding and updates. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1.

In the body of your cover letter include a link to your online portfolio or website. I like to put the link toward the end of the cover letter after a bullet list of key assets I feel I’d provide, like so;

Key assets I’d bring to your company include:

  • Amazing asset
  • Even more amazing asset
  • Skill that highlights why I am perfect for this job

To view examples of my work mentioned above, please visit my online portfolio <insert hyperlink>.

Step 2.

Now, in the hyperlink include a UTM tracker pasted directly at the end of the URL you’re linking to. For example, if your website is, adding the UTM tracker will make it look something like:

The code from the UTM generator is generated by Google’s URL builder tool, which is free and easy to use. Just fill in the campaign info boxes with the requested information, hit “Submit”, and the code is generated for you!

Example of using Google's URL builder

Step 2: How to fill out the URL builder fields

Step 3.

You are ready to track visits to your website from people who click on that link. The results will show up on your Google Analytics account under the Acquisition > Campaigns tab, making it easy to see exactly who is clicking your links and what content they view on your websites.

How is this helpful? UTM trackers can be used on any link to an online URL, which means you can get creative with campaigns and A/B testing on your job hunt applications.

If you’re sending out many resumes and not getting any interview requests, the tracking data is useful for figuring out if your cover letter or resume is the problem. If you can see that employers are clicking the links you’ve provided to your work, it at least shows that your application is being considered and that your resume is enticing enough for them to want to find out more. If however you’re not getting clicks, it may be time to rethink the wording, content or formatting of your cover letter and resume, and reconsider how to get prospective employers checking out your work and skills.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of job hunting today is the lack of feedback given to prospective candidates and job seekers. Companies are too busy, or too lazy, to send feedback or reasons for rejecting an applicant. In this type of environment, it’s easy for HR myths and hearsay to circulate as strategies for job seekers, often in the form of conflicting or flat-out bad advice. Using data in your job hunt is way to take back some control over your situation, and get some feedback on how your applications are being received.

To take UTM trackers to the next level, learn how to segment your UTM data with custom reports, and how to integrate A/B testing to perfect your applications and increase your chances of getting an interview.

Obviously this method is far from perfect, so any suggestions on how to improve this would be greatly appreciated. How would you use UTM trackers or data analytics technique to help your job search?