It’s no secret that social networking and the Internet play a huge role in the quest for landing the perfect job. From online job searches, to research, to online applications you’re sure to spend a great majority of your job search on the Internet. But in the midst of the abundant expanse of online research you perform during your job search, one crucial part of your investigation may be left out: You.
You may be aware that the overwhelming majority of hiring managers turn to the Internet when screening potential employees. What you may not realize is: 69% of those hiring managers have rejected applicants purely based on something they discovered about them on the Internet. Don’t start deleting all your social media accounts yet, though. Among a group of US recruiters surveyed, 85% say that positive online reputation actually influenced their hiring decisions.
So the message the recruiters are sending is quite clear: they want to know all about you before they invest the time and effort into hiring you. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that they are seeing the best of you the Internet has to offer.
Step 1: Research your Online Reputation
Have you ever done a search for your name in the search engines? If not, that should be the very first thing you do. Make sure you do it across all the main search engines, results really do vary. Don’t stop with just your name. In fact, you may find you have a common name and be relieved thinking this might prevent HR from going any further. Wrong. Recruiters today are quite adapt at Internet sleuthing and they will find you and any information they can about you. So, think like a recruiter and start searching your name along with key attributes and descriptors. For example:
- Enter your name into the search as well as your field of engineering. (Joe Smith Electrical Engineer)
- Review your resume and enter specialized keywords from it (Jane Johnson Human Powered Vehicle Team) There’s a good chance there may be public information about a project you worked on and even the possibility of you being mentioned. If that’s the case, you want to make sure your contribution is presented in a positive manner.
- Get a friend (or better yet a friendly stranger) to Google your name for you. It can be difficult to step back and see the big picture sometimes and an acquaintance may have better perspective from the outside looking in.
Step 2: Evaluate
After gathering all the information, now it’s time to truly appraise it. Consider the online story your name tells. Is it reflecting the way you want to be perceived? Are the results in the search engines positive, neutral or actually negative? What about the photos? Many name searches nowadays automatically display images under the name. Are you there? Is it an image you’re comfortable with? What about social media pages such as Facebook? Is your page viewable to the public in a manner that anyone can see anything on your page?
As earlier indicated, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. If you find yourself struggling with a bias when reviewing your own results consider every entry and think: What would Grandma say if she saw this? And then adjust your view accordingly.
Step 3: Polish
Search engines try desperately to please the searcher. When a search is performed it will display to the top the most accurate and authoritative results with the freshest updates. So it’s up to you to start making sure all the most positive, pertinent and professional information gets put out there. There are literally thousands of free blogging and social networking sites that you can sign up to and start updating. Keep in mind, however, the search engines do have specific algorithms with regards to name searches so you’ll want to concentrate your time on getting the most out of your efforts.
- Have your own website. I can’t emphasize this one enough. A site with firstnamelastname.com (.org or .net is fine too, if .com is taken) is extremely impressive to potential employers and really makes you stand out from the crowd. Plus, the search engines will shoot this exact matched domain to the top of the results for your name in record time. Domains run about ten dollars per year and you can get good shared hosting for around 10 dollars per month. Install a content platform like WordPress and you’re good to go. No coding knowledge necessary.
- Get active in Social Media. There may be tons of social media sites out there, but really there are only a few that are important enough to the search engines to rank well for individuals names. The big 3 that will almost always reserve top spots are: Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. These will stay up there for your name with less vigilance on your part because the search engines already regard them as extremely authoritative. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay active on them, though. Once you’ve established a visible online presence with these sites you should make at least a weekly effort to update them. Other honorable mentions are: Pinterest, Google+, Flickr and Myspace (You may scoff, but Myspace still ranks well with name searches). Remember that these accounts are your professional persona accounts. Any additional accounts on these sites with a more personal and relaxed persona should be kept private and blocked to the search engines.
- Find your niche. The search engines really want to know about you and your “brand”. Once you start indicating a career pattern on the internet, the search engines will work hard to group these patterns. So the next step is to find other authority sites out there related to your niche. You may have many engineer related sites that you already frequent so look around the site and see if you can create a public profile on it. Does it allow for commenting? Even better, can you write articles in your field of expertise? Many sites are always looking for good writers who are qualified in niche fields to create content for them. This initiates the opportunity to get your name on authoritative sites and will certainly impress the recruiters who stumble upon them in their search.
- Make a digital business card. There are a few free websites out there built around the idea of making a very simple one page bio. Crisp, yet efficient, these pages have the real potential to put forward a professional image and simultaneously helping you control more content. Sites like About.me and Dooid.me allow you to aggregate your bio, contact info, vcard, QR code, and social media all on 1 simple page.
Step 4: Restore your Online Reputation
Inevitably, some will come across unsavory results. First of all, try not to panic and just start by assessing the situation. Is this result within your power to change? Perhaps it’s a Facebook, Twitter or Forum comment gone awry. Luckily, there are new tools materializing frequently around the net that will assist you in combing through the years of data on these sites to find any potentially inappropriate material. Once you’ve made the necessary changes, consider alerting the search engines to the change. This comes in handy if you’ve got an impending interview and need to expedite the removal of a search result.
Perhaps you do not control the content that is being written about you. What then? You have a few options:
- Contact the site owner. Ask them, nicely, to take down the information. Always start here first. It may just be this simple.
- Report it to the search engines. Search engines are pretty adamant about maintaining net neutrality with regards to content dispute. There are, however, some exceptions with regards to personal identifying information. Check to see if you qualify and then go through the recommended steps to get it removed from the search results.
- Online Reputation Management. Online Reputation Managers (ORMs) employ a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technique called Reverse SEO. This is the process of “removing” the negative search engine result by pushing it down to search engine oblivion. If you want to get technical, you’re actually not pushing anything down or removing anything. Instead, you’re actually voting up the positive results and by default, dogpiling the negative. It may seem complicated but the concept is simple: Flood the Search engines with positive content about yourself and eventually that’s all anyone will see. Remember those websites and social networks mentioned above? Continue to update them with relevant fresh content and you will eventually push down the negative. *Disclaimer: While these tips are accurate and what ORMs do everyday, sometimes certain negative results (especially those with a great deal of publicity) will remain stubborn. At this point, I would suggest you seek help from a reputable ORM.
- Legal Action. This is your last line of defense and recommended only if and when you’ve exhausted all the other options. Taking legal action against “free speech” on the Internet, at least in the US, is coin toss at best. There have been some landmark cases but generally these don’t fair well for the plaintiff. There are some notable exceptions, especially when there are trademark issues involved. However, in my opinion, for the majority of online content dispute cases, you would end up spending the same amount of money (or more) on an attorney that would probably best be spent on good ORM campaign from the forefront. For more information about the “Legal climate for Internet activity” visit Chillingeffects.org
In this competitive hiring climate, job seekers know that any leg up on the competition can be what separates them from the application masses. Online Reputation Management is still in it’s infancy in term of public awareness. Recruiters, on the other hand, are quite familiar with rejecting or approving candidates solely by what is presented about them on the Internet. In other words: Your name is your brand.
- Take the time to establish your brand.
- Be vigilant. Google your name regularly. Updates your sites frequently.
- Seek help if need be.
If you maintain diligence with your online reputation, you’ll be able to achieve a remarkable edge on your competition while simultaneously obtaining peace of mind that, in the end, is priceless.
Image credit: Flickr User