Online Reputation and Your Job Search

WorkCoachCafeAn article of mine published by HuffingtonPost on March 1 attracted a great deal of attention. The topic was how most employers are Googling job seekers these days before inviting them in to an interview.

When you read the comments, you will see that many people didn’t read the article, which was about how to use the Internet to manage your online reputation. You will also see many of those same people were very offended by the very idea that an employer would check out their social media activities. Eh?

Informed vs. Uninformed Decisions

Most of us want to make “informed decisions” about what we buy, what we use, and who we work with, because we’ve learned from painful experience that people – or things – are not always what they appear to be.

So, we do research.

We’ve learned that “con artists” exist who seem to be very nice and upstanding and honest, but who are, in fact, just the opposite. We’ve also learned that sometimes, even if someone is not a con artist, they may be motivated by something that isn’t necessarily in our best interest.

Consequently, by doing research we can be better informed before we make a decision, particularly a decision that could be expensive or painful if wrong. That’s the smart way to operate – research first.

Internet Search Is a Part of Daily Life 

Personally, I use Google to find information about everything from driving directions to product and service reviews, books and movies, TV shows, and even how to spell some words. And, I certainly use it to check out the people and businesses I am considering working with or buying from. 

I am not alone in my use of Google and other search engines for my research! Google handles over 2 billion searches a day from people across the globe. And, of course, Google is not the only search engine.

We judge each other all the time – by how we look, how we talk, how we dress, the car we drive, the smart phone we use (or not), and even how we write. Plus many other things too numerous to mention.

Fact: Most Employers Do Research Job Applicants 

Not every employer researches the applicants for every job, but enough of them do the research to make being careful in your online postings the smart thing to do. At least, for now…

These employers are not necessarily digging through your Facebook posts to find the photos of you drunk at a party or pole dancing in your spare time. But, they are looking for indications of how you present yourself, your personality, your ability to communicate effectively, and a general idea of your “fit” into their organization.

They are also looking for signs that you have done what your resume or application says you have done. We have a long tradition of making a few exaggerations in our resumes and job applications, claiming experience and skills we don’t have (or don’t have in the quantity or quality presented in the resume). Doing an online check to verify those facts can save an employer from making an expensive hiring mistake.

Hopefully, Most Job Seekers Are Googling Potential Employers!

Both for self-defense, so you don’t end up working for a terrible employer, and also to be well-prepared for job interviews, you should be digging out everything you can about the employer – even before you apply for the job.

You do NOT want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin!

Be Smart in Your Online Actions

Understand that most employers (and others) will research you, so take care in your public online actions. Create a visible / findable professional presence for yourself online, one that supports and enhances your online reputation or personal brand.

DO:

  • Do claim a unique, clean version of your name. 
  • Do create a solid and complete LinkedIn Profile, using that clean name, which backs up what your resume or job application tells a recruiter or employer about you. LinkedIn profiles are typically on the first page of search results for any name.
  • Do complete the Google Plus About page, also using that clean name. Even if you do nothing else on Google Plus (the 2nd largest social network), your G+ About page will feed that information to (of course) Google! And Google will serve up that Google Plus Profile when someone searches on your name.
  • Do use that clean name also on your resumes, job applications, and business/networking cards to help employers (and others) connect you with your online professional identity.

Do NOT:

  • Don’t share online rants about any issue, particularly a religious or political one, using your professional identity, whether a comment on the local newspaper’s website or a long post on your blog. (Exception: you want to do rants for a living.)
  • Don’t share personal information, like your dangerous hobby (sky diving or street drag racing, for example) or your drinking or drugging habits. (Exception: you want to be a sky diver or drag racer for a living.)
  • Don’t post negative comments about a current or former employer or colleague, no matter how well-deserved.

Consider this to be personal marketing, which it is, and retain that mindset. Don’t do anything to cause the value of your “product” to be diminished.

For More Information About Reputation:

You Are Being Watched! And Judged!

Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough and What to Do

Critical NEW Job Search Skill: Reputation Management (or Recovery)

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @JobHuntOrg and on Google+.

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