How to manage your online presence for your job search and career
When job searching, it’s very common for employers nowadays to look at your online profile. This information isn’t just used to “rule out” candidates — finding a broad online presence can also improve your chances of getting the job by increasing your “know, like, and trust” factor. What a company finds about you online should reassure them about your qualifications and suitability as a prospective employee … not raise red flags.
But it’s the negative information that can hurt your chances of getting the job. CareerBuilder reported in 2017 that 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, up from 11 percent in 2006. It also reported that 54 percent have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles. More and more companies are reviewing the online profiles of job applicants, either as a first step in the screening process (to narrow down the pool of applicants) or before inviting a candidate to an interview.
Online reputation management
It is also important to note that if you aren’t managing your personal brand online, it’s still being formed (but without your input). Your online identity is determined not only by what you post, but also by what others post about you -- whether a mention in a blog post, a photo tag or a reply to a public status update. When someone searches for your name on a search engine like Google, the results that appear are a combination of information you’ve posted and information published by others. You can be the author of your online identity by taking a strategic, proactive approach to managing your online presence.
What is online about you is more important than ever, and this guide will help you manage your online presence as it relates to the job search.
Assess your presence
The first step is to see what’s out there already. Monitoring your online presence is easy if you know which tools to use. Many of these are free.
Start by Googling yourself. On the Google homepage (http://www.google.com), type in your name.
Note: If you have a Google account (i.e., Gmail or YouTube), you will find you get different results if you are logged into your Google account when you conduct your search. Log out of Google before conducting your search so you can see what others see when they Google your name.
You should also set up Google Alerts for your name, so that you can be alerted when new information is posted online about you. http://www.google.com/alerts.
“Google Dashboard” is Google’s way of helping people manage their online brands. Using “Google Dashboard,” you can view your profile and put your best foot forward, and access more ways to control your data such as Security Checkup, Privacy Checkup, My Activity, Maps timeline, Activity controls, and Download your data
Access Google’s “Google Dashboard” here: https://myaccount.google.com/dashboard.
You will need to sign into your Google account — or create one — to access the tools.
Scrubbing your digital dirt
Negative information about you online is referred to as “digital dirt.” Like its physical counterpart, it can be messy and difficult to get rid of. However, one effective strategy for managing your online reputation is to “bury” your digital dirt.
Although your Google search results may have returned thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of results, it’s what is in the first 3-5 pages of results that is most important.
There are two steps to managing your online presence: Removal and/or correction of incorrect or inappropriate information, and posting new content which will move the unfavorable information lower in your search results.
One of the strongest ways to create positive online content is through social media. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn often appear prominently in Google search results.
Be sure to post content related to your profession or career on your social media pages — and make those posts public. Share content you find in industry publications, traditional media, and blogs. Comment thoughtfully on the content. Post inspirational quotes from business leaders and relevant facts, figures, and infographics.
As the Department of Homeland Security suggests, “Take steps to ‘own’ your online presence”. Apply the “Golden Rule” of posting any information online: Post only about others as you would have them post about you. If you don’t want your mom (or grandmother, or sister) to see it, don’t post it. Anyone who has access to your private profile can take a screen shot and post it publicly.
In addition, in some states, employers may be still asking for access to social media accounts. They ask the jobseeker to log into their account and then peek over their shoulder as they scroll through the account. In this instance, if you change post settings to “Only Me,” those will still be visible if you are logged into your account, and the hiring manager will be able to see them on your page. You are better off deleting controversial content — or not posting it in the first place. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes the best offense is a best defense.”
Request removal of online information
If you find information online that you don’t want to be public, first determine who controls the content. For example, if the photo you want to hide is on your Facebook profile, you can change the visibility settings of that photo. If, however, the unwanted content resides on a website or page you don’t control, you can request that it be removed.
Note: Google won’t remove the content for you. Google’s company policy is that they will not change search results to cater to individual people. (If, however, the site in question is publishing your confidential personal information, Google will intervene. This includes your social security or government ID number, bank account or credit card number, an image of your handwritten signature, or your name if it is associated with a porn site.)
To get an item removed, you need to first contact the website’s owner to get them to change it. You want the information removed at the source, because if it isn’t removed from the original website, people will still be able to see it, even if it doesn’t appear in Google’s search results. And remember, removing content from Google’s search results doesn’t remove it from other search engines (i.e., Bing, Yahoo).
After the webmaster has made the change, the negative result will still show up in Google for some time until Google updates their index. Note: If the content has not been removed from the website, the content will reappear in Google’s search results when that site is indexed again in the future.
If you’ve removed a negative item and need Google’s index to reflect that immediately, you can go through Google’s removal procedures to have that item taken out of the index. Here’s how.
Start by going to the removal request page: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals.
Claim your profile or remove your profile
There are numerous “people search” sites that take publicly-available information and aggregate it online. You have two choices with these sites — “beat ‘em” or “join ‘em.” You can either ask to have your information removed from the site, or you can “claim” your profile and create an account (usually free) to ensure the information listed is accurate.
Here is a list of the “people search” sites; some are free, others require fees. (Market-connections is NOT affiliated with any of the names listed.)
“People search” sites make money by selling your personal information online, which means they don’t like to remove that information. You can often find instructions for submitting your request for removal on the website (sometimes it’s hidden under “Privacy” or “Terms of Service” at the bottom of the website), but they may make you jump through hoops to do so, requiring you to fax a request or send a copy of your identification.
Requesting removal once also won’t guarantee that the information won’t reappear in the future. Because many of these companies acquire their data from a variety of public sources, it’s likely that your name will reappear when they re-index their database.
Other ways to create content
Postings on blogs and news sites often appear in search results. Writing constructive comments can be a good way to create new content for Google to associate with your name.
An extremely powerful way to create new content for your Google search results is by blogging. A personal or business blog — if you are committed to it — can provide a solid online presence. If you don’t like to write, you can shoot videos and publish it on your blog.
Posting content on these sites will also show up prominently in search results:
Also, while we’re at it, ensure that your LinkedIn profile aligns with your résumé. Many recruiting managers and hiring managers compare the two.
Reputation management is not a one-time thing
Social recruiting isn’t going away. Jobvite’s 2018 Social Recruiting Survey found that recruiters are getting creative on social media to reach candidates where they are.
Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn is the most-used channel for recruitment efforts — with 77% taking advantage — followed by Facebook (63%). However, LinkedIn’s popularity has shifted dramatically. In 2017, 92% of recruiters used LinkedIn compared to this year. But Instagram’s popularity with job seekers is increasing its use with recruiters — now, a quarter of recruiters are investing in recruiting efforts on Instagram, especially millennial recruiters (35%) and those working at technology companies (63%) — double the number in 2017.
With the increasing emphasis on social recruiting, online reputation management is even more critical.
Some of the steps involved in online reputation management can be done quickly, but the Internet has a long memory, so be aware that it will take time for your new content to begin replacing old content, and even more time for your old information to “disappear” from your search results.
Most important, the need for ongoing online reputation management is vital. Continue to monitor your online presence, even when you’re not in active job search mode.
Mandy Fard is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, CMRW) and Recruiter with decades of experience in assisting job seekers, working directly with employers in multiple industries, and writing proven-effective resumes.