What is your online image? Even if you don’t know what that means, you can bet the hiring manager at your dream job does. The internet is here to stay, and more and more employers are relying on it to help thin the stacks of resumes they accumulate during the hiring process.
So can you pass the Google test?
Why They Do It
Snooping into someone’s online life seems unfair and legally questionable (especially if personal information not required on your application is used to exclude you from a position), but that doesn’t seem to stop companies from Googling their prospective hires. Calling an applicant in for an interview is expensive, almost as expensive as hiring the wrong person. So companies are using search engines and social media to vet their applicants on a deeper level.
In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Careerbuilder.com, 39% of employers surveyed admitted to using social media to research potential job candidates. And remember, that figure doesn’t include simply searching. Companies have found that by combing search engines and social networking profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, they can gain insight into who you really are.
Of the companies surveyed, these are some the top mentioned yields (both positive and negative) that hiring managers use to evaluate candidates:
Good/bad communication skills
Bad mouthing previous employers
Well rounded person, with a wide variety of interests
Information about drinking or drug use
Background information supported (or didn’t support) the claims made on their resume
So what are you supposed to do? Here’s a tip – DO NOT erase yourself from the web. As crazy as it may sound, an employer finding no trace of you on the web can be just as damaging as finding your bachelor party photos. Instead, use the internet to your advantage and create an online image that makes you shine.
Creating Your Personal Brand
Like it or not, we all live in the information age, and pieces of us are floating around on the internet for anyone to see. What you want to do is take those floating pieces and bring them together to create a cohesive picture of “you”. Susan P. Joyce, editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org calls this “personal branding”. Think about what your resume says about you and slowly tweak your online appearance so that it becomes more aligned with the “you” that you’re trying to convey. But how do you do that?
Step 1 – Google Yourself
Well it’s actually advisable that you Bing, Yahoo, Ask and You Tube yourself as well, but the point is to see what employers see when they search for you. Try your search with slight variations on your name. If your name is David Ryan Smith, try David R. Smith, D. Smith, etc. to see if there are any landmines hidden those variations. You might also ask close friends or family members to conduct a search and see what kind of results they come up with.
Step 2 – Eliminate Immediate Threats
Go through the first few pages of results and make a list of old Pinterest or Twitter accounts or blogs that you’ve forgotten about and might have some less than flattering information in them. Find the sources for the images that are associated with your name. If you feel like there are some things that should be private, then find a way to make them private or delete them. Facebook does have a privacy setting that will prevent your personal page from showing in search results, if you prefer to keep that out of the public eye.
Step 3 – Build Your Brand
This part can actually be kind of fun, and if you’ve been job hunting for several months with no success, it can also help rebuild your confidence. Start by going through your social media profiles and finding areas where you can flesh out your work history or involvement in organizations. If you have a LinkedIn page (and we recommend you get one), start following companies in your target industry, write a post to showcase your knowledge, or simply share industry news.
While LinkedIn is probably the best place to spruce up your professional image, be sure you don’t neglect your more casual social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter can be really convenient outlets for venting, but be careful about the kind of venting you do. No one is suggesting that you not be yourself, but keeping your social media feed on the lighter side can show potential employers that you’ve got a generally good attitude.
You might also consider purchasing your domain name if it’s available. If your name is Judy Harrison, do a search for judyharrison.com and see who owns it. Some domain names are as cheap as $10 per year to own and even if you never build a personal website for yourself, you can set the web address to redirect to your LinkedIn or Google+ page. By owning your domain you can prevent a company from purchasing it and using it for something unsavory.
If you still aren’t sure what to do then try Googling someone in your field who you perceive to be successful and see what their online image yields. Their social media pages could serve as a loose template upon which you can build your own stellar online image. It’s most important though that you be yourself. Ultimately what employers are looking for when they hit Google is a real version of “you” described in your own terms. All you have to do is make sure you give them the best version of “you” there is.
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