These days, jobs tend to be fairly few and far between—so when a really good position becomes available, there is typically a long line of applicants waiting to fill it. This is something of a mixed blessing for most employers, who don’t always have the time it takes to sift through resumes and interview each and every potential candidate. For this reason, employers are constantly looking for ways to weed out any red-flag applicants as quickly and as easily as possible. Their method of choice: Google.
Statistics reveal that at least 1 in 4 employers use online search engines to check up on job applicants before they even make it to the interview process. The implication, for those seeking employment, is clear: What the search engines say about you could really be make-or-break for you on a professional level.
The Google Problem
Certainly, search listings pose plenty of opportunities for disaster. There was a time when, in order to keep your nose clean and your reputation in check, you mostly just had to keep your name out of the headlines, and your mug shot out of the local paper. Nowadays, there is never any telling what sorts of embarrassing content could turn up on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. A compromising photo from a frat party could turn up, fifteen years later, and prove to be utterly disastrous. That could be all it takes to sink your employment prospects.
The good news is that there are some steps that any job seeker can take to ensure that he or she has a clean online reputation. You may not be able to prevent old friends or disgruntled ex-partners from posting embarrassing stuff about you on the Internet, but you can see to it that these embarrassing listings stay as hidden as possible.
Monitoring Your Reputation
The first and most foundational step is simply to keep tabs on your own online reputation, by searching for yourself on a regular basis. Remember that a negative listing could appear at any time, and the last thing you want is for it to catch you by surprise. If your prospective employer finds an embarrassing online listing under your name, and you have no idea it’s even there, then walking into that job interview is like walking into an ambush!
Simply searching for your name on a regular basis is helpful, but remember a couple of professional tips. One important step is to log out of any Google accounts (Google+, Gmail, and so on). Google delivers personalized search results, and if Google knows who you are, it may paint a rosy picture for you, not giving you an objective view of what’s really out there under your name. Another tip is to set up Google and Yahoo alerts—easy ways to stay in the loop about new listings that appear.
What About Social Media?
Social networks—ranging from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest—post significant threats to your online reputation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that social networking should be avoided, but it does mean some precautions are in order.
One vital concern is privacy settings. Keep these as stringent as you are able, because the very last thing you need, from a reputation standpoint, is for your account go get hacked and a bunch of embarrassing content to get passed around under your name. Second, consider keeping your professional and personal lives separate. Have a personal e-mail address that you associate with Facebook and Twitter, then a professional e-mail address that is only attached to LinkedIn. Obviously, this second account is the one you will want to use on job applications and on your resume.
Building Your Brand
At the end of the day, there is simply no way to prevent other people from posting negative or embarrassing content about you. What you can do is work to establish a strong, positive online reputation. By self-branding, and filling the Web with good, strong content about yourself, you’re effectively creating a strong defense that will keep negative listings at bay.
Quick tips for building your personal, online brand:
- First, consider purchasing all of the exact-match domains associated with your name. For instance, if your name is Miranda Jeffries, get MirandaJeffries.com, MirandaJeffries.net, and so on. These sites will “rank” well in Google, helping keep any negative listings off the first page of search results.
- Use these domains to publish content about yourself—even if it’s something as simple as a resume.
- Have at least one or two social media accounts where you can publish positive content—again, an active social media account will “rank” well in the search engines.
- Consider joining any professional or academic directories for which you are eligible. These are good, solid Google listings that will portray you in a positive light.
Ultimately, building your brand is the best way to keep others from manipulating the way you’re portrayed on the Web. By being pro-active, you can ensure that your future employers only see the side of you that you want them to see!
Cliff Stein assumed the position of Chief Executive Office of Reputation Changer in the summer of 2012. In his role as the leader of the #1 reputation management firm, he is not only the central guiding force of Reputation Changer itself, but also the de facto spokesman for the industry as a whole. Stein joined the Reputation Changer team after 17 years of management experience in multiple industries.