Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How an Online Reputation Can Hurt Your Job Hunt

This is a guest post by Chris Forman, CEO of the online job-search organizer StartWire.

If you are looking for a job, you need to be aware of your digital footprint – the information connected with your name online. Companies and recruiters routinely check search engine results to learn more about potential employees.
In fact, 90% of executive recruiters say they conduct online research of potential candidates, according toExecuNet. Up to 70% of employers who have used LinkedIn say they've chosen not to hire a person based on what they've found out about them online. However, only 27% of employers give job seekers the opportunity to discuss the online content that is associated with their name, such as social media profiles, blog posts and photos.
This suggests that job seekers should be thinking as much about their online persona as their interview attire. Questionable content and social media red flags can take a promising candidate out of the running, but the savvy job seeker can cultivate a positive digital presence. Here’s how to screen and protect your online reputation and avoid ending up in a potential employer’s pile of rejected candidates.

Check your online identity. Run various searches for your name on major search engines and social media sites. If you’re noticing that the top results are from non-professional sources linked to your name, then it’s time to update your professional profiles. At least one of the top five search results for your name should relate to your professional interests. LinkedIn has high visibility in Google search results, so maintaining a comprehensive, up-to-date LinkedIn profile helps significantly.

Put your best foot forward. Use your social media profiles to demonstrate your strengths and signal to employers that you are the best candidate for the job. Everyone has unique interests outside of their work life, and your social media profiles can shine a positive light on these hobbies. Post freely about accomplishments, such as marathon running or charity work. If an employer stumbles across your personal profiles, your unique interests can be a strong complement to your professional credentials.
Quora, a site that lets you ask and answer questions about any topic, is a good place to demonstrate knowledge as well as your interests outside of work. For example, you can build a positive online reputation by answering questions that align with your professional background. You can also show off your personal interests by answering questions about the city you live in or places you would like to visit.

Limit negative content. With privacy settings constantly changing on Facebook and other social sites, it’s better to be safe than sorry about what you share on social media. After reviewing your social media profiles to make sure your content consists of information you would like to share with employers, use tools to scan what remains.

For Facebook, Secure.Me is a free tool that reviews content, protects profiles from dangerous links and viruses, and monitors photos and friends’ posts. When in doubt, do not post anything online that you wouldn't want a future employer to see. If there is a chance that your connections would post unflattering comments about you, check the privacy setting for approving content before it is posted to your Facebook timeline.

Leave no room for confusion. If you have a common name, you risk being mistaken for someone else online. Rather than taking the blame for others’ mistakes, look for ways to differentiate yourself.
For example, someone with the name “Chris Andrews” who is a CPA, could use “Chris Andrews, CPA” in online profiles or consider including a middle name or initial. Registering a unique URL with your name for your social media accounts improves the chances that employers will find your profiles, rather than those of someone else with the same name.
With recruiters paying close attention to job seekers’ social media profiles, it is imperative to maintain control of your online social presence. Today, these profiles are an extension of your resume and should be used to help – not hurt – your chances of landing the next golden job opportunity.
Deborah L. Jacobs, Forbes Staff


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