Searching for a job in this economy can be a daunting, if not seemingly hopeless, undertaking. Increase the odds and prevent any embarrassing gaffes by ensuring that your reputation online is pristine before you go looking for a new position. As hiring managers and recruiters get more and more savvy and jobs continue to be scarce, you want to ensure that you’re putting your best face (and voice) forward. If you’re reading this, you’re already off to a great start! With just a few minutes a day (and a little bit of common sense) you can ensure that your reputation online reflects not only who you are, but that you are the perfect person for the job.
- Google search. First things first, run a Google search for your name. If you have a common name, consider including your career field or location into your search to narrow results a bit. Scan the first five to ten pages to ensure no embarrassing skeletons pop out. Assuming you don’t find anything alarming, move on to the dreaded image search. If you can get through this without finding anything cringe-worthy, you’re well on your way to being confident that you have a sparkling clean reputation! Bonus points if you find any positive mentions of your name related to your chosen field. (Find something less than desirable? Don’t fret; we’ll talk next week about how to repair the damage.)
- Secure your social profiles. A private Facebook profile goes a long way in preventing someone from finding potentially damaging photos or status updates, but don’t think that it will ensure your privacy. Scroll through your Facebook and Twitter profiles, and make sure that there are no updates, photos, or links that might raise an eyebrow or two. Avoid political or religious ranting, keep evidence of last weekend’s shenanigans to a minimum, and make sure your grammar and language use are clean.
- Choose your friends wisely. Fair representation or not, many employers will associate you with the company you keep. While everyone has a crazy friend or two, it may be best to keep them at a distance online. There have been cases in the media lately of people losing jobs or falling under scrutiny due to guilt by association. If someone does happen to post something questionable on your wall, simply remove the offending post, and privately let your friend or family member know why it was removed. When choosing people to follow on Twitter, keep in mind that your Twitter stream will be used to gauge your character and personality. While it may not be an accurate portrayal of your moral compass, it will be a reflection.
- Set up a Trackur account. It’s free, and will compile a list of mentions of your name from all over the web. Why wouldn’t you set it up? If you’ve been in your field for a long time or are in a high-profile position, you may want to set up a basic account and perform several searches. Search your name, any aliases or nicknames you may have, current and past employers, and any other phrases that may lead someone to information about you. Knowing what is being said about you online is vital to your professional success in today’s market.
- Be nice. It sounds pretty simple, but it is amazing how many people forget that their online persona directly affects their personal and professional reputation. Rude, aggressive behavior is not only off-putting, but many companies see it as a potential liability. Keep your rants to a minimum, be friendly, and make a point to reach out to help others –it will not go unnoticed. You never know when an interaction on Twitter will come back around, why not ensure that it is a help and not a hindrance?
You’ve heard it before, but remember that if it is online, it isn’t a secret. Technology continues to become more entwined with everyday life, and isn’t likely to slow anytime soon. Keep in mind that your professional and personal lives are no longer separate entities, and share information accordingly. It is perfectly acceptable to let your personality shine through in your activities online, just be aware of who may be watching. As we’ve said before, if you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother or current employer, it is probably best to keep it off of the web.