Is the Internet Sabotaging Your Job Search?

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If you’re searching for a job today, it’s not only your resume that needs polishing. Chances are the hiring manager at your dream job is just as interested in your online reputation.

Your personal and professional activities leave behind a digital footprint that is massive, public, and searchable. Web searches, marriages, divorces, home purchases, job histories, customer reviews, legal disputes — all are online and tied to your name. Hiring managers can and do look at this information to make judgments about candidates.

Is this fair? Probably not, and in some cases, it might be unethical or even illegal. Still, dozens if not hundreds of candidates apply for the most coveted jobs, and applicant data is abundantly available on the internet. Savvy recruiters and hiring managers naturally consider all readily available data points before making hiring decisions. These data points tell them more about the candidate’s job qualifications, but also how they might appear externally to prospective customers and corporate partners once employed.

Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, and 54 percent of employers have decided not to hire a candidate based on a social media profile. In addition, 80 percent of employers Google job seekers before they’re even invited to an interview. To make sure your online reputation is helping and not hurting your  hunt in the job market, start with these tips:

1. Keep Your Privacy Settings Updated

Review the settings on all your social media sites — e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. Ensure that what you post can only be seen by your intended audience.

2. Think Before You Post

If you have any doubts about a comment’s or picture’s appropriateness, don’t post it. Also, be conscious of how you’re writing and whom you’re writing about. Hiring managers may evaluate your judgment based on what you’ve shared or written in the past. Remember that employers are not only hiring you for your hard skills, but also for your ability to uphold the reputation of the business.

3. Monitor What Is Being Said About You Online

Consider setting up a Google Alert with your name or investing in an online reputation monitoring service. Take note of both the positive and negative statements being made about you. This will help you stay aware of the information circulating about you on the web.

4. Be Pragmatic About Disputes

Some people who feel wronged by a prior employer or business associate may consider taking legal action. In most cases, however, lawsuits are matters of public record that can leave long trails of online search results. Sure, you might feel better when you win, but how will you feel in 10 years when a messy lawsuit remains on page one of your Google search results, creating a negative first impression on hiring managers? In most cases, the pragmatic approach is to keep disputes offline and avoid the nuclear option — a costly public war in which there are no real victors.

5. Create Content That Tells Your Side of the Story

You want to make sure important information about you is properly represented online beyond basic career sites like LinkedIn. The easiest way to do this is to create a professional presence on one of the free blogging sites, like WordPress or Medium. Make sure the content you create is high quality. Each entry should be at least 1,000 words long. Also, include a biography, some photographs, and discussions of your areas of expertise and professional accomplishments.

6. Get Professional Help When Necessary

If you have unflattering, incorrect, or misleading information in your search results, you need to bury it under a flood of higher-quality materials. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to do this as an individual, as it takes specialized knowledge and expertise to control the ordering of search results. Consider hiring a professional online reputation management company if the situation is serious enough.

Rich Matta is CEO of ReputationDefender.

By Rich Matta