One of the most important keys to a successful job search today is to be visible -- in a positive way -- online.
Why is positive online visibility a requirement for successful job search (and careers) today?
Online reputation management is required today because we all use search engines for research and, certainly, employers use it intensely because a "bad hire" is an expensive mistake they want to avoid.
Understand that while you can strongly influence your your reputation online, you cannot completely control it.
Google and the other search engines, social media, other websites, and other individuals can -- and will -- impact your reputation.
Today, managing your online reputation is NOT optional!
Because employers and recruiters are relentlessly searching the Internet in general and social media in particular:
To be hired, you must be found by employers, and what they find must support the "facts" on your resume or application and demonstrate that you are a solid candidate for the job.
According to a 2018 survey of hiring managers and human resources managers by CareerBuilder, a job seeker who has no online visibility is handicapped in their job search:
Being invisible means a much longer job search for most jobs. For the reasons, read on...
If you are invisible, employers will find information about you provided by others, including public records. And, they will assume you are out-of-date or hiding something.
Without having a solid online reputation (leveraging the sites like those listed below), your applications and resumes will be ignored.
When you don't create and manage your own visibility filling in the top page of Google search results, the information aggregator listings will fill the first page of search results on a search for your name. (Most people don't look past the first page of search results.)
Employers will click on those aggregator listings because they provide information that they cannot -- or would not -- ask you!
The problem that creates? The aggregators share very personal information about you that they have collected from publicly-available information collected, stored, and made available by government entities. They also collect information from your social media accounts, like Facebook.
Birthdays are usually not usually protected and are visible even in search results. Frequently, the most sensitive information is available only to people who will pay a price to see it.
This information available may include the following:
Other information, particularly birthdates, are also collected from sites like Facebook.com. When they have your birthdate, these sites typically calculate your age for visitors.
If you aren't paying attention, your job search and career can be negatively impacted.
Fortunately, you have many options today to create and to manage your reputation. Unfortunately, if you aren't careful, you can hurt your standing as easily as you can help it. So, take care in what you do online.
An effective online presence requires both a very good offense as well as a defense.
The key to a good offense today is being appropriately visible in Google search results. Today, this usually means:
Those entries usually push the information aggregator sites off the first page of Google search results, and most searchers don't look beyond the top few entries on the first page of results.
If results you have created aren't easily found there, the aggregator sites will be found, and you are "invisible."
If entries you have created aren't found in a Google search, information aggregator entries fill the first page of Google search results, often including your birthdate.
In addition, employers make negative assumptions about your understanding of how to leverage the internet for work and about how up-to-date you are with today's basic technology tools like email, search engines, and social media.
Don't be William A. Jones on your resumes and Will Jones on LinkedIn. Employers may not be able to "connect the dots" to find your LinkedIn Profile, and that will hurt your chances at the job.
Choose the "cleanest" version of your name for your professional persona, and then use that name consistently for your professional visibility, your professional social media profiles, your resume, your business cards, meeting name tags, etc.
If you must rant online about sports, politics, religion, etc. do it with a different name (and email address). [See: Your Most Important Keywords.]
If possible, purchase your name as a .com domain name, and use it for your professional email, or just to keep someone else from using it.
Using your professional name (above), set up and maintain a good online presence in the usual sites. These provide credibility:
Depending on your field, you should build professional visibility on other social media relevant to your profession.
Using your professional name, find ways to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise, and communications skills using these sites:
Many other options exist and more will develop in the future. Just be sure to keep your personal and your professional personas separate. Do be VERY careful about sharing sensitive information from a current, or even a former, employer.
Pay attention to what Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites show the world about you (or about someone with the same name you have). I know too many job seekers who had a tough job search until they discovered (and fixed) personal reputation problems which were really mistaken online identity situations:
Until those job seekers adjusted their public names to differentiate themselves from their negative doppelgangers, they were ignored by employers. Few businesses want to hire someone who might break the law or cause other disruptions. Those employers who received an application form the deceased porn star didn't take the applications seriously (clearly a joke, right?).
These kinds of situations can pop up overnight as someone becomes a person that employers would avoid. Unless you are paying attention, you won't know what is visible.
Not surprisingly, since Google is the key to being visible to potential employers and recruiters (your "offense"), Google is also an essential part of your defense.
Know what is visible online associated with your name, whether or not the person involved is actually you. Search Google for your professional name on a weekly basis. Check the first 3 pages of search results to see what you find. Be wary of invisibility. Also be wary of mistaken online identity. [See: Defensive Googling for details.]
NOTE: Even if the visibility is about someone else who has the same name you do, pay attention! Employers will NOT automatically know it isn't you!
As described above, your reputation and job search can be damaged by someone using the same name. Unless you are aware of the situation, you won't be able to separate yourself from that person's actions or address any issues with potential employers.
Also periodically check the search results on Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo.
In addition to the offense described above, be sure to monitor what is going on related to you and/or your name as your first line of defense. Set up Google Alerts to monitor your name. Google Alerts can also monitor other important information related to your job search.
[Also, see 50 Google Searches to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers to learn about potential employers.]
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.