So what does your online presence say about you? A study commissioned by Microsoft surveying 1,200 HR professionals and 1,200 consumers showed 70% of hiring managers have rejected candidates based on what they found online. Find out more about the role social media websites and online reputation management plays in job searching today.
Why is online reputation management so essential?
Online searches have become such a standard practice that only 2% of recruiters surveyed did not research their applicants online. Search Engines were the biggest research tool with a huge 78% of recruitment agents googling their applicants, 63% looking at social media sites, 59% looking at photo and video sharing sites and 48% found their way to professional and business working sites.
Some of the reasons why potential candidates were rejected were: concerns about their lifestyle (58%), inappropriate comments and text written by candidates (56%), unsuitable photos, videos and information (55%), inappropriate comments or text written by friends and families (43%) and comments criticising previous employers, co-workers or clients (40%).
What can you do to manage your online reputation?
Only 30 – 35% of respondents (depending on nationality) surveyed felt that their online reputation had little impact or significance when searching for a new job so how do you become part of the savvy majority? To a certain extent, you cannot control what people are saying and posting about you online but there are certain steps you can take to manage your online reputation:
- Ensure your Facebook can only be accessed by your friends online and control what is shown on the search results page. You can also adjust your privacy settings and opt out of public searches altogether.
- Don’t post any discriminating photos or videos online and ask your friends and family not to ‘tag you’ in any photos on Facebook without your authorisation to help manage your online reputation.
- Disable the auto-follow function on Twitter and protect your tweets. Remember when people respond to your tweets, this also appears on your profile. Search engines are also starting to index tweets in their search engine results.
- If you have an online blog, be careful not to write anything that might hurt your future job prospects. Make sure you also monitor comments online as well.
- Exercise caution when writing blog comments, participating in forums or engaging in social media activities. These may be linked back to you or your blog.
- Use a separate email account for work and your online social media activities and keep your public and private life separate.
Online reputation management is made even easier by setting up a Google alert. With this free service, you can search news, blogs, web, video, or groups for mentions of your name and get alerts instantly, once a day, or once a week.
What are the ethical implications of online search?
HR professionals searching online to find out information about applicants brings up some ethical concerns. The dangers of online search are that recruiters can easily and anonymously find out information about you that they would not be permitted to ask in an interview or application form. This may include:
- your marital status and age;
- your religious or cultural background;
- whether you are planning a family;
- medical history and;
- financial background.
Although this is very hard to prove and prosecute, anti-discrimination laws still apply so if you think you have been discriminated against, you should speak to the anti-discrimination body in your region. Of the HR professionals surveyed, 75% said their companies had a formal policy in place to research applicants online and 79% of US recruiters check reputational data.
So how do you exercise damage control?
So what can you do if you have posted a photo, comment or video in cyberspace and the past has come back to haunt you or someone has written something unfairly about you? In the world of job seeking, any publicity is not good publicity, it may just all be bad. And remember, it is very difficult to remove a listing from a search engine once it has been published.
Susan Moskwa, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst says to “reduce its [bad publicity] visibility in the search results by proactively publishing useful, positive information about yourself or your business.”
Ways you can proactively manage your online reputation and publish positive information are:
- The easiest way is to remove the negative comment at the source. Email the owner of the blog or website and ask them to remove the offending post or allow you to post a response in return.
- To counter negative comments about your skills and/or business, ask your clients who are happy with your services to post good reviews.
- Ask your previous managers and/or colleagues to post recommendations for you on business social networking websites like LinkedIn.
- Create your own blog where you can write posts about news and views, tips and tricks and other issues relevant to your industry. If you have an uncommon name, it shouldn’t take much effort at all to appear on page one of the search engine listings.
- As well as creating your own blog, write guest posts, comments on blogs or participate in forums that are relevant your industry and establish yourself as an expert in the field.
- Establish a positive social media presence if you haven’t done so already by creating a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account and again, this should rank well in search engines.
The good news is that all this hard work and online reputation management will not go unnoticed with almost half of human resources professionals in the United States surveyed stating that a positive online reputation influences the candidate’s application to a great extent.
In light of all this research, never post anything online that you would not want to talk about in an interview. The reality of today’s competitive job market is that a 140 character tweet that took you two seconds may have more relevance than your two page resume you spent hours updating. So while social media networks are becoming almost essential for interacting with busy friends and family, online reputation management is even more important for job searching and ongoing career development.