At this point it is common practice for hiring managers and recruiters to search the name of potential employees via the internet before hiring, and in most cases, interviewing them. Savvy job seekers are aware of this fact of life and pay careful attention to information on the internet endorsed by them and written about/by them. This goes beyond simply taking down the party pictures from Facebook (or going by your nickname or middle name on social networking sites). To properly monitor your online presence you need to be vigilant, check in monthly or bi-monthly by Googling yourself, and in addition to mitigating the bad stuff, you need to make sure that the good stuff is in a prominent position when someone searches for "Susie Jenkins."
1. Find out what’s out there.
Search for yourself on popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to discover what information is on the web. Don’t stop at just your common name either – search your full name and common misspellings of your name (for instance, my full name is Frederic John Rohner, so I would search Freddie Rohner, Frederic Rohner, and Frederick Rohner to start). You can’t counteract negative information unless you know what it is and where it is. If you find embarrassing or unprofessional information out there, contact the webmaster for the specific site and ask for it to be removed.
2. If you want to keep some things private, then activate your privacy settings.
Lots of social networking sites and blogging platforms have privacy settings that can be adjusted to allow access to only a select group of users. By being aware of these tools and applying them, it is in fact possible to keep some information completely private on the internet.
3. Be careful what you type and on what websites/forums.
It goes without saying that a job seeker should maintain proper decorum when interacting with contacts and potential employer on sites like LinkedIn, but what most people don’t consider is how their interactions on other sites can come back to bite them later. Be careful what venues you participate in and consider how your comments on blogs and forums may appear to people outside of your industry or your circle of friends. And if you really want to post the mildly offensive comment about your least favorite quarterback’s performance in Sunday’s game, then do yourself a favor: create a pseudonym and post with anonymity.
4. Get the good stuff out there.
Here’s where the personal brand idea comes in. Rather than simply trying to minimize or eliminate embarrassing, untrue, or unprofessional information from showing up whenever someone searches your name, you have to take action and overwhelm the bad stuff with the good stuff. Create a blog, contribute content to other websites as a guest author or subject matter expert, chime in on conversations on industry forums, register the domain name of your full name and create a website with all of your credentials – there are plenty of great ideas on different ways to sculpt your online presence. Take advantage of any or all of them, because if the first 3 pages of search results for you are nothing but complimentary, then you won’t have to worry and will actually HOPE that employers Google you.
There are a lot of great people with impressive credentials and outstanding qualifications, but these accomplishments and capabilities will inevitably fall by the wayside without the proper due diligence to protect yourself from negative information that may be on the internet. Find out if there is such information about you in cyberspace, utilize privacy settings to maintain some semblance of secrecy, use discretion when navigating and participating in online communities, and counteract the bad stuff with information that makes you look great to make sure that the least of your worries will be if an employer decides to search your name on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
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