Online Reputation Monitoring

Dear, Anita,

I’m a hiring manager at a company, and I would like to let people know that many HR professionals routinely screen applicants online, checking out not just LinkedIn but Facebook, Twitter, and Google searches. You’d be shocked and amazed at some of the things I’ve seen about job candidates! I don’t have a question; I just think job seekers should be aware of this.

Dear, Undercover Recruiter,

Eye on Computer MonitorThank you for the reminder. Readers, your social (media) life could be killing your career. Every tweet, post, hashtag, comment, profile, and photo on the Internet is adding to or detracting from your online reputation. According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 43 percent of hiring managers who researched candidates via social media found something that caused them not to hire an individual. The top no-nos: posting provocative/inappropriate photos (50%), discussing drinking/drug use (48%), and badmouthing a previous employer (33%). Even if you don’t have half-naked photos of yourself online, something as innocuous as typos in your posts could reflect poorly on you.

Here’s how to manage your online reputation.

Google yourself. Note that some browsers may save information about you, so search from a public computer to be sure you’re getting the same results a potential employer will see. Check all of your name variations (Richard, Dick, etc.), but especially the one you use on your résumé.

Beware of online doppelgangers. If another person with your same name has a poor reputation, be prepared to combat this. If this person has a criminal record, paying a reputation management firm may be the answer. Sign up for Google Alerts with your name to be sure that you’re aware of any news stories about murderers, child molesters, and the like who a potential employer could confuse with you. Another way to contend with the doppelganger effect is to purchase a web domain of your name (if available). On your own website, you can create links to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts and include this URL in your cover letter and resume.

Post judiciously. We tell teenagers not to post anything they wouldn’t want Grandma – or Miss Anita! – to see. Now that you’re all grown up, don’t post anything you would want a potential employer to see (review the top three faux pas in the first paragraph). Avoid oversharing (TMI!). Mind what groups you join. Even your extreme political views or a preponderance of snarky comments may have an adverse effect on your career. And let’s hash over #hashtags; don’t post #myjobsucks, #drinktilyoudrop, or anything similar. If you really must have a salty social media record of your shenanigans, you may want to create a separate account under a pseudonym.

Change your privacy settings. Check your Facebook settings to make sure that all of your personal posts are not “Public.” Watch what your friends post, too. Enable timeline and tagging review so that you can approve (or not) your buddies’ ill-conceived tags and posts before they hit your wall. Protect your tweets on Twitter to approve the people who may view your 140-character gems. Consider making your Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr photos private. Use Secret Boards on Pinterest for your more risqué pins, or go to your settings and change the Search Privacy under your Basic Information. Since LinkedIn is basically Facebook for the job world, it may be an exception to my stringent privacy rules. However, be careful not to connect with people you really do not know. And if you want to keep your new job search on the QT, here are some LinkedIn privacy tips from InformationWeek.

Unwanted content still showing up in a search? Do what companies concerned about their SEO do: bury it. New content will push the old mistakes further down the search list. And, really, how many times have you gone to page 3 or 4 of the search results?

Establish credibility and visibility. Use a blog to make yourself an expert in your field. Your blog will be an asset that will follow you from job to job. Post comments and share articles on LinkedIn groups. Even if you don’t have a doppelganger to worry about, consider creating your own personal website with professional content. Post in the comments below if you’d like me to devote an upcoming blog post to the subject of creating your own personal brand website and blog.

Readers: How do you handle the privacy settings on your social media accounts?

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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