How to clean up your online presence before job hunting

2nd Nov 2016
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“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” These words by Warren Buffet ring true especially in today’s time. In this age of social media and digital footprints, your online presence or online reputation is an important part of your personality, especially so for jobseekers. It is no secret that recruiters take a look at your social media profiles and Google you to get an idea of what your capabilities and ideologies are. A survey conducted by ExecuNet found that of 100 recruiters 77 of them used search engines to learn about a candidate and of them 35 percent eliminated a candidate if they found something undesirable online. The survey predicted that the number of job seekers to be prejudged or eliminated due to this “digital dirt” will only increase in the time to come.

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According to yet another survey of recruiters, the top concerns that alert them about a jobseeker are: information on drug or alcohol use (41 percent managers said so), inappropriate photos (40 percent), poor communication skills reflected through online interactions (29 percent), bad-mouthing employees or the employer (28 percent), unprofessional screen names (22 percent) and sharing confidential information about past employers (19 percent). The best way is to prevent and stay away from posting such things in the first place. But to err is only human, so in case you have things to hide or you may have posted things that you don’t want your recruiter seeing, it is time to clean up. So here is how you can clean up your online act and make sure that your potential employers or recruiters see only what you want them to:

Assess the present situation

Before going any further, you need to have a clear picture of where you and the information about you stand now. Sign out from your Google accounts and try searching for your name. Take note of the first few pages of the results that pop up. Try this on various search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Altavista and so on. Make note of things you would rather not pop up with your name.

Remove results you don’t like

Now that you know what all comes up when a person searches for you online, take steps to remove unwanted results. You may be able to explain some of the stuff that does pop up, but what if you never get to reach a stage where the employer is willing to listen to you. So don’t take a chance here, go ahead with removing it. And, it always needn’t be things you posted. It could be trolls, fake accounts, impersonators and so on. Whatever be the case, take measures to tackle it. Google and other search engines have specific processes for you to request that the content be taken down. On Facebook, you can either untag yourself from posts, delete old posts or go to Privacy Settings and chose the Limit Past Post Visibility option. If this doesn’t solve the problem, here is a detailed article on how to fix posts that are not under your control. There are also specific companies like BrandYourself that will help you manage your online reputation at a price.

Create positive content

It is not always enough to take out the negative information; you may need to replace it with positive information as well. This does not mean that you need to build a fake image of yourself. Stay true to who you are and make sure your social media profiles project the same picture. For instance, update your LinkedIn profile with details about your skills, interests, volunteer work, achievements and so on. Update your photograph on all your profiles and remember to stick to the specific kind of picture that each platform warrants. Post on your blog regularly, if you have one. One of the main strategies that reputation managers use is to increase the frequency and amount of positive content to drive out the negative results, if any.

Create a personal website

Every jobseeker needs to have both a resume and a portfolio to show potential employers. What if you can combine both in a personal website? A website looks extremely professional and will create an instant impression on the hirer. In a study conducted by branded.me, 71 percent of those surveyed said that having a personal website was very important in helping build their personal brand. You could also opt for free alternatives like About.me or Flavors.me if you do not have the money to spare.

Watch out for results

Once you have done all you can in your capacity to clean up your digital dirt, wait for how people are finding you and where they click on your website or profile to leave your page. You could use Google Analytics to find this and also get access to many such important social media engagement indicators. Google Alerts is also a handy tool if you want to find out as soon as you are mentioned online. This will help you keep a track on how your name is used and perceived online.

Remember that those recruiters who are looking up for you online have never met you. They are making a decision about whether or not they should meet you and give you a shot. So appear likeable. This does not mean you should fake it all the way. Be truthful and put your best foot forward, and, as mentioned above, the best way is definitely to be careful about what you post online. Understand that anything you post online is never truly private, nor does it completely disappear once you delete it. So those of you who are looking for a job, it is better to clean up your online presence and start a career without having to fall back on dishonest claims.

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