A 2018 CareerBuilder survey found that seven in 10 employers research candidates online before hiring them. Your search-engine presence can help or hinder your chances of getting the job, so it’s important to cultivate your online reputation.
“The way you present yourself online provides a snapshot of what a business might expect from you as an employee,” says Igor Kholkin, founder of Avidon Marketing Group. As the CEO of a digital marketing agency who also recruits and hires his team, he uniquely understands the mindset of recruiters as well as the ways in which candidates can optimize their online presence and improve their chances of getting hired.
So what are the red flags you should look out for? According to Kholkin, there are three major issues that can work against you if a hiring manager Googles your name.
1) No Online Presence
The most common problem for candidates is having no online presence. If the hiring manager Googles your name and nothing comes up, it’s like you don’t exist.
“While this isn’t a negative thing per se, it can put you at a competitive disadvantage,” says Kholkin. “You fade into the background while other qualified candidates stand out with engaging portfolios and professional profiles.”
Considering that only 2% of applicants are called in for an interview, you need to give yourself every advantage possible. Fortunately, this is easy to fix.
- Create a LinkedIn profile and populate it with relevant professional information.
- Sign up for a Twitter account using your real name, and use it to connect with professionals in your industry.
- Create a profile on several free profile sites where you can highlight your professional skills or publish your portfolio. Community websites like Goodreads and Quora will let you create a free profile page, and directories like Spoke and Biznik let you showcase your professional skills.
In addition, consider setting up a blog on a free platform like WordPress, Wix, or Blogger. Post a few articles related to your skillset. Make sure to use your first and last name prominently in your titles and descriptions to make the blog rank well for your name.
2) A Poor Online Reputation
Perhaps the worst case scenario for a candidate is when a hiring manager searches your name and discovers photos of you drinking with your friends, incendiary Twitter feuds, or candid blog posts about why x politician is ruining the world.
According to Kholkin, “Hiring managers are looking for polished professionals who are not only responsible but will fit in with the company culture. Don’t let your personal life affect your candidacy.”
This doesn’t mean you have to sell out your beliefs or give up your Saturday nights. It just means you need to be careful about what you showcase to the general public, especially when you’re looking for a job. Audit your online footprint, and look for:
- Inappropriate photos
- Suggestive posts
- Content that takes a bold or extreme political stance (in any direction)
- Posts or comments that can read as abusive, inflammatory, or threatening
Once you’ve identified these items, you have a few options:
- Remove the controversial posts/photos/videos/comments
- Set your public profiles to private (or “Friends Only”)
- Remove your real name and use a pseudonym or general username
In addition, it may be a good idea to curb your overzealous involvement on public boards and blogs.
3) An Online Presence That Fails to Showcase Your Professional Skills
Even when you have a clean reputation, an online footprint that only shows a few forum posts about your favorite sports team and some pictures of you with your Shar-Pei is a missed opportunity. If 70% of recruiters are using Google to research your qualifications (per the aforementioned CareerBuilder survey), you want them to find information that makes the case for why they should hire you.
“Your first 15-20 search results should reveal your professional skills or show your contributions to discussions in industry-relevant blogs/forums,” says Kholkin. “This is something that hiring managers will take note of and it’s an easy way for candidates to stand out as well as showcase their qualifications.”
The key is to build profiles on websites that:
- Rank well in search engines
- Feature your first and last name in search results
- Allow you to showcase your professional skills
As previously noted, LinkedIn is a good place to start, but having a profile is not enough. Get involved in groups within your industry and post original content to increase your presence. Other great sites for professional profiles include About.me and AngelList.
In addition, look for prominent, industry-specific websites that allow you to post a portfolio. Many writers use Contently to post a writing portfolio, while developers use Github to showcase their skills, and designers depend on Behance to archive their creative works. If you’re not sure which websites will work for you, Google other professionals in your industry and create profiles on the same sites where their profiles rank.
Let Google Be Your #1 Advocate
In most cases, you should be able to make the necessary adjustments in a single afternoon. However, if you’re creating new web pages and profiles, it’s going to take some time for those pages to rank. So if you’re thinking about changing jobs three or six months down the line, the time to start improving your online profile is now.
In addition, be proactive about maintaining that reputation. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 34% of employers have disciplined or fired employees due to social media behavior. Don’t become a statistic. As long as you use common sense and keep your professional information at the forefront, you’ll be the type of applicant and employee that HR managers love.
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