Whether you like it or not, you probably
have an online reputation. Although this might not concern you, prospective employers
and even prospective dates may well hit the Internet to find out more about
you, and what they find might not always reflect well on you. Recent research
indicates that in excess of 70 per cent of recruitment agencies and human
resource professionals in the United States make use of the Internet to glean
information on potential employees. Many have also acted on information so
gathered to reject candidates. However, those who manage their online
reputation can make a very positive impression, making it well worth investing
some time in your digital self.
do you get one?
An online reputation is built up through
your interaction not only with online content, but also through information
posted by others. A company profile could include information on you,
organisations you are a member of might post newsletters online, or even
newspaper articles you are mentioned in could be posted online. Any photos or
comments you post online, as well as photos and comments posted by other, could
go towards building your online reputation, whether for better or for worse.
Therefore, even if you do not interact with the Internet at all, you could
still have an online reputation.
The first step in starting to manage your
online reputation is to find out what is already out there.
“I would always assume that a prospective
employer will at the very least run a Google search for your name with your
hometown. Therefore, I’d recommend doing the same before starting your job
search to make sure what they see is going to be acceptable or to address any
content of concern,” says Steve McIntosh, CEO of CML Offshore Recruitment.
Type your name into any search engine,
preferably in quotation marks, in order to get rid of all references that might
only contain either your surname or first name. This should come up with a list
of mentions on websites. Should you have a relatively common name, or share a
name with a celebrity, finding the entries that apply to you might be a little
bit harder. Try adding search terms like your city, your company, or your
middle name to the search parameters to narrow it down and see to it that the
hits you do get are relevant.
“It used to be that your email address said
a lot about your persona, for example [email protected] and
[email protected] However, now with people posting personal photos and chat,
this says a lot more to a current or future employer than an email address
about the suitability of a current or potential employee,” Ciara Aspinall,
partner and operations supervisor with SteppingStones.
Sifting through the hits
Once you have a collection of hits that
seem to refer to you, start by going through them to see what they say.
Depending on what you do for a living, many of the hits may be work related.
Most of these tend to help build an online profile rather than break it down.
However, where things can get tricky is when you find photos or videos of you
on sharing sites like Flickr or YouTube, comments you made on websites, Twitter
messages or Facebook updates. You might even come up with hits related to
online gaming sites or online classifieds listings.
By now you should have an idea of what your
online reputation looks like. If it is good, you need to work to keep it that
way. If it is bad, you might want to change some of your online habits in order
to improve it.
Checking your online reputation often can
help you manage it more effectively. Some search engines will allow you to
register for updates when certain search terms, for example your name or e-mail
address, pop up on the web. Knowing about these may allow you to trace the
source quickly and see to it that the image or post does not have time to
spread too widely before it is removed. Occasionally you can just ask whoever
posted a photo or comment to remove it, while some websites have a facility whereby
you can make a request for offending content to be removed.
Think before you post
The best security feature when it comes to
your online reputation is you. One of the best ways to limit some of the
negative impressions that might be created is to think before you post. This is
especially important on public forums where anyone can read your statements.
Photographs of parties and social events could also be seen as reflecting an
unprofessional image, something a potential employer may take into account when
deciding who to employ.
“Think about whether or not this reflects
your office persona. If it does not reflect your office persona, then think
about changing it as your image has the potential to be viewed by thousands of
people and it could have an impact on your current or potential employment,”
Be especially wary of photos showing
alcohol consumption or inappropriate behaviour and never post any photo that
shows you doing something illegal. Also take care which groups you belong to on
the web, as membership in certain more controversial groups can make prospective
employers think twice about employing you.
Many social network sites like Facebook
offer various security settings, which allow you to regulate who has access to
your information and how much information they can access. This means that even
if you decide to post photographs of parties or social events that you might
not want your work colleagues to see, you can set your preferences so that only
your friends can see your photos.
“Each social networking platform has its
own risks and controls to mitigate them, which should be used judiciously,”
An open Facebook profile can pose a risk as
you are not 100 per cent in control of the content that might show up on your
“This creates a risk that anyone could say
something, whether or true or not, that could be read by a prospective
employer. This could range from the
mildly inappropriate sarcastic comment to the career-ending accusation of serious
wrongdoing,” says McIntosh.
on your friends
Even though your own security setting on
social network sites may be tightly controlled, your family and friends may
have open profiles, which could allow photographs of you posted on their sites
to be visible to anyone. It might be worth looking into whether anyone who
posts photos or comments about you has the security needed to do so privately.
A technique used by many people who would
like to keep their working life and private life separate is to use different
email addresses for different aspects of their life. This means that should
someone type your email address into a search engine, they will only come up with
information linked to that email address. Therefore, supplying prospective
employers with an email address used for professional dealings makes it less
likely that they will stumble upon things like your online gaming account or
your persona in a virtual world, which could be linked to your private email
out the negative
Posting positive photos, comments and other
content can help crowd out the occasional negative that might pop up and make
any negative hits that are out there appear like the exception rather than the
Joining a professional network site like
LinkedIn is also a good option for building positive press.
“LinkedIn is pretty straightforward and can
be useful for attracting job offers,” says McIntosh.
However, there are possible drawbacks as
well for those who are not cautious.
“One word of caution would be to make sure
your account contact settings do not include ‘career opportunities’, which it
will otherwise include automatically. This is a potential embarrassment to both
you and your employer. It often surprises me how many senior people I know with
public profiles on LinkedIn who appear to be seeking new employment opportunities,”
according to McIntosh.
However, McIntosh advises that a determined
recruiter will not be put off of by this and that you may still receive offers,
which you can follow up on or ignore as you see fit.
Managing your online reputation involves
more than merely getting rid of the negative photos and comments. Joining
relevant groups and contributing thoughtful comments to forums linked to your
area of expertise can help improve your online profile as well as give a
potential employer an idea of how you can add value to the company.
Rather than responding with inane comments
on photos or forums, limit your responses to well thought out comments that are
also put through a spell checker. Posts displaying a lack of language skills
can reflect negatively on you, even if the content of the post is not negative.
Micro-blogging sites like Twitter may
appear to be a quick and easy way to get your thoughts out there, but by its
very nature can prove dangerous.
“Many people in high places have found themselves
in hot water after poorly advised Twitter postings. Micro-blogging is all about
frequent, from-the-top-of-your-head posting, which by nature does not lend
itself to impressing anyone,” says McIntosh.
However, the option exists to make your
posts private and limit them to followers who you have approved, which could
lessen the risk somewhat.
carefully about blogging
Blogging about an area of interest can
contribute, as long as you do not reveal any information that could be regarded
as proprietary by your employer.
“Even blogging proper requires some degree
of candour that may not necessarily enhance your career. If you are saying
anything worth reading, you’re probably saying something somewhat
controversial,” says McIntosh.
Finding the right balance on your blog can
be difficult, and prospective employers may well fear that they could end up as
subject matter for your blog.
The most important source for content about
you is you. Taking care with postings and also considering the impact your
actions outside work could have should it appear on the web can help your
online reputation create a positive impression.