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3 Job Seeker Tips for Protecting Your Online Reputation

Anthony KirlewToday's guest post is written by Anthony Kirlew (pictured), author of The Internet Marketing Guide for Small Business. He has founded three online marketing firms and served in various corporate roles such as Search Engine Marketing Director and Web Marketing Manager. Anthony also operates his own blog, oldschoolseo.com.

It’s common today for savvy employers and recruiters to do a web search on a prospective employee as part of a background check. I recall an interview a few years back when a hiring manager asked me about my involvement in the real estate business as well as a network marketing company I'd been affiliated with—details I hadn't mentioned in my resume. As I answered his questions (knowing he already had the answers), I thought: "This guy has really done his homework." That interview taught me the importance of online reputation management.

For those who are not aware, online reputation management simply means monitoring what is said online about you, and ensuring that only positive attributes can be found in the search engines. As it relates to your job search, it's critical that you know what the search engines will reveal about you before you submit your resume or contact a recruiter. For example, if you enjoy the party scene and you’ve got pictures on Facebook that everyone but your mother can see, the hiring manager may learn  a bit more about you than you’d prefer. Or maybe you're a blogger and you express political or religious viewpoints that are controversial or opposite those of the hiring manager.

There are many similar scenarios and they absolutely affect hiring decisions. We know hiring managers are not supposed to be biased, but let’s be real.

Here are three tips to help you monitor and manage your online reputation:

  1. Google Yourself. If you have not set up a Google Alert for your name, do it. This is a free service from Google that alerts you any time it indexes content that includes your name. This way, if there's anything questionable out there, you'll know quickly and can respond accordingly. Visit Google Alerts to register.
  2. Keep Your Personal Accounts Private. One of the most basic things you can do to keep your personal life away from the search engines is to make sure your social media profiles (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) are set to "private." (In Facebook, for example, you can check your privacy settings by clicking Account, then Privacy Settings.) This way, only people you authorize will be able to see your photos and posts.
  3. Create a Separate Online Profile for Career Purposes. Consider setting up social media profiles that highlight only your job history, professional accomplishments, and career goals. I recommend that every job seeker create a profile on LinkedIn, the largest professional social networking site, which is highly respected by hiring managers. In fact, many recruiters and hiring managers routinely look for candidates on LinkedIn. I also strongly recommend that you do industry-related writing on trusted sites in addition to posting your resume online and creating social media profiles.

However, there are two circumstances you may not be able to overcome with this strategy:  When you have the same name as someone who has done something unethical or criminal; and when you have done something unethical or criminal. Either way, upfront communication is the key. It's often easy to overcome a case of mistaken identity by highlighting what that person does and some facts that distinguish you, such as age and industry. If the problem is an incident from your own past, again, be up front about it. Let the employer know what happened and the circumstances surrounding it. Most of all, emphasize that you have learned a valuable lesson and that it was a catalyst for personal change.

So, what are you waiting for? See what the web has to say about you! Then, make sure that anyone else who searches your name can see only what you want them to see.

RELATED LINKS

5 Things Job Seekers and Employers Should Do in 2010
Have Employers Ruined Facebook?
LinkedIn Meets Twitter: What It Means for You

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