As the saying goes, most people conduct a Google search before they ‘hire it, try it, buy it or date it’. If the saying’s true, then making sure your house is in order online would be wise before you embark on a search for media jobs.
Over 85 per cent of recruiters admit to conducting a search online when sifting through job applicants, and while they would never admit it, it’s a pretty safe bet that many applicants have been rejected at the long-listing stage purely because of what was found out about them online.
It’s no longer resumes and references you need to worry about during a job search and while you may have an abundance of letters giving you a glowing endorsement, one less-than-favourable piece of content revealed during a simple Google search and it could be game over. For example, while a search may uncover a positive piece of news or two, it might also dredge up a bankruptcy from 10 years ago, pictures from a drunken night out or even information on a sticky divorce.
One female employee who was offered a large redundancy package revealed her delight on Facebook and was promptly sacked while another man was the subject of an online hate campaign which saw potential employers being told not to hire him. The onslaught meant he was unable to find a job for 12 months and more than $100,000 of his retirement fund. As you can see, your online reputation is serious business.
What is Online Reputation Management?
This is simply the act of monitoring search engine results for your name. This monitoring, or ‘passive reputation management’, will help you see what comes up when you Google your name and if it’s anything unsavoury, action can be taken.
It’s wise to ensure your Facebook profile is open only to friends – although prospective employers could always see posts and images on your friends’ pages, and if any images make it out onto the web, it will be virtually impossible to eradicate. That said, if any undesirable content is identified elsewhere on the web, the site should be contacted without delay and a request made to remove the offending material. It’s also worth removing tags from pictures that are anything other than squeaky clean.
Proactive reputation management occurs when you systematically and intentionally post content that positions you as an expert in your field or as an active exponent of your chosen industry. This activity could take the form of blog comments, joining and interacting with LinkedIn groups, tweeting regularly and by answering questions and posting opinions. You can also use proactive management to ‘suppress’ negative content. By posting more positive content, the idea is that the negative stuff is pushed down the Google search results.
If things have got personal online and your rep is proving difficult to manage alone there are a growing number of organisations that can help you out when the going gets tough. Reputation.com, and even Google’s own ‘Me on the Web’ can help you manage any negativity that might be out there and devise a strategy to counter any potentially damaging information.
Alan Assante of New Jersey’s Integrity Defenders explains how his company suppresses negative data: “We try and promote good information about you. Whether it’s your accomplishments or good things you’ve done in the past, we use that information to suppress the unwanted information.”
What else can I do?
If you uncover more negative material than you were expecting then the chances are there will be some content that either slips through the net or simply will not budge, no matter how much you plead with the site owner. If emails, proactive management, changing your privacy settings and suppression have failed to work, or if you would like to start off on the right foot, there are still things you can do.
By adding a personalised QR code to your job seeker cards or letters, even your website or resume, then you can funnel prospective employers to a repository of hand-picked, positive information. What’s more, for the older jobseeker using a QR code shows they are tech savvy, and anyone using them gives the impression of leadership, forward-thinking and fun.
Other ways to distract and divert unwanted attention and recruiters and protect your reputation would be to set up more than one email address – after all, the address you had at college might not be appropriate for the world of work. Additionally, you might want to consider using different usernames for different websites. Most people use the word(s) before the @ in their email address as their username on nearly every website their registered with. It wouldn’t take a determined investigator long to work out how to get into your eBay account to your social media pages and find information you would rather stayed hidden.