Self-Google or Doom Your Executive Job Search

by Meg Guiseppi on April 23, 2012

Executive Job Search Jeopardy

Right before I speak with potential clients for the first time, I Google their names.

This is exactly what many hiring professionals and executive recruiters do when they’re assessing candidates.

What I typically find is a very meager online footprint, with very little social networking. They’ll almost always have a LinkedIn profile and, unless that person shares a name with others, LinkedIn will be the number one search result on the page, and it will be associated with the person I’m about to speak with.

Most often, they’ve posted a bare-bones LinkedIn profile, with no summary section, no keyword-rich professional headline, and very little (if any) information under each job title. Beyond LinkedIn, they will rarely have any social media presence.

I generally only search the first page of results for my initial chat. What I’m looking for is more information about the person to assess whether they’re a good fit to work with me, to see whether they’ve done any work to build their brand online, and to see if they have any digital dirt that could cripple their search.

Frequently these job seekers are unaware of how important it is for them to have a strong, branded online presence. Given the same set of qualifications, skills and expertise, those who have a diverse and higher-volume of search results are more likely to be noticed, sought out, and hired.

According to Talent Management Magazine’s article about a recent survey from CareerBuilder, nearly 37 percent of firms use social networking sites to research job candidates. What are they looking for?

  • To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally — 65 percent
  • To see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture — 51 percent
  • To learn more about the candidate’s qualifications — 45 percent
  • To see if the candidate is well-rounded — 35 percent
  • To look for reasons not to hire the candidate — 12 percent

Nearly 34 percent found information that caused them NOT to hire a candidate.

That issue can pose major problems for some job seekers. In today’s highly competitive job market, hiring professional have their pick of the absolute best. If they find dirt or even a flimsy reason to rule you out, they will. There are plenty of others to slide in place.

One of the major problems I find when Googling people’s names is not within content these people posted themselves online (if they’ve even done so). It’s not inappropriate behavior that found its way online, or that they posted somewhere.

I’m finding content on the first page of results that the person DIDN’T post themselves, so they may have little control over it.

  • Sometimes the person knows about it.
  • Sometimes the person had an unfortunate blip in their career or personal life that made news. They’ve since made amends, but the bad news lingers forever online.
  • Sometimes the content is associated with some dastardly person who has the same name.

Whatever the reason, those search results could seriously damage their job search.

My searches on two recent client prospects revealed problematic online identities:

1. A 65 year old mid-level sales and marketing executive, who was very concerned about ageism in his search.

LinkedIn was the #1 search result. About half way down the first page was a link to his high school yearbook and the year he graduated. Instantly, his age was revealed.

2. The second search result for a CMO in medical devices (let’s call him “Joe Smith”) jumped out with the hyperlink “Can anyone share their real thoughts on Joe Smith?” Who wouldn’t be drawn to that headline?

The link led to a snarky industry-related chat site where several anonymous people on his team trashed his leadership abilities . . . in detail.

In both instances above, the job seekers probably can’t get those pages taken down. Their only recourse is to work on outdistancing those bad search results with good ones, pushing the bad ones down and onto the second, or hopefully, third or fourth pages of results, where they’re less likely to be found.

Your takeaway?

Follow the steps that hiring professionals do when they’re sourcing and assessing talent by what they find online. Know what the people who have a hand in hiring you will find when they search you.

Do a quick Google search on “your name” right now, and then once a week or so, and see what’s out there.

If you find digital dirt, here are three things to do:

  • Try to push it down beyond the first page or two by building up branded, relevant search results on high-ranking sites.
  • See if you can get the page taken down.
  • See if you can rewrite the content to position yourself in a more positive light.

Related posts:

Does Your Online Presence Scream “DON’T Hire Me”?

Executive Job Search: 6 Ways to Get Good With Google

Executive Branding Online: Write Book Reviews on Amazon

photo by SallyB2

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