Sometimes in job search you’ll inadvertently do something that will contaminate your personal brand. You do one unfortunate thing or get into bad habits and BOOM!, you’ve blown a hole in your brand.
Other times, things beyond your control intervene to tarnish the good work you’ve done building your personal brand.
And still other times, your lack of understanding of the new world of job search in the digital age can wreak havoc.
Here are some things you may be doing that can sabotage your job search, before you even get a foot in the door.
7 Ways To Contaminate Your Personal Brand in Executive Job Search
1. Digital Dirt
Do you know what people assessing you for jobs are finding about you online?
Do this right now. Go to a new browser window and Google “your name”.
- How many of the results on page one lead to a web page associated with you?
- Are there any results associated with you that reflect badly on you?
- Do you see results for someone else with your name?
- Are there so many others with your name that it’s hard to find anything about yourself?
- Has anyone with the same name as you been involved in criminal or other objectionable activities?
Now, pretend you’re someone who has identified you as a potential candidate for a job at one of your target companies, and they’re Googling your name:
- How do you think they’ll react to your digital dirt? They’ll most likely forget about you and move on to the next candidate.
- Will they have a hard time distinguishing you from others with the same name? They probably won’t take the time to figure out which results apply to you.
- How many pages of search results do they have to go through to find anything about you? If they find little (or nothing) of substance, they’ll think you’re out of date with the digital age.
- Will they mistake you for someone with the same name who has done bad things? They probably won’t take the time to verify whether that’s you or someone else, and they’ll move on to the next candidate.
If you have a common name, you need to clearly distinguish yourself online among the sea of same-named people.
If you have the same name as someone who has done something awful to discredit their name (and thereby your name), you need to distinguish yourself from what exists online about them.
Get in the habit of self-Googling, say, once a week to monitor and fix (if possible) what others will find about you online.
You’ll find strategies to deal with this in my post, Personal SEO in Executive Job Search: What’s in a Name?
2. Online INvisibility
Conversely, a minimal or non-existent online presence can contaminate your personal brand.
In particular, if you’re not on LinkedIn – with a robust profile, proactively leveraging the site – you’re less likely to be found and, if you are found, you’ll be a much less attractive candidate than those who are fully using LinkedIn.
I know, I know. You may not want to put yourself “out there” because you’re concerned about safety and privacy issues. I get that.
But, without a diverse online presence that reinforces your personal brand and value to the companies you’re targeting, executive recruiters and hiring professionals may pass you right by, in favor of others who do have a vibrant online footprint.
These people source and assess talent by what they find about them online. They’re looking for plenty of information about each candidate, and they want “social proof”, to validate the claims these candidates have made in their resumes and other personal marketing materials.
If you’re in a job search and have little or no online presence – that is, a good number of positive, solid search results when your name is Googled – you may be invisible to them.
More and more of your competitors in the executive job market are working on building online presence, and have embraced LinkedIn, at the very least, as a foundation. Just to keep pace with them, you’ve got to match their efforts. So start with LinkedIn, but don’t stop there.
Think about this. So many qualified candidates DO have fully-fleshed out, keyword-rich LinkedIn profiles but not much else online. How much better do you think you’ll look, if search results for “your name” bring up several more web pages with added information that will be useful to people assessing you?
3. “Borrowing” Content
It may not seem that bad to swipe a bit of well-written content from someone else’s LinkedIn profile or resume . . . even though you know that plagiarizing is wrong. But that’s just one of the many reasons not to copy another person’s brand content.
Check out my post Look, I Found My Personal Brand Doppelganger! for more about these 7 reasons why copying someone else’s content can contaminate your personal brand:
- You may be overlooked because of identity confusion and conflicts.
- Copyright infringement is a big deal.
- LinkedIn may close your account.
- You’ve lost the differentiating benefits of authentic personal branding.
- It may not resonate with your specific target employers.
- Think about your reputation and integrity.
- Poor SEO (Search Engine Optimization) reduces impact and authority.
4. Online Snark
At a time when world leaders think nothing of tweeting nasty, defamatory remarks, you may think the rules of social etiquette have loosened.
You may think it’s okay now to rage and vent online, and denegrate people who don’t agree with your politics, or way of living, or doing things.
In my opinion, it’s never a good idea to say negative things about people . . . especially in writing . . . anywhere.
You’ll never come off well. Better to keep such strong opinions to yourself, or voice them only among friends and family.
However justified you feel speaking your mind, it’s not worth alienating people, especially when you’re looking for a job, and people who can help you land will see what you put out there, when they Google “your name”.
It just never makes sense to be negative or attack others in our communications . . . especially when they’re online for all the world to see.
I wrote about an instance where someone attacked me online in Personal Brand Buzzkill: Snarky Comments on LinkedIn Pulse.
5. Misrepresenting Yourself
Never, ever make a claim about yourself that isn’t true – in any of your job search marketing materials (LinkedIn profile, other online profiles, resume, biography, etc.)
For instance, don’t use a job title in your LinkedIn headline (or resume summary) that you’ve never held.
Although you want to use this spot to position yourself for future roles, including a job title you never held – such as “Director of Information Technology” – is a lie, unless you make it clear that this is a role you’re seeking.
Lies almost always catch up with you, and will knock you out of the running . . . if not right away, then somewhere along the line in the interviewing/hiring process.
6. Even Grammar and Spelling Errors Can Contaminate Your Personal Brand
Perhaps it goes without saying that typos, misspellings and grammatical errors in your job search materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, biography, etc.) are the kiss of death.
Surely, it’s no surprise that candidates demonstrating a strong grasp of the English language are more desirable. People assume they’ll be better communicators and leaders on the job.
But we all make mistakes. Prevalent typos like “manger” for “manager” plague all of us, and should be forgiven, right?
Well, maybe, but don’t count on it. Diligent proofreading is a must.
Grammatical errors can convey the wrong message and even make you look ridiculous. Confusing misplaced modifiers and phrases can distort what you meant to say.
More about this in my post, Do Grammar and Spelling Errors Really Matter in Executive Job Search?
7. Poor Emailing Habits
An email message may carry the first impression you make on someone.
That first impression can advance or derail your opportunity to position the value you offer the employers you’re targeting.
Don’t blow your chances by send out email messages that contain any of these bloopers, as outlined in my post, 10 (plus one) of the Worst Executive Job Search Email Mistakes.
- Off-putting email address
- Inappropriate or non-existent subject line
- Not personalizing and customizing for each reader
- Writing too informally
- Difficult to digest content
- Grammatical errors and typos
- Forgetting your branded email signature with the sign-off
- Attachment errors
- The misconception that your email message will convey tone and nuance
- Thinking that your email messages will always reach their destination
- The misconception that your email message will always be read by the addressee only.