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You may not know what an important role online reputation management plays in your executive job search and overall career management.
Do you want to:
- Boost your chances of easily being found by executive recruiters, hiring managers, employers and others sourcing top talent, when they’re assessing you as a candidate?
- Help them see what makes you a good hiring choice through what they find about you online?
- Position yourself as someone who is savvy with technology and the new world of work?
- Be sure your personal brand and unique promise of value are abundantly evident in what people find?
Of course you do.
Whether you’re actively job seeking or think you may be in the future, you need a strong, clean online presence. Even if you feel secure in your job, you need to be visible online. That’s just the way it is today.
You need a solid online reputation management strategy.
Most recruiters and hiring decision makers source and assess talent through Google, LinkedIn and other search engines. You’re being tapped, tossed aside, or overlooked based on what they find (or don’t find) about you online.
According to professor of computer and information sciences Wendy Moncur:
“Behind the scenes, up to 80% of employers and recruitment agencies use social media content as part of their assessment of candidate suitability. Being open online about health conditions, addiction issues, or pregnancy can adversely affect an applicant’s chances of success when applying for jobs, as can a profile that shows polarized views, nonmainstream lifestyle choices, or excessive partying.
Employees can face disciplinary action or dismissal for their conduct on social networking sites, even when posting outside of working hours. Unintentional leakage of sensitive information online—such as trade secrets, intellectual property, and personal details of other employees—can be a security risk for organizations, and lead to loss of competitive advantage, reputation, and client trust.”
All other things being equal with your competitors, having the strongest and cleanest online footprint can tip the scales in your favor. People assessing candidates like you gravitate toward those who stand out the most online.
Many of my clients find me because of my online presence, which I’ve worked hard to build over the years. In our discussions about online identity, they want to know what “quality search results” means. And they want to know how to improve their online reputation.
It takes time for online identity-building to gain traction, so get started on improving and monitoring what people find online associated with your name.
5 Online Reputation Management Keys for Executive Job Search
Stay on-brand and relevant while being visible to your target employers.
- What’s that, you’re not targeting any specific companies?
- You don’t want to limit your options?
- You want to keep yourself open to a variety of positions?
If this is how you’re working your job search campaign, you need to go back and do the branding work with my Personal Branding and Job Search Worksheets before moving ahead with your online campaign.
Without a clear target, how can you possibly:
- Differentiate your brand, ROI and best-fit qualities,
- Create career marketing communications (online and offline) that will hit home, and
- Attract your target audience and clearly distinguish yourself as a good hiring choice?
So, identify and know your target audience. Determine what challenges they’re facing right now that you’re uniquely qualified to help them overcome. Find out what they’re seeking in best-fit candidates.
Keep your online brand messaging relevant to your target and build it around what will resonate with them. Position yourself on sites that are relevant to and frequented by them.
Self-Google right now. Search “your name” on Google and other major search engines.
- What’s in the first several pages of search results?
- How many results are about you?
- Are they accurate and on-brand – the kinds of things you want recruiters and hiring decision makers to know about you?
- How many are about someone with the same name as you?
For the ones that are actually about you, do you find any digital dirt – anything that will tarnish your reputation and brand?
Depending upon the source of the “bad” search result(s), you may be able to replace those spots with “good” ones, by generating more search results and gradually pushing the negative ones off the first page of results, and down to the bottom of the list.
Digital dirt may never entirely go away – a deep search will likely uncover it – but try for a stellar first impression of you. Work on making the first few pages of search results positive ones.
Do you find information about you that you didn’t put there?
If the information has been aggregated by the site, make sure it’s accurate. If it’s not what you want people to find about you, see if you can correct it and align the focus with the rest of your brand communications plan.
What do you do if you have the same name as someone else who has a strong online presence? What if someone with your name is known for doing something awful, and is all over the internet?
Here’s what online job search expert Susan P. Joyce suggests:
If something bad surfaces about someone else with the same name, find a way to address it in your existing online profiles and other visibility (resumes posted on various job sites, etc.), possibly even in a cover letter or blog post.
Emphasize your location or your profession or your age or something else that clearly differentiates you from the bad guy or gal.
Include a good head shot of yourself in your profiles – not one so “smooth” and perfect that it looks like you bought it from iStockPhoto, but a good one that is definitely of you.
Note that Susan includes her middle initial “P” in her name – across her online and real-life communications – to distinguish herself from the many other Susan Joyce’s out there.
Self-Google, say, once a week to monitor your online presence and stay on top of what others find when they search your name.
To help you keep an eye on your digital footprint, set a Google Alert for “your name”. Google will let you know when your name appears online.
Merely creating several online profiles with the same information isn’t enough.
If you’ve done your branding work, and created your resume, biography, LinkedIn profile and other personal marketing materials, you should have a suite of documents and brand bites to pull from. And don’t forget to include the things you’re passionate about at work and away from work. They’re all part of your brand.
Build a good mix of static profiles/web pages and vibrant real-time content:
✅ Create a personal website with blogging capability using “yourname.com” or similar to use as your one-stop hub.
This allows for limitless content to support and build your personal brand, and demonstrate your subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
Add your branded career bio (your “About” page), other career marketing pages and links to all your social networking and social media activity. And start blogging as frequently as you can.
Each web page and/or blog post on your website represents a search result for your name.
✅ Create online profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, other social networking sites, Amazon, other online book sellers, relevant professional associations, etc.
✅ Express your opinions, showcase your expertise and add value by:
- Posting LinkedIn updates and commenting on others’ updates
- Blogging on LinkedIn’s Pulse publishing platform and guest blogging.
- Commenting on other relevant blogs.
- Joining conversations and starting your own on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks
- Contributing to discussions on LinkedIn Groups
✅ Publish white papers on relevant sites.
✅ Post book reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers.
More specifics in my post, 10 Best Ways to Build Your Personal Brand Online
Work on continuously building more and more search results for your name, and increase the number of diverse and accurate results on the first few pages.
Comment on blogs with strong website authority (meaning sites that Google and other search engines deem authorities because they’re content-rich, have been existence for a long time, and have a strong following, among other things). Your comments will likely land high up in search results for your name based on the strength of the site.
For that matter, focus on strong sites to build up your volume of search results – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, etc. Any activity on strong sites will likely result in those web pages (with your name on them) landing towards the top of your list of search results.
One caveat: While you’re building more search results for your name, always be mindful of your safety and privacy.
To run a relatively cyber-safe job search, NEVER provide the following information in emails (email is social media, too) or anywhere online that may not be absolutely secure:
- Birthdate – if you can’t join an important social networking site without providing this, make one up, using a different month, day, and year.
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card information
- PayPal account number
- Mother’s maiden name
- Spouse’s name
- Home address
- Town where you were born
Express the same personal brand message, designed to resonate with your target audience, across all communications channels you decide to use.
I don’t mean that you should use the same information over and over. I mean that you should communicate the same kind of message. Introduce some new information on each of your online profiles, so they don’t all read exactly the same.
Put yourself in the place of people assessing you through your online identity and deciding whether to hire you or do business with you. If your brand message and focus varies from one real-life setting to the next or from one social network to the next or from one website to the next, your target audience won’t clearly see your promise of value to them. You’ll confuse them.
Use the same name or handle across all channels, as you’re building your online footprint, so that you’re easy to find and distinguish.
All of your personal marketing communications must consistently be relevant to your target companies and be adjusted if your target audience changes.
Online Reputation Management DON’Ts
There are many things NOT to do and to be aware of with online reputation management.
I mentioned digital dirt earlier.
People assessing you through what they find about you online may do deep, advanced searches. They could uncover things you may not think they could find, or would bother with.
You can control what you put out there about yourself, but you can’t always control what others say about you online.
If you or someone else has posted negative or damaging things about you online, it could sabotage your chances of landing a new job, or keeping the job you already have.
Don’t just ignore digital dirt hoping it will go away. It probably won’t. Do what you can to have it taken down, if someone else put it there.
But also, it’s up to you to refrain from putting negative stuff out there yourself.
For instance, it can be very easy to fall into posting snarky comments online when heated discussions go back and forth.
Two of the many problems with this:
- If you’re posting anywhere online other than an account of your own, you may not be able to get the comment taken down, once (and if) you realize what a dope you were to post it in the first place.
- And if people re-post your misdeed, it can spread exponentially and land all over the place in seconds. Before you can catch your breath, it’s out of control.
Don’t engage with people who start these kinds of comments or who write these kinds of posts.
If you’re the victim of extremely bad behavior online, like bullying, hate speech, personal threats or other abuse, report and block those people.
What If You Already Put Compromising Information on Your Social Media Accounts. Should You Delete Them?
So many of us frequently post to our social media accounts. It would be impossible to remember and find all questionable things you may have posted in the past, if you’re someone who posts negative things a lot.
It’s best to do an advanced search on “your name” and see what you find.
What if you find compromising or negative info you forgot you put there? What should you do?
If it’s too much stuff to reasonably hand-delete, you might think it’s a good idea to delete all those social media accounts entirely and stop posting online.
But then you’d compromise your mission to be as visible and easy to find online as possible.
I strongly advise against deleting all your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn where you absolutely need to be visible and active.
You could instead focus your online brand building on your personal website alone, regularly posting new articles and information.
But that, too, won’t make for a diverse online footprint. And a website alone won’t do much for you without using social media to spread the content out from your site.
Do what you can to delete the worst of your online transgressions and make a vow to only post positive, brand-reinforcing things about yourself and kind things about others.
Remember the saying “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, say nothing.”
Wendy Moncur further advises disconnecting from friends on social media who post unflattering or negative things about you:
“If you are featured in content posted by others, ask them to take it down. Untag yourself.
If all else fails, detach yourself from online connections who have tagged you at your worst so that the content is not associated with you.
If there’s too much content that may harm your employment prospects, tighten your privacy settings so that potential employers can’t see it. If membership of a specific social media site is linked to a past that you no longer align with . . . untag yourself and delete your account for good measure.”
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Ed Han says
Meg, this is superb: it would never have occurred to me to leverage a site like Amazon for this purpose!
Meg Guiseppi says
Aw shucks, Ed. You’re too kind. Thank you!
Posting a profile and writing book reviews on Amazon (and other major booksellers) is a fairly easy way to build quality search results for “your name”.