Many job seekers underestimate how important it is to have an online presence â€“ a digital footprint â€“ to help convince potential hiring managers that they are right for the job. There is no question a personâ€™s online reputation makes a big difference for job search success. Ironically, the answer to the question, â€œWhat is one of the worst things an employer will find online about a candidate?â€ is, â€œThe worst result is no result at all.â€
This may surprise candidates who make a habit of protecting their privacy so stringently online that a Google search reveals no results at all. Privacy is important, but someone who wants to learn something about a candidate and finds no obvious results may be inclined to search tools offering access to the â€œdeep web,â€ also known as the â€œinvisible web.â€ Pipl.com, one site providing access to this content, explains, â€œThe term â€˜deep webâ€™ refers to a vast repository of underlying content, such as documents in online databases that general-purpose web crawlers cannot reach. The deep web content is estimated at 500 times that of the surface web, yet has remained mostly untapped due to the limitations of traditional search engines.â€
There are two types of information available online: data posted by a candidate and things someone else posts about him or her. Think of the former as a â€œdigital footprintâ€ and the latter as a â€œdigital shadow.â€ Donâ€™t let a shadow dictate what employers will find out about you.Â Why? It gives control to someone else, which can be dangerous in some cases.
For example, Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself.com, shared a story about Cody, who was applying to law schools without success. It turns out, the very first result in a Google search of his name revealed a post created by an ex girlfriend containing embarrassing, unflattering comments about Cody. Since he did not have other information online to combat one personâ€™s vendetta against him, admissions officers were left with questions about his character.
What can someone do to regain control of an unflattering or non-existent, online identity? Ambron suggests the following five steps:
1. Google yourself.Â This is crucial, because itâ€™s impossible to know what could possibly negatively affect a reputation otherwise.
2.Â Claim your domain name and build a personal website.Â Owning Yourname.com and other versions of a personal URL, such as YourName.org or YourName.com will help put control of an online identity in a jobseekerâ€™s hands.
3.Â Set up profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.Â Ideally, capture online â€œhandles,â€ or user names that include your actual name.
4.Â Do some basic search engine optimization.Â In addition to using your own name wherever possible in online monikers, Ambron reminds job seekers to be sure to â€œLink all your various pieces of online content to one another.Â
5.Â Sign up for alerts.Â Itâ€™s important to keep up-to-date on what Google indexes that could affect you. Ambron suggests setting a Google alert, which will send an email when your name Â (or someone with the same name) Âappears in a news article or blog post.
Read the entire post, with all of the tips, on my U.S. News & World Report blog.