Did you know that 89% of hiring managers and recruiters review candidate's professional online data and 86% of employers believe a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions (2011 survey from U.S. News and World Report)? Social networking sites, such as Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn are a great way to establish a professional online presence, and future employers are Googling your name to investigate your online presence.
Establishing a professional online presence
Employers want to see that you have an online presence, but it’s up to you to control and take advantage of online tools to promote yourself. Follow these 4 steps to create a professional online presence:
Step 1: Investigate
Search for your name using search engines like Answers, Ask, Bing, Dogpile, Google, and Yahoo. Search both pages and images.
Review the 1st several pages of search results.
Are you able to find yourself? Do you have an online presence? What kind of impression or conclusions may one draw about you after seeing the results?
Did you find any digital dirt? Digital dirt is information about you that can be found online through personal websites, profiles on popular social-networking sites, and comments on blogs, shopping sites, etc. that reflect you in a negative way. The digital dirt may be photos, videos, comments or reviews, or general information about you. Future employers may use your digital dirt to draw conclusions about you, including your character and integrity.
Step 2: Clean up your profile
Did you find digital dirt? Take some steps to eliminate the digital dirt:
Delete inappropriate materials. If something is questionable, delete it, even if it is protected through privacy settings. You don’t want to risk inappropriate materials getting into the hands of the wrong person. In Facebook remove tags of yourself from photos that you are not able to remove.
Change your privacy settings. Review your privacy settings in Facebook and your other social networking sites, and make sure that your settings are appropriate.
Contact Google if the site is cached. Once information is posted online, you can’t take it back. Google and other search engines “crawl” the Internet and store copies of pages. Even if you delete information, a cached page may still appear when you conduct a search. Google re-crawls sites on a regular basis, but if you need something to be removed, it’s worth the effort to contact Google. In addition, remember that once you post something, others gain control of that information. If you post inappropriate photos, others can save those photos on their computer and put them back online at a later date.
If you want digital dirt to be removed that resides on a page that you are not able to control, contact the Webmaster and ask for it to be removed.
Did you find outdated or old information?
Cancel accounts you are no longer using. You don’t want “old” information residing online from accounts that you no longer update.
Step 3: Make the good outweigh the bad
What do you want a future employer to know about you (beyond what is in your cover letter and resume)? Have you thought about showcasing your professional interests, academic pursuits, interests in industries, hobbies? Take advantage of various technologies to market yourself. For example:
Blogs: Write posts about your experiences (internships, study abroad, class, organizations, etc.). Share what you are learning. Interact with others through comments on your blog.
Blogger - Available through Google Apps for Education or a personal Google account.
LinkedIn: Create a professional site that enhances your resume. Make your full profile be public and claim a vanity URL, so you can share your site easily with others. Invite friends and/or desired professional contacts to link to you. Write recommendations for others, and ask them to do the same for you.
Twitter: Follow others in your field of interest. Post Tweets on things you are doing (not personal things, but things related to your professional experiences). Post links to articles of interest. Engage in conversation with others.
Personal web site: Create a site to host a portfolio of your work, including research papers, digital design work, movies for class projects, etc.
Post expert opinions: Use websites like Amazon.com to post intellectual reviews on books that you have read. Stay clear of controversial reviews.
Video: Create a professional-looking “elevator statement” video to “sell” others on whom you are. Post your video on YouTube, and link to it from your LinkedIn site.
Facebook: Build a professional side to your profile. Create a Facebook ad to market yourself to a particular audience. Link your ad to your LinkedIn site. Visit One Day, One Job for tips on using Facebook ads.
Google Alerts/Reader/iGoogle: Take advantage of technologies that pull information into one place for you. This may provide you with content that you can then use for a blog post or Tweet to show your interest in a particular subject. In addition, use Google Alerts to research companies you are interested in for employment.
Step 4: Keep it clean
Create a Google Alert based on your name. This will notify you every time your name appears on a new site.
Review comments posted on your sites. If you allow others to comment on things you are posting, review these on a regular basis to make sure comments are appropriate.
Update your profiles and sites. If you have an account and/or a site, use it on a regular basis.
When in doubt, don’t post it. Err on the cautious side. If it could be controversial or misunderstood, don’t post it.
Be prepared to address inappropriate content in an interview setting, if it comes up.
Additional resources on how employers are using your information