Not too concerned about your online presence? You should be. It’s no secret that employers search for information about prospective hires (and current employees) online. Last year, Microsoft released a study that concluded that 70% of HR personnel surveyed have rejected someone over incriminating online information. Moreover, 86% of HR professionals reported that “a positive online reputation influences the candidate’s application to some extent; almost half stated that it does so to a great extent.” Being proactive about your online presence should be a priority, especially if you’re actively conducting business via the Internet. Here are some tips:
Use Free Tracking Tools
One of the most important steps you can take to protect your online reputation is to use whatever tools available to monitor what’s being said about you online. The easiest method? Put out a Google alert for your name — it’ll “catch” any references to your name (and any associated phrases you select) on websites, blogs, and news sites and update you as often as you choose (daily, weekly.)
Other free tools include: Addict-o-matic, Social Mention (good for monitoring your social media presence on over 100 sites — including Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and YouTube), TweetBeep (like Google Alert for Twitter), and Yasni (a people search engine that provides an overview of an individual’s personal and professional networks — pictures, profiles, and other publicly viewable information).
Grab Your Name on Social Media Sites
Another important component of protecting your online reputation might seem counterintuitive at first, but it involves flooding search engines with information — positive information, that is — about yourself. It’s all about controlling your “personal brand” and burying potential negative data about yourself. First off, “buy up” online property about yourself by taking your name on as many popular social media sites as possible (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn are good ones to start with.) Choose usernames as close to your name as possible, and keep the sites updated (at least once per month) — Google will consider you an active user and rank these profiles highly, as the most visited sites on the web.
Another hot tip? Registering your personal name as a web domain. Lastly, Google offers a profile service that allows you to customize your online biography — so that when people search for your name, it’s you they’re seeing, not someone else. It’ll direct search traffic to where you want, and give you more control over your online identity.
Don’t Mix Business and Pleasure
It should be common knowledge, but it bears repeating: Don’t mix business with pleasure. That is, don’t talk about your job on personal sites, and don’t talk about your relationships/extracurricular activities on professional sites. Better yet, don’t mention these things at all. (Ask yourself: would you want your employer or your mother to see this info? If not, don’t post it!) If you must, designate certain sites for certain activity, and make a note of it (i.e., I only use this site for X, Y, Z. on your Facebook profile.) Don’t “friend” business colleagues on Facebook if you think that kind of personal information/activity might be uncomfortable to share with someone you encounter in a business environment.)
Lock Up Your Profiles
If you do share a lot of personal information on social media sites, make sure that your profile is as secure as possible. For example: “Protect” your tweets so that only friends/followers can see them, and try to lock up photos so that they can only be seen by Facebook friends and close family members.