Impact of Your Online Reputation
In an earlier Job-Hunt article, Social Networking for Academics, I discussed academics who refuse to use social media and concluded, "To use it effectively is to have choices." A follow-up corollary I've recently discovered is that not using social media at all can potentially constrain your choices.
Some startling trends among recruiters and HR professionals, which could adversely affect your choices through no fault of your own, were recently brought out by this survey done for Microsoft (by the market research firm Cross-Tab).
Cross-Tab reported that, of the US recruiters and HR professionals surveyed, 89% have used online data mining as part of the hiring process, and consider it appropriate to search for this personal data. This is not a surprise, but what is downright worrisome, is the finding that 70% have used the data they've found online to reject job candidates - in spite of the employers own uncertainty about the accuracy of that information.
In contrast, only 7% of US consumers believe that their online reputations might affect their job search. Are YOU one of them - or are you one of the 93% who isn't aware of how your online reputation can affect your job search?
What is going on here?
Even though the sample size was small (approximately 275 recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers, and also 300 consumers), the study was repeated with the same number of participants in three other countries (the UK, Germany and France) and the overall trends were constant, differing only in percentages.
Moreover, "in all countries, recruiters and HR professionals say they believe the use of online reputational information will significantly increase over the next five years."
But, here's the really scary part - while 44% of consumers think it is "somewhat or very inappropriate" for employers to search candidate's social networking sites or photo and video sharing sites, more than 60% of recruiters and HR professionals do search those sites.
Even worse, the kinds of information that influenced employer decisions to reject candidates included "inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives," as well as that "written by colleagues or work acquaintances." (Emphasis mine.)
The report lists percentages of recruiters and HR professionals who research candidates using various types of websites, including online forums and communities, virtual worlds, Twitter and online gaming sites. It's worth noting that only 2% of employers surveyed didn't do any of that kind of research.
Consumers (64%) thought it was "very to somewhat appropriate" for recruiters and HR professionals to look at their professional and business sites, and 57% of US searchers reported doing that. Also 48% checked blogs and 46% checked the personal websites of candidates. That's the good news.
What do you need to know?
Because 75% of the surveyed employers have made this kind of data mining a formal corporate policy, anyone who wants to be hired needs to be aware of their online reputation. Academics especially, are expected to be above reproach, ethically and morally, because of the nature and conduct of their work with young students and with research that has to be trusted by colleagues around the world.
Even those academics who don't have a blog or website, don't use social media sites, and don't comment in online communities, still are likely to have an online reputation, because it is formed by others who may be commenting about them. If your candidacy can be affected by what others say about you or by what is posted about you (including pictures or videos), you need to know what exists online about you.
In the unlikely event that you cannot be found anywhere on the Internet, in the words of William Arruda, one of the first personal branding gurus, "You don't exist." Academic professionals, whose own reputation may enhance the reputation of an academic institution, need to have a strong, positive reputation, both offline and on.
What do you need to do?
At the very least, you can do a very basic Google search on your name. Then enclose your name in quotes, and try it again. Read Job-Hunt's article about setting up Google Alerts and set one up for your name.
Those of you who find others with your name may need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the others, possibly using your middle name or initial, or always adding a tag line identifier, such as @UM. One man discovered the defendant in a high-profile court case in another city shared his name, so he began consistently using his middle name, to distinguish himself from the defendant.
Another technique is to begin your own website or social media profile, in a site such as LinkedIn. You have a chance to build the basic foundation of your own online reputation. The more of the web page or profile you have filled in, the more chance it will show up in the first links to your name in Google. And, you can make more positive information available about your professional life, without giving away a great deal of personal information.
Don't lose the only choice you have in establishing your own online reputation.
For More Information About Online Reputation Management
- Job-Hunt's Defensive Googling
- Job-Hunt's Guide to Personal Branding for more extensive and detailed information on creating and managing your "personal brand."
© Copyright, 2010, Kate Duttro. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
Job-Hunt's Academic Job Search expert Kate Duttro is a career strategist, coach, and instigator. She writes the Career Change for Academics Blog, for current and recovering academics, and other smart cookies. For more than 10 years, she has provided career services at the University of Washington, where she has counseled, taught classes and workshops, and dug out information for thousands of undergrads, grad students, post docs and alumni in all phases of career development. Holding several degrees, including a PhD in anthropology, Kate has also earned many professional certifications in the field of career coaching.