“What you don’t know, can hurt you!” It’s an old saying, but still very true today. You may lead a blameless life, but a bank robber, sex offender, drunk driver, or someone else with a bad reputation and with your name could be sabotaging your job search.
No, I’m not referring to “identity theft” – I’m referring to “mistaken online identity.”
Right now – Google yourself!
Type your name into Google’s search bar and enclose it in quotation marks, like this -
The quotation marks around your name tell Google that you want it to find the pages where those 2 words are side-by-side, in a phrase.
Yes, I know some people call it “vanity Googling” – ignore them! I call it “defensive Googling.” It’s a smart thing to do all the time, but particularly during a job search.
You could be a victim of Mistaken Online Identity, but you won’t know unless you look.
But, you say, I haven’t done anything stupid on Facebook!
Excellent! But someone else with the same name may not have been as smart or careful.
You may have led a totally blameless life, online and off, but someone else’s misbehavior may be negatively impacting your job search right now.
Employers Google/Bing job seekers more than 80% of the time, according to recent research. Something out there that looks like you may be hurting your chances, even if it is not really you.
Employers these days don’t have the need - or the time – to determine if the bad stuff they have found is about the Mary Jane Smith who just applied for a job or about a different Mary Jane Smith. So, the Mary Jane who applied is out of luck.
A tale of 2 guys named Robert -
A resume writer shared this true story of what happened to one of her clients. This guy, we’ll call him Robert #1, was looking for a job, and he hired the resume writer to help him with his resume. He is an accomplished guy, and his resume was impressive (accurately reflecting the person).
Being an old hand at job hunting, Robert was sending his resume in a very rational, targeted way to the employers he wanted to work for and people he met at networking events.
He sent out his resume, carefully, for four months, with absolutely no result at all. Not even a thanks-but-no-thanks letter or message from people he met at networking events and thought he had developed some rapport with.
What was wrong: his age? his approach? his LinkedIn Profile? bad breath? WHAT was going on???
Finally, after four months of silence, Robert #1 Googled himself. YIKES! He found Robert #2 - someone with exactly the same name, a disbarred attorney living in his state, also named in a very visible US Supreme Court case.
The people who received Robert #1′s resume thought he might be Robert #2, and they were not interested in hiring Robert #2 for the job Robert #1 was seeking.
How did Robert #1 recover?
Being a smart man, determined not to make the same mistake twice, Robert #1 Googled several versions of his real name (with his middlie initial, with his whole middle name, with “Sr.” on the end) and discovered that no one has (yet) sullied the version of his name which uses his middle initial, Robert W.
So, he added his middle initial to his name on -
- his resume,
- his cover letters,
- his email address,
- his email signature
- his LinkedIn Profile,
- his business / networking cards, and
- everything else related to his identity in the world.
Then, he set up a Google Alert on his name, both the old and the new versions, so he can keep track of Robert #2 as well as monitor the current name (maybe there’s a Robert W #2 out there somewhere).
And, within 2 weeks of changing his name, Robert W was invited in for an interview after sending a resume (with the new name) to an employer. More success followed, and he reportedly is happily working in a new job.
We can no longer successfully operate in the world with our cyber-head stuck in the sand (to mangle an old cliche a bit). We must pay attention to our online reputations, or risk some very negative results to our reputations and, consequently, to our job searches.
More about Online Reputation Management:
© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.