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Guide to Personal SEO for Job Search and Careers

By Susan P. Joyce

Appearing in the search results on a search for your name or your skills is known as personal search engine optimization ("SEO"). For a successful job search and career today, personal SEO is a necessity. Not being found (also known as being "invisible") kills your credibility, and labels you as "out-of-date" or, worse, fake.

On the other hand, having solid visibility in search engine results provides you with many opportunities, including:

  • Being considered for a job without applying.
  • Being invited to a job interview as the result of an application.
  • Being hired for a job after passing this screen.
  • Being found by potential clients or customers.
  • Re-connecting with old friends and former colleagues.

The place to be found is Google, and the method, usually, is building an online presence via social media and other options discussed in this Guide.


Definition of Terms

Understanding personal SEO is hard to do without understanding the concepts of SEO practiced by web professionals.

  • "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" is the art/science of using the right words on a web page (like this article or a LinkedIn Profile) to have the page appear in the results of a search engine query without paying that search engine for the visibility.
  • "Keywords" are the terms that a searcher types into a search engine when they want to find information online. Keywords used by the searchers are the foundation of SEO -- the right words ("keywords") in the right places on a web page so that the page is visible in the results of a search.
  • "Personal SEO" is managing personal online visibility (which we all have now, like it or not), so that we can be found in a search engine's search results on a search that is appropriate for us.

Now, the necessity of understanding and practicing good SEO is here for all of us on a personal basis. Having a coherent, professional, visible, and find-able presence on the web is a necessity for all of us.

Recruiters and Employers Search for Applicants

Recent studies have shown that more than 90 percent of employers and recruiters use search engines to learn more about job applicants and to find qualified job candidates!

The results of that research is really not surprising. Think about the times you are considering an investment (of your time, your money, or both). You use a search engine to research and evaluate your options -- which car, smart phone, tablet or computer, etc. is the best investment for you?

Similarly, employers hiring new employees are making big investments, too. The process itself is expensive, but more expensive is a "bad hire" -- someone who does damage or who needs to be replaced too soon.

This searching by employers is a fact of life. So, smart job seekers adapt to this relentless searching, and learn how to beat the competition -- the people who aren't paying attention.

[Read Managing Your Google Resume, How Name Confusion Can Make Your Job Search More Difficult, and Defensive Googling to understand how to manage your personal online reputation.]

3 Ways Personal SEO Impacts Job Search

In your job search, personal SEO will have an impact in three main ways:

  1. Your next job will find you!

    Your name and qualifications are found when a recruiter searches through Google, LinkedIn, a job board's resume database, or a professional association's member database for applicants qualified for specific opportunities.
  2. Increased positive responses to your job applications

    Your application/resume is found when a recruiter searches through their applicant tracking system (ATS) or resume database to find applicants who are qualified for a specific opportunity. Careful personal SEO makes this possible.
  3. More job interview invitations.

    Recruiters search through LinkedIn or other social media to verify the qualifications of job applicants before issuing interview invitations. They need to find your LinkedIn Profile or other trusted public source to verify the facts (employers, education, job titles, etc.) in your job application when you have applied for a job.

If nothing about you is found on the Internet, you are removed from consideration for most jobs. Your invisibility tells them that either you are out-of-date or hiding something.

When good, positive information about you isn't found, you have wasted your time applying for the job.

For more information, read: How to Identify Exactly the Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile, How to Optimize the Right Keywords for Your Resumes, and Resume Keyword Success Secrets

More About Keywords for Job Search:

In addition to the other articles in this Guide to Personal SEO for Job Search and Careers in the column on the right, check out these articles:

Bottom Line

Ignoring the necessity of personal SEO -- both public and private -- is not smart. Managing personal SEO is not an insurmountable goal. It takes time and attention to set-up the public version and to respond appropriately to the requirements of private personal SEO as you apply for jobs. Then, time will be needed every week to manage both. But, job search will be easier and more effective, and understanding SEO is an important skill today.

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. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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